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Industrial automation isn’t exactly a sexy topic. It lacks the cachet of a humanoid robot or even personal assistants like Amazon.com Inc.’s (NASDAQ:AMZNC) Alexa. It’s also less impressive than the growing world of mobile apps.

When word came out that Germany’s Siemens AG and U.S. rival General Electric Co. (NYSE:GEC) were waging a battle royale to forge the definitive ‘Internet of Things’ industrial cloud platform, the media silence was palpable.


It’s Actually A Big Deal

What this is all about is who will ultimately own the space that controls industrial automation and the big data that comes along with it. This is the information that tells industry such things as its inventory of parts and how products are working out long after they’ve been sold.

GE Chief Digital Officer, William Ruh defined industrial IOT as being, “about connecting and using the data from end to end.” This will involve built-in sensors, lots of a data and the cloud. It will also involve companies conducting digital conversations with their machinery and equipment.

A $150 Billion Market

Research firm, Markets & Markets, says industrial IOT could be worth more than $150 billion in 3 years. While the world of industrial IOT involves far fewer apps than the mobile market, those apps and the investments they require are much larger. For that reason, industrial IOT could top consumer mobile within that 3-year span.

One caveat is the fact this new industrial adventure will require companies that are normally in competition with each other to cooperate when it comes to adding data. Siemens CTO, Roland Busch said these systems will require “co-petitors.”

GE Becoming A Software Company

In some ways, GE is expanding on its advertising from 2015 in which the company pitched itself as a digital industrial company. The traditional identity of GE has been one of machines. Now software is beginning to take the lead and industrial IOT is a huge part of that transformation.

GE wants to lead the digital industrial era with its cloud-based operating system and services known as Predix. Predix is GE’s cloud platform specifically designed for the industrial internet. It is designed to meet the strength, scale and security requirements of industrial data. The company is not only building applications for Predix, it is opening the platform up to customers and others so they can write apps as well.


One Prime Example

One way a GE partner is using Predix is in Dublin, Ireland. AT&T Inc. (NYSE:TB) uses GE Predix to boost IoT efforts and expand its reach into smart international cities. AT&T recently announced a partnership with GE powered Current and Predix to provide LED lighting as part of the overall digital structure in Dublin.

This expands on work already done in San Diego and Atlanta where street lighting has been connected to a digital infrastructure. San Diego has 14,000 new LED lights activated by 3,200 sensor nodes that are expected to save the city $2.4 million in annual energy costs. Atlanta has 1,000 LED streetlights currently being tested in 5 locations throughout the city.

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