The right way to approach Big Data (GE thinks it knows)


Quick Take: Data analytics continues to be a red-hot topic with utilities everywhere. More than a year ago, I told you that General Electric, best known for its hardware, had decided to become a software company. Last fall, I alerted you that GE had launched a Big Data platform and recruited utility partners to help them stock it with solutions.


So what has GE learned so far? I had a chance to chat with GE Digital Energy's General Manager for Software Solutions Michael Carlson at DistribuTECH. I thought you'd like to hear about the firm's approach. These principles may well apply even if you are not a GE customer. - Jesse Berst


GE Digital Energy has a single platform for analytics called GridIQ. That platform uses a single data model and a single database. But it allows customers to implement its data solutions in a modular fashion, so they can start small and ramp up as needed.


As previously promised, GE is building its solutions in close collaboration with customers. It is also pulling in insights from GE's San Ramon, CA software center of excellence, which works on core technologies that can apply to many different industries. What's more, it is working with a high-profile industrial design firm to help it get the interface design right. (Including interfaces for computers, tablets and smart phones.)


"Better visualization is the key focus," Carlson told me. GE seeks to get the right information to the right person in the right format for easy decision making. How do you do that. Carlson suggested these three principles:

·      Layering. Layer in data from the meters, the sensors, the GIS, even from social networks.

·      Filtering. Next, filter the data to find the information you need -- for instance, the information pertinent to outage management.

·      "Actioning." Finally, send that information to other systems to take action. For instance, outage information might go to the dispatch system. Incidentally, GE is committed to sending information not just to its own software, but to its competitor's systems as well.


I think that final step may be the one that distinguishes the eventual winners in the Big Data wars. It's fine to present relevant information to the right person. But you don't want that person to have to swivel around and re-enter that information into another application to take action. Instead, that data exchange should be automated, as GE is working to accomplish.


Jesse Berst is the founder and Chief Analyst of SGN and Chairman of the Smart Cities Council, an industry coalition.


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