Big Data Now Big Deal to GE

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Big Industry icon General Electric's CEO icon Jeff Immelt took the stage at the All Things Digital D11 conference to throw out the next big buzzwords: "Industrial Internet."

I had to look it up.

It means, according to Mike Wheatley, writing in SiliconANGLE, the gathering of data from the huge number of sensors embedded in the proliferation of Internet-connected physical objects around the world. Those objects could be anything from cars to pacemakers to nuclear power plants, and the data gathered from them would be funneled to computers to be analyzed and used for ... well, I don't really know.

But people a whole lot smarter than me are just now scratching the surface of the potential uses of the vast amount of information that can be gathered from the world's current inventory of 50 billion machines.

Jeff Immelt is certainly big on the Industrial Internet. He said that over the next decade, the "consumer Internet" age will turn into the Industrial Internet age and it will fundamentally change the way things are done.

Immelt used the example of the jet engine, something GE produces. The jet engine, he said, "has about 20 sensors that capture real-time continuous data -- temperature, engine performance, etc. If I can take that data and use it to model a consumer outcome -- say, [less downtime for that engine] or less fuel burn -- that's worth an awful lot of money to my customers. A 1% change in fuel burn for an airline is worth hundreds of millions of dollars."

Last month, GE announced that it's paying $105 million for a 10% interest in Pivotal, a cloud-based software company spun off from VMware and EMC. GE said it's investing in the rapid development of "advanced analytic services for the Industrial Internet."

GE's investment in the Industrial Internet is part of GE's intent to bring about a "productivity revolution," according to GE executive Bill Ruh.

But GE was not the first industrial giant to become interested in the Industrial Internet. IBM is the Big Kahuna of Big Data. Its five-year old Smarter Planet division has led the way.

Should IBM be worried about GE's incursion into its Smarter Planet territory with the VMware/EMC/GE venture? Not yet, according to Wheatley. There is so much opportunity in the Big Data marketplace that, for now, there's plenty of room.

It's a big world for Big Data.

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