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Sensing the Future Before It Occurs

Much has been made the use of sensors to drive industrial productivity. General Electric's top management has begun to push the use of analytics built around sensors into its customer bas. William Ruh, a long-time software executive, was hired by GE to run the company's global software center, opened in 2012 in Silicon Valley. GE thinks global GDP is entering a period of slow growth. Companies will respond by seeking operational efficiencies. GE also believes that technology finally allows companies to take real advantage of the data they've gathered over the last few decades. Intelligent sensors, combined with analytics, will be a key way for companies to improve profits in a slow-growth world.

For instance, GE puts sensors on the blades jet engines and gathers data from them as they spin. Ruh says a single plane flight creates a terabyte of data. Analyzing this data can help airlines optimize their maintenance, preventing unexpected part failures and unscheduled repairs that affect profits.

GE thinks customers will be able to predict when parts are going to fail or need repair, meaning that they will improve uptime and get new products to market faster. Ruh says machine-to-machine communication will create a virtuous improvement cycle for manufacturers. While one result involves better operating efficiencies lead for GE, it may see slower growth, as customers will also be more efficient and need fewer units. To help boost growth, GE intends to emphasize services related to information driven by data from sensors on products.

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