Software developers interested in creating applications that use GE’s Predix cloud-based industrial analytics services have a new mobile outlet for those apps, one you’ve probably heard of before.
Apple has agreed to create a software development kit for iOS devices that will allow developers to build Predix apps for iPhones and iPads, the two companies announced Wednesday. It will be available later this month, giving developers a way to link native iOS apps with Predix, an app development service hosted by GE for companies working with massive machines like wind turbines or operating complex manufacturing plants.
Those companies will now be able to let remote workers access performance data or manage far-flung industrial devices from their iPhones, giving them a far greater degree of flexibility than having to rely on a laptop or a clunky rugged tablet computer. As part of the deal, GE is going to make iPhones and iPads the standard mobile devices for its huge 330,000 employee base, and Apple is going to recommend Predix as a preferred partner for industrial internet customers.
GE has been talking about the industrial internet of things for several years, but only recently have the pieces started to fall into place. Manufacturing and energy companies that invest hundreds of millions into specialized equipment or huge facilities are realizing that they can get much more fine-grained performance data on those machines by connecting them to the internet, analyzing that data through cloud services to predict machine failures or improve inefficient policies.
This is part of what’s sparking interest in edge computing, which was a big focus of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadela’s keynote address to developers at Microsoft Build earlier this year. Edge computing involves moving some of the computing for applications like the industrial internet closer to the device or machine itself, rather than doing everything on a cloud server. That’s good enough for your payroll apps, but when you need real-time data on a $5 million manufacturing tool, you can’t afford to lose even the milliseconds needed to process that data from a cloud server.
Expect the major cloud providers to continue improving their IoT services as more and more companies start to embrace the concepts behind the industrial internet and edge computing. GE has struggled a bit with Predix, which has generated a fair amount of interest but doesn’t seem to be growing as fast as the company had once hoped, according to a Reuters report earlier this year that also flagged a number of bugs in the system.