Thoughts From the 2012 Whitney Software Symposium

Last week, I co-chaired the 2012 Whitney Symposium at GE Global Research here in Niskayuna along with Piero Bonissone and Jim Bray (of Edison’s Desk Stump the Scientist fame!).  This prestigious annual event is named for Willis R. Whitney, who served as the first Director of the GE Research Lab from 1900-1932.

Whitne_Wills-150x150The purpose of this event is to bring together world experts and to educate the GE Global Research staff in important technical areas.  The symposium encourages the free exchange of ideas between the speakers and the GE technical staff. Some topics from previous years include Bionics, Energy, Health Care, Sustainability, Networks, Services, Manufacturing, and Imaging & Therapy.

This year the Whitney Symposium discussed Analytics, Big Data, Modeling and Simulation, High Performance Computing and the Industrial Internet as key technological enablers of GE’s Software initiatives. We enjoyed speakers from prestigious universities like Berkeley, MIT, Harvard, and CMU joining government experts from Livermore Lab and DARPA as well as industrial giants like IBM and Procter & Gamble for this year’s discussion.

Bringing together GE researchers and leadership to meet with thought-leaders from academia, government and industry helps us position ourselves at the forefront of these disruptive technologies. The breadth of GE’s products and services lends plenty of opportunity to apply new ideas, learn from them and then magnify them across other industries. Software is a common underlying element to nearly everything we do, and these topics: advanced analytics and modeling, simulation of systems, application of advanced computing technology and the growing interconnectedness of people, software and devices are key to turning imagination into reality.

Below are a few of my takeaways from the symposium. Any thoughts around these? For others who attended, what were your key takeaways?

– We are experiencing a shift from practicing empirical physical sciences to using such studies merely to validate results of ever-advancing high-fidelity simulations.

– Exciting new advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence will augment human intuition and perception in interpreting the “Big Data” being generated through the myriad of scientific and industrial internet applications that have been emerging over the past years.

– There are  possibilities for new discoveries in biomedical and materials science by leveraging collaborative data sharing and advanced modeling and simulation to focus experimentation in the practice of those disciplines.

– While hardware advances emerge and accelerate in computing and network technologies, software skills are more important than ever to truly harness the power of the Industrial Internet and the computational infrastructure behind it.

Several of the Whitney Symposium speakers pose for a picture at Edison’s desk.
Several of the Whitney Symposium speakers pose for a picture at Edison’s desk.