Editor’s note: John Spooner is director of IoT Practice at Technology Business Research. This is the first of a two-part report about GE’s Internet of Things efforts.

HAMPTON, N.H. – GE Digital declares the app store of industry open for business.

GE Digital, the software and services division of industrial giant General Electric (GE), is taking an app-store-like approach to help industrial companies take concrete steps to implement Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and position for broader digital industrial transformation.

GE Digital intends to enable a diverse ecosystem of first- and third-party applications and services — all accessible via GE’s Predix.io community and supported by its Predix platform — to encourage efficiency in business operations and identify new business opportunities. This app-store-like approach, unveiled at GE’s Minds + Machines conference in late November, will provide a rich collection of components to simplify the rollout of IIoT to company assets. Employees will then be able to focus on the benefits of greater access to data, optimizing business operations and creating new revenue, rather than managing technology.

The GE Internet of Things (IoT) division furthers adoption of GE’s IIoT apps and services, backed by the Predix IIoT platform, to clear the way for the first wave of mass digital transformation among industrial companies. As a result, improved costs and increased revenue opportunities will bring measurable changes to industries. For example, sustainable energy could compete with old-world technology.

The change is enabled by the implementation of an underlying continuous feedback loop for physical assets, which increases the efficiency of business operations and informs business decisions on tactics and even go-to-market strategy. For example, in sustainable energy GE enables greater wind turbine effectiveness — achieved through mechanical efficiency and optimization of settings — and more opportunistic selling of power on the open market, through predictive modeling of the asset and the market — achieved via its ability to collect data directly from a wind turbine and then apply machine learning, artificial intelligence and model it out. The machines, in this case, make people a lot smarter about business and operations.

The transformation begins

GE Digital is remodeling the world of machines. By connecting the physical with the digital or the virtual via an edge-to-cloud model, GE Digital is driving analytics-based modeling powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Although GE Digital is focused on industrial applications, the same principles of asset centricity and driving greater insights through data capture and analytics apply to general business. That is where GE Digital and Predix will go next. GE has credibility in the operational technology house — the factory floor, the power plant or the rail yard — but not the glass house, or the IT shop. There, competitors including IBM, Oracle, Cisco and SAP can all claim incumbency. However, GE Digital is partnering broadly to be able address both houses. Much of the progress GE made over the last 12 months has been around developing its own first-party and cultivating third-party capabilities that connect operational technology (OT) and IT.

Marrying IT and OT by connecting assets and bringing forth new data and new insights, via apps, are all steps toward digital transformation. The resulting changes, although gradual and even painful at times, marry technological wizardry and operational excellence that increases operational efficiency and ultimately improves products and services. GE is enabling the Ubers of industry by offering a coupling that enacts new and potentially disruptive models.

While generating Uber-level momentum for wind farms may be years away, marketing to customers willing to choose their power sources starts with assisting in optimizing a wind farm and then brokering the electricity generated more effectively on the open market. This model is like how companies such as Strava and Waze developed apps for fitness tracking and driving or commuting and are now being used to help optimize public resources. Waze data has been used for infrastructure management, allowing cities to optimize traffic light operation. Strava data has been used to analyze and optimize bicycle traffic.

Making room for partners

GE Digital will continue to build out around Predix with partnerships and acquisitions as well as a developer program and a range of ISVs. GE Digital will continue building out its partnership with Microsoft, for example, to pair Predix and Azure, Microsoft’s cloud. The GE division will continue to strengthen ties with consultancies, such as Accenture and TCS, which it sees as force multipliers in building services-led engagements on top of Predix, while continuing to invest in developer training and acquisitions in areas such as artificial intelligence.

GE Digital is creating the ecosystem for digital industrial transformation, providing Predix as the nexus of the broader ecosystem of capabilities, ranging from asset management to business transformation services. GE wins by establishing Predix as a framework for application of IIoT and, ultimately, digital transformations versus a “platform.” GE will bring to bear a broad range of partners, from Accenture to Microsoft, supported by an ecosystem of developers (20,000) and ISVs, not just GE-badged. Predix boasts more than 100 applications, and 3,000 of the 20,000 developers are SI developers.

GE Digital will continue to build out around Predix with partnerships and acquisitions. To date, it has made nearly $2 billion in acquisitions designed to make Predix more effective.

 Wise.IO — to embed greater machine learning capability into Predix; specifically to enhance GE Digital’s Digital Twin concept and capabilities

 Bit Stew Systems — for applying Bit Stew data integration abilities to improve the process of ingesting machine data into Predix and industrial applications

 Meridium — to optimize digital industrial assets and to buttress GE Digital’s APM offering with expertise in cognitive analytics; asset health, management and proactive maintenance; as well as operational risk mitigation

 ServiceMax — field service management provider, to help pair inventory, logistics, scheduling and workforce automation to the platform

Next: Making machines and people better