Predix equips new industrial revolution

Predix, GE’s operating system for the Industrial Internet, provides a platform to build applications that connect to industrial assets, collect and analyse data, and deliver real-time insights for optimising industrial infrastructure and operations. Alvin Ng, general manager of GE Digital in Southeast Asia, talked with VIR’s Hong Anh about the potential for Predix in Vietnam.

Alvin Ng, general manager of GE Digital in Southeast Asia

GE introduced Predix to potential Vietnamese customers in a presentation in Hanoi just a couple of months ago. What was the general reaction?

Vietnam, both as a country and as an economy, has very smart people, especially in the software environment. When I talk about digital in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, the general audience will not catch on as quickly as in Vietnam. The country understands the software industry very well, so the maturity on software and apps is high. The maturity on cloud-based apps, however, is rather lacking. Still, after our presentation, many customers came to us and expressed interest in being part of the Industrial Internet of Things. They might not fully understand what it is, but they feel like they need to be part of it.

Does Vietnam have the necessary hardware to adopt Predix apps?

Predix can be used on hardware of any vintage or vendor. As long as there are sensors on the hardware, we have the platform to analyse the collected data. The important thing for digital transformation is leadership. Since digital means transparency, if the company leadership wants transparency, they will be decisive to implement the digital transformation.

When companies use apps that run on Predix, they generate a lot of data. Does GE own this data?

There is an agreement between GE and the customers. If you say it is your private data, GE will not touch it. But when customers allow their anonomised data to be part of GE’s database, it gives them access to larger sets of data aggregated from other industrial companies allows you to make comparisons and find the best practices.

Predix is unique in that customers own their data. With some other cloud platforms, unless you have a separate agreement with your cloud vendor, the vendor takes ownership of your data through the terms and conditions, because it sits on their physical system. At GE Digital, customers own their data and can encrypt it. We will store the encrypted data, administer the servers, but we cannot have a look unless the customers give us access.

Cyber security is a concern in Vietnam, not only in banking, but in other sectors too. With Predix, how does GE prevent cyber crimes?

We acquired Wurldtech in 2014, to bring cyber security to all our products from edge to cloud. In information technology (IT) security the focus is on protecting the data, data security, and data privacy. Most of the attacks we see in IT involve data theft. On our platform we address this with multiple layers of security throughout the platform, not just the encryption. Customers hold the key and can decide who gets to access the data. In terms of operational technology (OT), a lot of the equipment – for example a power plant or oil rig or factory – and the industrial control systems (ICS) it runs on were created 15 to 20 years ago, sometimes up to 40 years ago. They were not designed to exist on a modern day network, which make them more vulnerable to attacks. What we did last year was bring out OpShield, which is a security device that sits in an industrial network and protects the ICS from cyber attacks. Not only can we protect the equipment from malicious attacks, we can also create a baseline of known behaviours. When we see any activity that falls outside of that baseline, we can take action, block traffic, generate an alarm, and send someone to investigate.

Our approach to security is to first secure the platform from edge to cloud, then to secure the OT environment. We also have an expert risk assessment service for our customers where we can assess the potential risks within their industrial environment. Lastly, at GE we take product security very seriously. Today, when you buy a locomotive, steam turbine, MRI machine, or CT scanner, these assets come equipped with OpShield.

GE officially opened the Predix platform for outside companies in February. After being available to outside developers for almost a year, how popular is it now?

Internationally, we have 20,000 developers working on Predix, meeting our goal for the year. Within the region, there are about 3,000-4,000. In Vietnam in particular, FPT is one of our distinguished partners.

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