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(Image courtesy of General Electric).

General Electric to Monitor Machinery with iPhones

General Electric is trying to put industrial software that predicts malfunctions in wind turbines and oil rigs into more hands. To do that, it is partnering with Apple to develop smartphone and tablet apps for the iOS operating system.

On Wednesday, GE announced that it would release tools for putting its industrial software into iPhones and iPads. The software, called Predix, is the crown jewel in the 125-year-old conglomerate’s bid to improve its business by gathering and analyzing data from turbines, locomotives, and other machines.

“Our customers increasingly need to arm their work forces through mobility, said John Flannery, GE’s chief executive, in a statement. “Working together, GE and Apple are giving industrial companies access to powerful apps that help them tap into the predictive data and analytics of Predix right on their iPhone or iPad.”

For example, a Predix app could send notifications about faulty mechanics inside a wind turbine, which a worker can forward to inspection and repair teams. Chicago-based Exelon, which operates nuclear power plants and wind farms in the U.S., is already using a new Predix app to check how efficiently how its machines are running.

GE has struggled to squeeze profit out of Predix, which has been marred by technical problems and delays, according to a recent Reuters investigation. But the Apple deal could move it into the hands of more industrial workers. The software was introduced as part of former chief executive Jeffrey Immelt’s $4 billion bet on the firm's digital future.

Despite the recent troubles, GE's digital strategy has lit fires under other industrial giants like Honeywell, which last year formed a new business to latch analytical software onto control systems used in oil refining, mining, and chemical processing, which have historically produced reams of data.

GE also plans to collaborate with Apple – whose devices are all the rage with corporations like airlines  – on internal apps for its 330,000 employees worldwide. The company will release a software development kit next week during the Minds + Machines conference in San Francisco.

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