The BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) trend has gained steam recently, as many employees have started to bring their own consumer tech products to work because, well, they just work better.
General Electric took a page out of that book when it decided to leverage users' familiarity with Google Maps' functionality in its geographic information system, called Smallworld. The company recently announced a partnership with Google that will allow GE to license Google Maps to users of its Smallworld software product suite. The system provides a set of software tools to help engineers design and manage utility systems like electric grids, pipelines, telecom networks, and other large systems.
“Millions of people are already familiar with Google Maps as seen on their computer screens in the office or on mobile devices in the field." said Bryan Friehauf, the product line leader of software solutions for GE's Digital Energy business. “Now we’re able to bring that familiarity to our Smallworld products so that our customers can use a platform that’s completely customized for their assets and networks.”
Despite Google Maps' ubiquity for consumers looking for directions, shops, subway routes, and more, so far the industrial sector has not been able to fully take advantage of the system's ease of use. Now, for a still-undisclosed fee, engineers using the additional Google Maps layer of information in Smallworld can overlay their design on a Google street view map to avoid running a fiber optic network through a parking lot or a house, for instance. Likewise, users will be able to work with this view on Android devices, allowing for real-time revisions and more accurate design - before any messy construction begins.
Friehauf is also considering ways in which the utility functionality could make its way back to consumers - say, by pairing a view of its electric grid with an outage map during a blackout. In this way, utility companies could post estimated outage times on Google Maps, giving its users sitting in the dark a useful reference.
Consumer tech and products like Google Maps have made life easier for consumers around the world in the last few years; perhaps by embracing these products, the industrial sector will make life easier for itself -- and, by association, for its customers.