As the Internet evolved from the dial-up days of America Online to the always-on, cloud-dwelling social network, a parallel development has been taking place in the background: the digital web of the world’s trillions of machines.
Over the last several decades, GE’s software engineers have guided the growth of this emerging industrial Internet. Putting their brains and manufacturing skills to the task, they connected jet engines, power transformers, and medical devices to boost the efficiency of these complex systems and save customers money. With some 5,000 software engineers on staff, GE’s software revenues are about $2.5 billion and the company expects double-digit growth from now until 2015.
Today, GE announced what would be a new dynamo powering this growth: a new Global Software Center, located in San Ramon, California. The center will hire and house 400 software engineers and other professionals developing digital tools that gather and analyze the millions of gigabytes of data generated by controls, sensors, computers and other parts of the brains of industrial machines. These tools will predict and respond to changes, and guide customers in how to best use their assets.
It’s the kind of work that went into GE’s rail Movement Planner and Trip Optimizer. The program gets locomotives to talk to each other, loop in traffic control systems, freight loaders, and technicians with their smartphones. This is no idle talk: a railroad can increase speeds up to 20%, cut fuel consumption by 10%, and save as much as $200 million in capital and expenses annually.
The San Ramon facility will be GE’s “nerve center for software” and link to other GE businesses and software engineers. Mark Little, GE’s Chief Technology Officer, says that the center will promote collaboration across GE and its diverse group customers. “On any given day, one of our software experts could be working on a clean energy project, while at the same time contributing to a program that improves the delivery of health care,” says Little.
Wayne Keathley, President and Chief Operating Officer of The Mount Sinai Hospital, has been using GE’s software management tools. He says that GE’s “holistic, system-wide approach is essential to the future of healthcare.”
The center is currently being designed and GE expects to start building later this year. First employees will arrive in mid-2012.