The Industrial Sector: Not So Boring Anymore
One of the best things about working for GE is the opportunity not only for career advancement, but for complete career change. GE does so many things, you could literally spend a lifetime hopping around the business taking on a variety of roles and working in a range of industries. I've spent my GE career working on embedded technologies in our Intelligent Platforms business. Over the years, I've had a number of opportunities to work on our Industrial Automation side of things, but I pretty much avoided it.
Think about the word "industrial" for a minute. What does that bring to mind? For me it's ugly, grimy factories, big, heavy, smoke-spewing machines, or some power plant sitting at the edge of the world—the type of place they send you because you've committed a crime against the rest of humanity. How does one get excited about writing software (probably in COBOL) for plant operators that run on outdated computers with CRT monitors? How sexy is a factory PLC that interconnects using weird industrial protocols over molasses-slow network infrastructure? Pretty boring. Not for me.
In contrast, I've spent my time with customers who need the very latest in processing technology; customers who demand teraFLOPS of compute performance and who are pushing the limits of Internet Protocol over 40Gbps and soon 100Gbps network links. I've been working with customers who built the very backbone of the Internet and the 4G wireless networks we all rely on today. We have customers who are sending our computers into space or embedding our technology into missile defense systems, radar and sonar equipment, and unmanned vehicles—large and small. Now that is cool stuff.
This week I find myself at the GE Intelligent Platforms User Summit, where customers who use our industrial solutions come to learn about what is new and to give us feedback on solutions they would like to see in the future. And guess what? It's not boring! It's far from it. The industrial sector is undertaking a drastic and fundamental transformation as it finally embraces the benefits of the Internet economy. And unlike the slow and steady way this sector has evolved in the past, the current changes are rapid and happening now. The Industrial Internet is here and it is real and this next generation of the Internet will further change our lives forever. It just so happens that GE's Intelligent Platforms business is at the very forefront of that change. As our chairman Jeff Immelt said this morning, "It's not your father's factory anymore."
So I am here at the User Summit learning how our customers are embracing cloud computing and advanced analytics software to improve productivity, avoid downtime and save huge amounts of money. I'm seeing sophisticated hardware and software that allows customers to remotely monitor and manage huge industrial machinery. There is not a CRT in sight—but plenty of tablet computers and high-def visualization software. I'm hearing all sorts of cool stories about how our customers are deploying GE technology in disruptive ways in industries ranging from airlines, food and beverage production, to water treatment, energy and mining. We are also exploring new emerging technologies such as wearables and how they may impact the industrial sector in the future. (Yep—that’s me in the photo sporting Google Glass at our technology fair.)
I think I've been pretty lucky to start my career just as the Internet leaped out of the domain of academia and big business to take over the world in ways we never could have imagined. I had the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of this phenomenon, albeit in a small way. Now GE's Intelligent Platforms business is leading the way on the next big boom. We are making the Industrial Internet real and it’s an exciting time to be involved! Want to learn more about all of this? Check out the new Industrial Internet online destination.