…the key components to success at the GE Digital Industrial Transformation Summit in Shanghai, China. Well, maybe the dumplings were just an added bonus, but I would certainly recommend them to anyone visiting Shanghai.
Day 0: The Pre-Event
After a breakfast that of course, included dumplings, and a day of exploring Shanghai and attempting to conquer some serious jet lag, my colleague Tom Turner and I headed to the office for our first day at the GE Digital Shanghai foundry. We met our superstar colleagues Peng Xia and Eagle Tang, who run the Dev Ecosystem team based in China. Peng and Eagle gave us an introduction to their work and the offerings of the Digital Foundry, and then dove into the specifics of the upcoming event: the GE Digital Industrial Transformation summit. Later in the day, we met up with 20–30 local engineers from the Shanghai site for a meeting with a couple of our executives, Eddie Amos and Patrick Franklin, to talk about Predix, APM, Field Services, and the overall apps-led strategy of GE Digital. Eddie and Patrick each gave a short speech, and then left a lot of time for Q&A. Being part of a global company, I was curious to see if the questions asked by engineers in China were going to be similar to questions I’d heard asked at meetings in the USA. Overall, they were, but there were a few differences, mainly regarding networks. As you may know, China has strict laws regarding data governance and networking, which lead to different engineering problems and considerations than ones we see in the US and other countries.
Day 1: The Main Event
This event was hosted at our Digital Foundry that offers a space and events that all fall under journeys for three different personas: Customers, Developers, and Engineers. At the Digital Transformation Summit, the focus was primarily on Customer and Developer Journeys. For all attendees, there was a morning plenary session. GE leaders from China and the US spoke about Digital Transformation, especially as it relates to the China economy. Unfortunately for me (but fortunately for pretty much everyone else) the plenary was predominantly spoken in Chinese, so I did not understand much of it. What I did understand was the impact and interest that the speakers drew from their audience. The hall where the plenary was held was filled, and many people were crowded around the screens where the speeches were being live-streamed. The lobby of the office also featured impressive booths for all attendees to visit, including a booth with a subsea mining drill, one with an ultrasound machine and a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit bed, and another with a jet engine model that seemed pretty close to full-size to me. This jet engine was used as part of an incredible Predix demo featuring augmented reality technology, which I’ll explain a little bit later on. After the plenary, the day had multiple breakout sessions for various audiences, and a Predix Certification session, led by Susan Kim from the Predix Training team.
I had the honor of being the kickoff speaker for the Predix breakout session. As part of my talk, I gave an overview and introduction to the Predix Platform. I detailed the concept of a Digital Twin, explained how Predix and Digital Twin fit into our Apps-led strategy, and introduced some of the more exciting things our team is leading IIoT Apps and Predix world, including the Machine Workshop and the new book written by my fellow Developer Evangelist Ryane Bohm. I also left a lot of time for Q&A; to be honest, the Q&A was what I was most excited for. The audience was a unique one for me — not only did it consist of customers, engineers, AND Citizen Developers, but these audience members are also all part of the China IIoT market, which is very new to me. What would they ask? It turns out that their questions were similar to what I had heard at Minds + Machines conference in San Francisco a few weeks prior. The audience wanted more about the Edge and about Digital Twin. One difference though was that the audience wanted to hear a lot about the Predix Private Cloud which is a Predix offering where Predix is running on-premise at a site. While it was a question I don’t hear as much in the US, it was not surprising given China’s strict data governance laws and culture around data privacy and protection. The breakout sessions continued throughout the day, where local developers detailed Predix Data Services, Security, and more.
Concurrently, 20 people sat in a funky room upstairs attending the Machine Workshop, similar to the Machine Shop we ran at Minds and Machines. Now, let me tell you, this room was incredibly cool. It had walls covered in Predix and Digital Transformation related artwork, and one wall had faux airplane windows. And a pyramid of Predix Developer Kit boxes stood proudly at the front of the room with their unpacked contents stationed on tables throughout the room. What was most cool, though, was watching the attendees grin each time they completed a step in the Workshop, completing the various stages of their respective Edge to Cloud journeys. During the Machine Workshop, attendees first worked to connect to their Edge Device (an Intel NUC) and to add a sensor to it. They then connected their Edge devices to the cloud and saw their data stream into Predix. Local engineers, Tom and I all were on call in case any attendees ran into difficulties.
Peng, Eagle, Tom and I later joined two meetings in the afternoon. One meeting was with CSDN, which is the China Software Developer Network. CSDN is incredible — it is like StackOverflow, Coursera, and a coding academy (and honestly probably more) all rolled into one neat online package. It is the largest developer community in China, with 26 MILLION unique MONTHLY users. In China, this is where the online Predix Community lives. We had a fascinating discussion with its founder where we learned about the audience on CSDN (30% students,70% full time developers), statistics about things like what language Chinese developers use, what languages they want to learn, and more. A lot of those statistics were similar to the US, but there were some differences. For example, there is no China instance of GitHub, so a lot of CSDN developers use other forms of version control. Cloud computing is also not as popular in China as it is in the US due to the data restrictions. I expect that these statistics will change in the next few years.
The second meeting was with the winners of the “Predix Spark” competition. The Predix Spark competition ran in China from September-November with the goals of growing the Predix developer community and incubate Industrial applications developed by China ecosystem partners and customers. The winners received Predix certification and training vouchers, Predix resources, solution development and incubation in the foundry, and other business opportunities from GE. The winners we met with built a super interesting remote repair application using Predix. Tom and I had the chance to try the application, which involved trying on a Hololens and “examining” a jet engine that needed repair. In this app, everything we were seeing was being transmitted to a remote technician, who sat in another room. The tech and the Hololens wearer were able to communicate within the application and to diagnose the problem after examining the engine. While wearing the Hololens made me a little dizzy, it also made me incredibly excited at the kinds of problems augmented reality can solve in the IIoT space.
In conclusion, my experience at the GE Digital Industrial Transformation Summit in Shanghai was incredibly rewarding, and not just because dumplings were involved in at least two meals every day. It was enlightening to meet customers from the GE China ecosystem, to tell them about Predix, and to answer their questions and better understand their use cases. It was enthralling to watch attendees take their first steps from Edge to Cloud as part of the Machine Workshop. It was thought-provoking to meet with CSDN and the Predix Spark winners — to see firsthand how developers in China are using Predix to build the future of IIoT. I am grateful to Peng Xia and Eagle Tang for making it possible for me to attend, and I cannot wait to see all of the amazing things that are sure to come out of the GE China Ecosystem.
Originally published at www.predix.io.