GE‘s public profile this year has been little short of a horror show, says Jeremy Cowan. Forget Hallowe’en, Wall Street and the blue chip’s partners have been spooked by a nightmare of Kruegeresque proportions – one from which it seems hard to wake.

A 31.5% share price plunge since January 2017 hastened the departure of CEO & chairman, Jeff Immelt after 16 years in charge. His replacement, John L. Flannery (below), promoted from GE Healthcare on August 1, has quickly changed the management team. GE Digital (the division that interests us) has clearly tried not to be deflected by the torrid news swirling around: This week it announced a new partnership with Microsoft on Azure; then it upgraded its Predix application development platform (ADP) to speed customers’ digital transformations; and finally urged businesses to seize the moment with IoT – or risk being left behind.

GE’s CEO, John L Flannery: Markets await his plans.

Bill Ruh, CEO of GE Digital, told Reuters on Tuesday that the agreement extends integration of Microsoft’s cloud software with the Predix application that connects and analyses data from industrial equipment such as jet engines and power plants. In short, Predix aims to predict failures and reduce operating costs.

The joint effort with Microsoft is focusing first on oil & gas and mining companies. Ruh says it is “reimagining industry’s infrastructure” for the industrial internet.

This comes days after GE announced a partnership with Apple Inc (AAPL.O), which Apple hopes will brings its iOS platform into more industrial markets. Meanwhile, GE Digital has been scrambling to overcome technical issues with Predix that caused it to take a “time out” from the market.

Now, GE Digital has introduced Predix Edge Manager, allowing customers to support up to 200,000 connected edge devices from a single console; Predix Machine to enable microservice-based applications to run at the edge on customers’ virtualised data centre infrastructure or server-class hardware; and Predix complex event processing (CEP) for faster and more efficient analytics and other event processing at extremely low latency. This will be available at the edge in Q1 2018.

These edge solutions can help companies move from intelligent asset management to automation to insights-led machine learning across a distributed system. One example is EdgeLINC, a comprehensive edge-to-cloud solution from GE Transportation integrated with Predix Edge Manager, Predix Machine and Asset Performance Management applications. EdgeLINC enables efficient device management, configuration and streaming analytics even when machines, such as rail assets, are constantly moving in and out of communication.

Disconnect between IIoT optimism and readiness

At its Minds + Machines conference this week, GE unveiled new research highlighting an emerging gap between executive outlook for digital transformation and initiatives companies have put in place. The survey of Information Technology (IT) and Operations Technology (OT) decision-makers found that while companies see the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) as presenting significant opportunities for future growth and competitiveness, the vast majority are not taking the actions required to benefit from those opportunities.

“The Industrial Internet is already having a profound impact on industrial companies of all sizes. We know this because we are seeing real benefits with our customers and across GE,” said Bill Ruh, CEO, GE Digital. According to the study, optimism among industry executives for the potential of the Industrial Internet is striking. In fact, 80% believe the IIoT will or could be transformational to their companies and industries. Even more consider digital industrial transformation to be important to their competitiveness. At the same time, only 8% of those executives say digital transformation is ingrained in their businesses, and 10% do not have a digital transformation plan in place.

Based on the research study, GE has created the GE Digital Industrial Evolution Index to track the real progress of digital transformation – from outlook on the IIoT to readiness to transform. The inaugural Index reflects a total score of 63 on a scale of 100 and indicates that while the outlook for the Industrial Internet is very strong, scoring 78.3 out of 100, company readiness significantly lags, scoring only 55.2 (out of 100).

Ruh adds, “A gap is emerging between outlook for the IIoT and actions. We are working to close that gap by partnering with customers to accelerate change and guide companies of all sizes along their digital journeys.”

Right now, GE could use all the partners they can get. But perhaps not Freddy.

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