Companies operating machinery in the region are increasingly looking to the analytics and digitisation of the industrial internet as the environment of lower oil prices puts great emphasis on operational efficiency.

“We look at every business for the long term, and all businesses go through cycles,” said US-based GE’s chairman and CEO, Jeffrey Immelt, speaking in Dubai on 2 November. “In times such as these there is more interest in these types of tools; it drives productivity.”

By enhancing productivity, GE aims to create lower-cost solutions for its customers in the region. “In the end, the lowest-cost system will win,” said Immelt.

The industrial internet is expected to grow sharply over the coming decade. GE’s industrial internet business generated revenues of $6bn in 2015, up from about $3bn in 2012. The company is active in a range of sectors such as power generation, oil and gas and aviation, and forecasts that its potential economic value for the Middle East, North Africa, Turkey and Pakistan will reach $465bn by 2025.

Globally, 50 billion machines are expected to come online by 2020, and unlike the consumer internet, the Middle East could play a key role in this developing industrial sector.

“The consumer internet is in Silicon Valley; the industrial internet will be developed globally,” said Immelt. “In the Middle East, there are huge airline, power, and oil and gas companies, so a region like this can be active in the development of the industrial internet.”

The Middle East is already playing a role in the development of the industrial internet. GE has monitoring and diagnostic centres in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, and Dubai; a Middle East aviation technology centre in Dubai; a technology centre in Istanbul, Turkey; and an oil and gas multi-modal manufacturing and technology facility in Dubai. “We are investing in centres with customers and on our own, so this is real,” said Immelt.

Another difference from the consumer internet is the types of companies involved. “This is not the domain of software companies. You need to have knowledge of machines,” said Immelt.

GE is highly active in the region. In October, MEED reported the firm had been awarded a contract to supply power turbines for a planned 3,000MW independent power project (IPP) in Bismayah, located 30 kilometres from Baghdad. The gas-fired facility will be developed in two 1,500MW phases, with GE supplying eight of its 9F.03 turbines for the scheme.  

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