GE is using big data to make smarter turbines

GE announced new technology for its utility customers running gas turbines on Thursday, but the bigger news might have been the technology that’s powering them. The new products are part of GE’s broader Predictivity lineup that analyzes data from the company’s large installed turbine base to help the machines and their operators work better.

Here’s how the company quantifies the promise of smarter turbines:

“In September 2013, GE eclipsed 100 million hours of operational data documented on its globally monitored gas turbine fleet of more than 1,600 units, the world’s largest. The insights derived from analysis of this operational “big data” can be applied to help customers expand their earning power while reducing operational costs and risk. As these “intelligent” machines communicate their operating statistics through an average of 100 physical sensors and 300 virtual sensors on each gas turbine, the GE team can help customers translate that information into actionable decisions. …

“… Unlocking the full capacity of a 500-MW power plant could be worth more than $500,000 annually in increased revenue, while a public utility that could reduce its heat rate efficiency curve by 1 percent could save up to $1.25 million dollars annually in fuel costs.”

GE, of course, is no stranger to the idea of the industrial internet. In April the company invested $105 million — a 10 percent stake — in EMC/VMware spinoff Pivotal, which is promising a collection of infrastructure technologies that will enable better collection and analysis of the untold amounts of data streaming off machines across the industrial landscape. In July, GE Ventures took part in a $30.6 million investment round for Ayasdi, a machine learning startup that’s helping GE identify signals that can predict failure in jet engines.