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Apple Partners GE For Industrial Mobile Apps

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

General Electric and Apple to develop mobile apps to control industrial systems in factories and power plants

Industrial systems could soon be controlled via iPads and iPhones, thanks to a new partnership agreement between Apple and General Electric Co.

The two firms, each leaders in their respective fields, are to develop mobile apps for managing machinery, factories and power plants.

And the two companies said they would release a new Predix software development kit (SDK) for iOS, to give developers the tools to make their own industrial IoT apps.

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Industrial Control

The Predix SDK for iOS, built with Apple, will give developers the ability to make native apps that take full advantage of the industrial analytics from GE’s Predix (its industrial Internet of Things platform) and tap into the ease of use of iOS.

The new SDK will be available to download on Thursday, 26 October.

“GE is an ideal partner with a rich history of innovation across the industrial world in areas like aviation, manufacturing, healthcare and energy,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “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.”

“The partnership between Apple and GE is providing developers with the tools to make their own powerful industrial IoT apps,” said John Flannery, Chairman and CEO of GE.

“Our customers increasingly need to arm their workforces through mobility. 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.”

The partnership deal could give GE an edge over competitors such as Siemens AG and Schneider Electric, as these firms have been adding to their software and data-analysis offerings.

The thinking here is that the apps will give industrial operators more insight and visibility into the performance of their equipment and operations right from their iPhone or iPad.

And GE also revealed it will standardize on iPhone and iPad for mobile devices and also promote Mac as a choice for its global workforce of more than 330,000 employees.

Apple in turn will promote GE’s Predix as the industrial IoT analytics platform of choice to its customers and developers.

Security Concerns

Pushing control of industrial machinery out to mobile devices will of course raise obvious security concerns.

Industrial control systems for example have been increasingly at the centre of malware scares, such as the cyber attacks in Kiev, Ukraine at the end of last year which resulted in large parts of the city being left without power.

In July the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), GCHQ’s computer security organisation, acknowledged it was investigating a broad wave of attacks on companies in the British energy and manufacturing sectors.

Last year a German nuclear power plant in Bavaria admitted that its systems were riddled with malware, and the plant was shut down as a precaution.

In 2015 a hacker managed to hack into the systems of a nuclear power plant in South Korea. A computer worm was later discovered in a device connected to the control system, but the plant operator insisted that the breach had not reached the reactor controls itself.

The hacker later posted files from the hack online, and included a demand for money.

A German steelworks also suffered “massive damage” after a cyber attack on its computer network in late 2014.

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