GE Digital Expands IoT Offerings As Partners See Renewed Focus: Exclusive

One GE Digital partner says the industrial IoT vendor's new CEO plans to visit multiple joint customers with him in October — a sign of a more partner-centric focus: 'I think the response from the clients has already been super positive.'


GE Digital is expanding its industrial Internet of Things portfolio as partners say they have noticed a renewed focus on the channel ecosystem and customers from the Industrial Internet pioneer.

The San Ramon, Calif.-based software division of GE is expected to announce three new products — Predix Essentials, Asset Answers and Webspace 6.0 — to make it easier for companies to analyze industrial data and optimize plant operations at the company's User Conference in Austin on Tuesday, according to a press release exclusively provided to CRN in advance.

[Related: 6 Questions Partners Have About GE Digital's Spin-Off]

Sponsored post

"GE Digital continues to release innovations that forge the way for industrial customers working on transforming their operations," Pat Byrne, GE Digital's CEO, said in a statement. "By continuing to invest across our portfolio of industrial software, and by making it easier than ever for our customers to unlock the power of the Industrial IoT, GE Digital is strengthening its customers’ ability to become more productive, efficient and safe."

The user conference and the product updates are coming nearly a year after GE, GE Digital's parent company, appointed former Danaher Corp. leader Larry Culp as its new CEO to fix the industrial conglomerate's financial problems. Under his leadership, GE announced its plan to spin off GE Digital into a wholly owned standalone business and named Byrne, a Danaher veteran, as its new CEO.

GE has yet to provide an update on its GE Digital spin-off plans despite initially stating last December it would provide more details by March of this year. However, partners told CRN that GE Digital is continuing to forge ahead, both with new products and a renewed focus on the channel.

"It's been positive with Pat [Byrne] coming in from a partner point of view," Jim Gillespie, CEO of GrayMatter, a Warrendale, Pa.-based GE Digital system integration partner, told CRN.

Gillespie said when he met Byrne for dinner in mid-August, he immediately appreciated the executive's "no-nonsense, data-driven" approach. He said Byrne is taking time out of his busy schedule to visit multiple joint customers in October with Gillespie — something that hasn't happened since before the GE Digital division was formed in 2015, according to Gillespie.

This has led to a renewed energy from GrayMatter's customers, some of whom were concerned when GE Digital canceled its Minds and Machines conference last year, the executive said.

"I think the response from the clients has already been super positive," said Gillespie.

An executive at a large system integrator that partners with GE Digital said he, too, has noticed a positive change with how the industrial IoT vendor works with partners.

"I think they realized the fact that they need the ecosystem in order to be relevant," said the executive, who declined to be identified because he wasn't authorized to speak on his company's behalf. "In a platform play, to succeed, it's very hard for a company to do it alone."

GE Digital Builds On Apps Focus With New Solutions

While GE Digital continues provides the Predix industrial IoT platform, its main focus for the past few years have been the apps that run on the platform, which started with a pivot in 2017.

Gillespie said his company, GrayMatter, primarily uses GE Digital's asset performance management application, Predix APM, for managing equipment reliability and its manufacturing execution system application, Plant Applications, for monitoring and analyzing operations. The company also uses Predix Manufacturing Data Cloud to handle MES data in the cloud.

"We like the applications delivering quick time to value and then configuring them to particular clients' needs instead of starting from scratch," Gillespie said. “It's a fundamental approach that we take versus a big custom software development house."

On Tuesday, GE Digital was expected to announce three product updates:

— Predix Essentials is a "natural first step for industrial businesses looking to leverage the power of cloud-based Industrial IoT technologies." Dubbed an "easy-to-use SaaS solution," Predix Essentials helps companies connect disparate data sources, monitor operations and perform predictive analytics in the cloud as the foundation for its APM and operations performance management applications. Data sources include GE Digital's on-premises Automation, MES and Historian solutions.

— Asset Answers, on the other hand, is meant to serve as a benchmarking tool to help companies understand how GE Digital's Predix APM application can improve their operations. The tool accomplishes this by importing their asset maintenance information and then comparing the data with similar companies, helping customers to decide where to make investments in maintenance capabilities.

— Webspace 6.0 is an update to GE Digital's web interface for its iFix and Cimplicity human-machine interface and supervisory control and data acquisition applications. The new version comes with enhanced encryption, doesn't require any installation and allows operators to run the interface on a wide range of devices, including smartwatches, phones tablets and desktops.

Gillespie said he has been encouraged by GE Digital's greater focus on partners this year, which includes joint go-to-market activities for certain verticals like food and beverage and paper.

While GE Digital has experienced some turbulence over the last few years, including layoffs that happened earlier this year, Gillespie said the vendor is still a strong player in the industrial IoT market.

"I certainly don't think they're behind and I certainly wouldn't count them out with the amount of smart people and resources and customers and great software assets in the bag," he said.

The executive at the large system integrator, who was unable to discuss GE Digital publicly, agreed and considered any problems "a minor blip."

"They just have to get their act together and move forward," the executive said.