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Industrial IoT meets the iPhone and iPad in new GE/Apple deal

News Analysis
Oct 20, 20173 mins
AppleInternet of ThingsSensors

New Predix SDK for iOS is designed to create easy-to-use iOS apps that work with Predix IoT data from industrial sensors to help make sense of IoT data.

Is a smartphone a thing?

The question isn’t as silly as it may sound, at least in the context of the Internet of Things (IoT) and this week’s partnership between Apple and General Electric. According to Apple, the deal calls for the two companies to “deliver powerful industrial apps designed to bring predictive data and analytics from Predix, GE’s industrial IoT platform, to iPhone and iPad.”

The focus is a new Predix SDK for iOS — due out later in October — designed to let developers build IoT apps that run on iPhones and iPads. Thus, the answer to the question of whether a smartphone a “thing” in the IoT sense seems to be “it’s complicated.”

iPhones mainly used to understand IoT data

Rather than turn iOS devices into internet things, the SDK seems mostly designed to create easy-to-use native iOS apps that work with Predix IoT data from industrial sensors on equipment ranging from wind turbines to power plants and jet engines.

Boosting collaboration is also a goal, and the SDK could also reportedly perform more creative functions, such as leverage iPhone cameras to record and send thermal images to help diagnose equipment issues. 

As an example of the kinds of apps to be created, the companies cited GE’s new Asset Performance Management (APM) Cases app, designed to use native iOS functionality to help boost machine reliability and availability and cut maintenance costs and operational risks.

The partnership also includes joint development of internal and external GE apps designed to help workers use IoT information. Apple also agreed to promote Predix as its “industrial IoT analytics platform of choice.”

Helping Apple sell Macs to the enterprise 

On the flip side, GE will standardize on iPhone and iPad mobile devices and promote Mac as a laptop/desktop option for its more than 330,000 employees around the world.  That’s a lot of direct sales potential for iPhones, but more importantly, it will also help bolster Apple’s credibility when it comes to computer sales to mainstream enterprises. That’s not insignificant, as many traditional enterprises still see Mac computers as less serious devices, preferring to standardize on Windows laptops. 

But make no mistake, this deal is all about leveraging iOS to make IoT data easier for humans to use and understand. In a statement, Apple CEO Tim Cook put it this way: “Together, Apple and GE are fundamentally changing how the industrial world works by combining GE’s Predix platform with the power and simplicity of iPhone and iPad.”

That may come across as typical press release fluff, but it’s important because making sense of the vast amount of data generated by IoT devices is a real problem that will only grow along with the spread of IoT. And at some point, even the IoT needs to connect to humans if it’s going to be truly useful.


Fredric Paul is Editor in Chief for New Relic, Inc., and has held senior editorial positions at ReadWrite, InformationWeek, CNET, PCWorld and other publications. His opinions are his own.