William Ruh (Twitter), vice president of General Electric?s software and analytics center, heads a team that develops software that is changing the way we think about machines. GE works with industry to leverage mobile and big data on the production line. The software powers the Industrial Internet, a living network of intelligent machines and systems designed to advance industry and improve people?s lives.

GE's roadmap to Industrial Internet

GE’s roadmap to Industrial Internet. Source: GE

M2M (machine to machine) is important to enterprise. For example in the aviation industry it requires significant data to pinpoint specific devices so that preventative maintenance can take place at regularly scheduled intervals to take care of problems before they ground aircraft and cause loss of passenger revenue because of delays.

If M2M sensors were to measure all of the critical data points in an aircraft for normal flight, they would have hundreds of terabytes of raw data. Ruh, a Computer Science alumni of California State University Fullerton, said it was obvious that we have to develop better analysis tools, to reduce big data?s output into a format that is easily understood by non-technical management.

To put a fine point on it, he said that at GE, a one percent increase in fuel efficiency on their gas turbine powered electric generation systems would be a $6 billion per year savings in jet fuel alone. GE’s Fuel and Carbon Solution use onboard computers, sophisticated software and proprietary analytics to optimize jet fuel use, reduce operating costs, and cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Ruh said that GE is the 14th biggest software maker in the world. All the coding was done by developers in separate "silos" in the corporate structure which limited progress. In 2011, GE hired designer Craig Petroff and put him in charge of user experience for all of their new software development. He was tasked with creating a system that will bring all of GE’s industrial machines, from wind turbines to hospital hardware to jet engines, on the one cloud connected, contextually aware, super efficient platform. The project has grown from four people to close to 800.

GE's Bill Ruh talked about big data and M2M applications
GE’s Bill Ruh talked about big data and M2M applications

Ruh sees M2M wireless measurement devices as the trend in gathering big data. Engineering cheaper sensors will drive large amounts of data to the enterprise community. Those large amounts of data will allow the creation of better analytics. When your analysis covers millions of repetitious bits of information, discrepancies leap out if your algorithm is properly written. M2M will allow people to be more productive because they will be looking at larger amounts of data, rather than sending a technician out to do measurements with a handheld device.

Security is an important part of M2M architecture. Standards are evolving, but there are still a lot of standalone (silo) devices that have no way to communicate with each other. M2M standards and protocols are not in the industrial world like they are in the consumer world. For example, many wireless sensors are built around the 2G mobile protocol and very, very few of them use LTE 4G protocol for communications.

GE is interested, like everyone else, in the latest low-power technology, from handheld devices to new batteries for the Tesla motor car. GE has hired 700 people in Silicon Valley to create products and services for internal use, as well as for sales to customers. The GE investments? division last year invested $125 million in equity in small startup companies to foster their ability to sell into the industrial world.