NEC and GE Digital Collaborate to Drive the Digital Transformation
January 31, 2017
(Please note: This interview was conducted in October 2016. Denzil Samuels has accepted another role outside of GE Digital.)
NEC and GE Digital (Note 1), General Electric (GE)'s division, overseeing its software and analytics strategy and operations, have announced a comprehensive alliance in the field of industrial IoT. Both companies seek to provide IoT solutions that bring about innovation and growth in global business initiatives in a variety of industries like manufacturing and national infrastructure. NEC possesses advanced technologies in AI and IoT. It boasts a wide range of technologies and wealth of achievements in system architecture and operations. GE is leading the "Industrial Internet" charge with (Note 2) Predix, its operating system built for the needs of industry. Through this partnership, NEC and GE Digital will build a uniform system within Japan, from the development of industrial IoT solutions to deployment, maintenance, and support. This system will enable them to provide advanced and highly reliable IoT solutions and support the digital transformation of customer companies.
Makoto Enomoto, Senior Vice President, NEC and Denzil Samuels, formerly the Global Head of Channels and Alliances, GE Digital shared their perspectives on the impact of the alliance and future outlook.
Note 1: A division of General Electric with the purpose of providing software to solve customer issues. It integrates GE Software Center, Global IT Department, the software teams of various GE businesses, and the operation technology (OT) security department of Wurldtech, acquired in 2014.
Note 2: New service business model created by utilizing data and analysis obtained from the IoT conversion of a company's own products. Predix is the operating system used to obtain the data.
Technologies supporting creation of social value
──What value are GE and NEC providing to customers in different industries with their products and services?
GE is a company that deals with extremely large industrial assets. We deal with the very things that define "industry" - Aviation, Energy, Transportation & Healthcare, for example. GE has also calculated that if the efficiency of the world's industries improves by 1 percent, more than 1 trillion U.S. dollars of economic value will be produced in a 15-year period from today. These are some of the reasons that GE is promoting the integration of industrial systems and digital technologies.
For example, the operational conditions of aircraft jet engines must be constantly monitored so failures don't occur in flight and cause a major disaster. By attaching sensors to each engine blade, a "digital twin" (Note 3) of the jet engine based on sensor data can be created. As a result, the need for part replacements can be understood in real time, leading to improved efficiency in maintenance and prevention of failures. This means, for example, using Predix-based industrial analytics, airlines can determine when a jet engine needs maintenance before a part breaks. Removing an engine for inspection during maintenance is a time consuming process. And, when a problem occurs suddenly, the engine's operational schedule is thrown off course. A long period of time is needed to identify the cause of the problem and procure parts. By monitoring the jet engine with a digital twin, an aircraft's operation can be extended, maintenance can be tailored to the specific engine, and an aircraft company can improve its efficiency. What's more, digital twins can be applied not just to products like jet engines, but also to major systems and operations like a power plant.
Note 3: Digital representations of machines and operations, capturing everything from components to functions to entire processes and plants.
As a social value creation company, NEC uses the power of ICT to address the variety of challenges that society faces.
One of the social challenges NEC is focusing on is the population issue. This issue has two aspects. The first is the issue of Japan's population. The number differs depending on the statistics, but in general researchers believe the population of Japan will fall 70 percent by 2050.
Meanwhile, overall on a global scale the world population will become 1.3 times the current population of 7.0 billion people. The population of urban dwellers will grow 1.8 times to reach 6.3 billion from 3.5 billion today.
These changes mean that demand for food, water, and energy will grow to 1.8 times the level today. It is said that two Earths' worth of resources will be needed.
To deal with such changes on a global scale, as a social value creation company NEC believes that ICT can be utilized to present solutions to these challenges.
The population of Japan is expected to decline due to a low childbirth rate. The country's social infrastructure assumes use and operation by 120 million citizens. Even if the estimated population of the country fall by 70 percent in 2050, the social infrastructure needs to be maintained correctly and efficiently. An example of the effect of population decline is that it may not be possible to place enough personnel at a fine level in a place where a large number of people gather, such as an airport or stadium, so that safety is ensured. We seek to secure the safety of such places with minimal personnel by developing and offering systems that utilize facial recognition technology based on NEC's advanced image recognition technologies. Such a system will be able to immediately identify a single person in a crowd so a suspect can be immediately spotted, even if he or she is mixed in with people.
Also, by using "Heterogeneous Learning Technologies," one of NEC's advanced AI technologies called "NEC the WISE" (Note 4), electricity demand can be forecast with precision from operational data and complex surrounding conditions, leading to improved efficiency in power generation and distribution. NEC's advanced AI technologies can be utilized with high accuracy in a variety of situations.
Note 4: "NEC the WISE" is name of NEC's lineup of advanced AI technologies. "Wise" is usually used as an adjective; here "the WISE" turns the adjective into a plural noun meaning "wise persons." The name includes the idea of humans and AI working together to resolve complex and advanced social challenges with deep intelligence.