Will GE Lead the Way on the Internet of Things?

The “Internet of Things” – this idea of the internet manifesting itself in the physical form of everything from things we wear, to the things we use to wash what we wear – looks like it’s going to make a big leap from media and Silicon Valley buzzword, into, well, a thing this year. Technology trends and strands of innovation – especially with hardware – tend to make that leap once the big money of the corporate world starts pouring in, and the Internet of Things is no different.

Samsung, Intel and Dell have all pledged allegiance – and a lot of money – to the Internet of Things idea, with Samsung recently saying that 100 percent of its devices will be connected (and interconnected) by 2017. And for good reason. The research firm IDC predicted that the market for the Internet of Things will be $7.1 trillion by 2020. Not a bad position for an idea that still elicits a confused look or blank stare from most people.

An easier way of thinking about the Internet of Things is as the dozens of connected devices by which we’ll soon be surrounded in our homes, cars, at work and everywhere else. Though there’s a much deeper and more philosophical way of thinking about the potential social and societal impact this will have, for our purpose we’ll just think is about it in terms of commerce. Simple dollars and cents.

It’s not at all surprising that companies like Samsung, Intel and Dell are the first to dive into the connected devices pool. Samsung makes TVs and other devices that are easy targets to connect to other devices, and Dell and Intel manufacture the hardware that will form the silicon backbone of tomorrow’s devices. What’s missing, however, is a company that makes all the thousands of other devices that could be connected in the future. After all, one of the hot displays at this year’s CES was a connected washing machine made by South Korean giant LG.

And LG is the type of company one would expect to eventually dominate the world of connected devices. Which brings us to GE, the company that makes everything. Or nearly everything. It makes appliances and lighting, which will obviously be a big part of the connected homes of the future, as well as aviation services, medical equipment, and engines of all shapes and sizes, and it’s not hard to think up the benefits of having those things connected to the internet. Imagine a plane sending its flight data to your phone, or your car engine pinging an app when it has a problem or needs service, and there are infinite possibilities for connected medical devices.

This isn’t to predict that GE will end up being the ultimate innovator of the Internet of Things, but a company like it – one that has a wide spread of services and far reach – is perfectly set up to eventually become a leader. Or at least make a ton of money.