William ‘Bill’ Ruh said GE Digitial has created Predix, a new software subscription business with rising net new orders. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Dubai: Even though GE Digital, a division of General Electric, is late into the industrial internet-of-things (IIoT) bandwagon, it foresees a bright future.

“It is true that we are late into the digital party in one way but, on the other side, the IIoT is a new area. We formed the term ‘industrial internet-of-things’ and created this kind of idea and now this is becoming the centre point of the future,” Bill Ruh, Senior Vice-President and Chief Digital Officer of GE and CEO of GE Digital, told Gulf News in a telephone interview.

He spoke of the kind of machine connectivity, analytics, AI, domain data and domain knowledge being used to essentially automate and improve operations.

Everybody plays in a lot of different areas but “we chose to stay out of those areas because they are well-established areas. So, for us, we see it [IIoT] as a very big focus and an area that is emerging.”

“Our digital business orders have grown to $5.2 billion in 2017. We created a new software subscription business [Predix] and $1.4 billion was created as net new orders in the last two years,” he said.

The company has seen a 100 per cent growth in its Predix portfolio year over year and has more than 1,000 clients today but only about eight per cent of its industrial customers are using Predix portfolio products.

“We are in the very early stages of the market and not every customer has the strategy laid out,” Ruh explained.

“We expect a significant installed base by next year. With just two years of operations and having eight per cent is a significant achievement.

“Our portfolio is set and we don’t see changing our Predix portfolio. The growth is going to come from a couple of regions. I have been to the Middle East region twice this calendar year already and more expected this year,” he added.

However, he said that Middle East is one of the fastest growing overseas markets and sees great opportunities in the Asia Pacific.

“Emerging markets are leapfrogging more mature markets. Emerging markets are investing in infrastructure and when they invest, they want the most modern capability they can have. We are very happy with what is happening in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.”

Ruh observed that, firstly, there is a lot of investment coming in from the cloud providers in the region to put up data centres in various countries and that is actually helping to accelerate its adoption.

“We count on public cloud providers to have working capability in the region. The second thing that is driving is that the government-led Saudi 2030 and UAE 2021 visions. These specific initiatives will get people to get interested in wanting to digitise customers. The last thing is [for] Fourth Industrial revolution to be more productive,” he said.

When asked how Fourth Industrial revolution is going to transform the industry, he said that AI and public cloud are getting commoditised and are widely available from a wide variety of companies at a relatively inexpensive price point.

“So, we are not there to compete in that space and anybody who thinks can compete will find it difficult to cope with the investments. We utilise that commoditisation but, if you don’t have the domain knowledge and domain data, you are not going to compete as well just because you have commoditised AI,” he said.

However, he said that the differentiation is that whoever has the domain data and domain knowledge is going to be at a “significant advantage” to solve specific problems.

“AI by itself is not going to solve problems. You have to tune it with domain data and domain knowledge to take advantage.”