In a little less than two years, Ruh has helped create a group of more than 700 mainly software engineers in the San Francisco Bay Area. It launched 24 products in the last 12 months. In the first three quarters of the calendar year, the group has rung up sales of $290 million and has orders of $400 million on its books.
The group is still hiring and may bring on another 100 or so software engineers from a wide variety of backgrounds. The GE team currently has a broad mix of developers with experience in Hadoop, NoSQL, Python, Ruby, and open-source code working on in-house and third-party applications and analytics platforms. It has also hired data scientists, industrial designers, and cybersecurity experts.
The big hardware challenge is in adding intelligence to industrial systems in ways that meet their requirements for reliability and real-time operations. GE struck a partnership with Intel to bring its new Pentium-class Quark SoC into these markets.
"We are very excited about the Quark chip because it shows the architecture, price points, and capabilities we believe will blossom," said Ruh.
The partnership is a win/win, he said. "It's a huge opportunity for [Intel], because of the sheer volume of machines in the industrial world -- there's a lot more machines than people."
The GE exec said he likes Quark becomes it embeds much of the networking and I/O needed for industrial apps. In addition, it leverages technologies and software from the established PC sector. "Running commodity-style software on embedded systems is the future for working at faster speeds and enabling a renaissance of new capabilities." One customer is using Android for satellites.
GE hopes to bring to industrial markets the kinds of capabilities wireless carriers have created to manage connections between millions of cellphones and their networks. That requires adoption of cloud services -- GE's products already tap into Amazon Web Services -- and lots of open-source code. "The days of an embedded world based on proprietary software are dead."
Consumer technology has created powerful mobile and cloud technologies, but big industrial companies won't adopt them just to be fashionable. They need to see how the Industrial Internet will create real savings. "The industrial world is driven by ROI, so the big challenge is to covert the potential of consumer technology to a line-of-sight on how they save and make money."
GE believes that ROI will come from ways new network services will help its customers save fuel (often their biggest cost) or lower downtime. "Downtown is the bane of every industrial business."
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times