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GE’s new industrial cloud will power planes, trains, and hospitals

ge announces predix its industrial cloud locomotive train steam engine
Ivan Martynyuk / Shutterstock
When you pin something on Pinterest, watch something on Netflix, or send a message to your co-worker on Slack, it’s all powered by the cloud, and specifically by Amazon Web Services. Cloud computing now has a new entrant, as GE announced today that it’s expanding its own Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Predix Cloud, targeting industrial companies.

While anyone who’s watched 30 Rock knows GE makes microwaves and other appliances, it also manufactures everything from locomotives to turbines to oil-drilling equipment to MRI machines. The company has been fitting much of its equipment with sensors for years, allowing a locomotive to send data on its oil levels, for example, or a wind turbine to move its blades based on the direction and speed of the wind. While Predix originally just let third parties harness data through applications they built, GE will now run the applications on its own infrastructure.

“A more digital hospital means better, faster healthcare,” said Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE, in a statement. “A more digital manufacturing plant means more products are made faster.”

A more digital hospital also means bigger fears about hacking. The first concern with the cloud is always security, and with these industrial machines, that worry is as big as the equipment itself. GE plans to create “layers” in the applications that can’t access each other. “Each layer will go with the stringent assumption that every other layer has already been breached,” Harel Kodesh, CTO of GE Software, tells Wired. This level of security will make the cloud more expensive, so expensive in fact that it’s priced for the industrial market. While AWS is more egalitarian, offering pricing for small and big businesses alike, GE will have to content itself with a smaller pool of customers.

These clients, however, weren’t finding what they needed when it came to the cloud, according to GE. The company’s customers wanted something “built by an industrial player for industrial players,” Kodesh tells TechCrunch.

All this means that GE’s cloud will process lots and lots of data, leading to better service for these big devices, as it receives alerts right when something goes wrong and learns what conditions caused the machine to break in the first place. On the flip side, this opens the door to someone unwanted gaining access to that industrial equipment.

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