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A recipe for AI success: GE Appliances' CEO shares how they're innovating in record time

December 13, 2023
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Kevin Nolan

CEO, GE Appliances

Generative AI is at the heart of the new SmartHQ app — and not just the app itself but how AI is helping improve processes and experiences across the company.

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For more than a century, GE Appliances has pushed the boundaries of innovation to improve life at home. It all began with Thomas Edison’s pioneering work in electricity and continues today as we keep reimagining what’s possible and advancing our appliances, services and solutions that can be found in half of all U.S. homes.

Technology breakthroughs are happening daily at GE Appliances — leading to products that cook, cool, and clean smarter and make people’s lives easier. Today, generative AI is helping us make our appliances smarter and more personalized than ever.

As the pace of technological change accelerates, we recognize the need to embrace new cutting-edge capabilities like generative AI to serve our users’ needs better than ever before. Specifically, generative AI has allowed us to reinvent products in ways where the primary constraint is our imagination.

By leveraging powerful large language models at the core of gen AI, we are dramatically improving manufacturing and industrial processing that have remained static for decades. As for our appliances themselves, we’re now deploying AI experiences that delight our owners, whether through built-in screens that give cooking and cleaning advice or a more seamless customer service experience.

As CEO, I'm excited by how new gen AI tools and products allow us to bring the next generation of innovation to life. Our future has never looked brighter as we continue pushing progress forward.

AI-mazing recipes on demand

Over the past several months, I've witnessed firsthand the power of gen AI to transform how our team can innovate. When we first gained access to these new capabilities, we quickly realized their potential to reimagine solutions across our company. We also understood that achieving our broader goals would require hearing the best ideas from everyone in the company.

That’s why we’ve democratized this technology across our entire workforce, sharing access with many teams, not just the IT department.

By empowering all employees with gen AI tools, we tapped into their unique creativity and expertise to rapidly develop novel applications that never could have been conceived from the top down. In just days, our teams were able to come up with impactful new ways to enhance our manufacturing processes, increase productivity workflows, and even generate new product concepts leveraging our smart home appliances.

The SmartHQ app from GE Appliances is one example showcasing the immense value that businesses can derive when advanced technology is combined with their employees’ human-centered innovation.

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See how leading enterprises like GE Appliances are using Google Cloud's gen AI technology.

By harnessing AI's limitless capacity to create and curate content, our new Flavorly AI feature on the SmartHQ app provides users with customized recipes that reduce food waste, save money, and simplify home cooking. It analyzes the specific ingredients someone has on hand and generates creative recipes optimized to use up those items before they spoil. This innovation would not be possible without the marriage of leading-edge generative AI with GE Appliances’ deep expertise in home appliances and cooking.

Such a fusion of technology and human ingenuity allowed our team to develop a feature that helps reduce food waste — estimated at more than 125 million pounds in the U.S. alone — while delighting customers with a tailored, effortless cooking experience. This is just a glimpse into the future where smart appliances will collaborate with users, using AI to consider and provide solutions that maximize customer value and resources.

Good things, for life — with AI

When we first started exploring ideas for the SmartHQ recipe app, I'll admit I was skeptical that the technology could deliver a straightforward or tailored cooking experience. However, the hands-on workshops and deep collaboration with Google's world-class engineering teams fundamentally reshaped my understanding of what's possible when you combine AI with the expertise of our teams and strong company culture.

With just a few days of brainstorming and rapid prototyping, we built an incredible “most viable product” that demonstrated the ability of AI to transform the act of cooking. Seeing high-quality recipe ideas instantly generated based on what's in my fridge blew me away and left me hungry for more.

With just a few days of brainstorming and rapid prototyping, we built an incredible 'most viable product' that demonstrated the ability of AI to transform the act of cooking.

One of the most important things for us wasn’t just what Google Cloud’s large language models could achieve technically. It’s also the fact that Google engineers and executives worked alongside us the entire time to bring the application to life. Our teams worked seamlessly together, virtually and with in-person tech sessions, combining the best of human creativity, technological innovation, and industrial understanding.

Building with the Google Cloud team during an intense, week-long workshop helped us accomplish in a just a few days what would have taken our team a year. We went from “Is this possible?” on Monday to “This is real'' by Friday. It was truly incredible seeing what was possible with our two teams collaborating.

This partnership demonstrates the power and potential for gen AI. It's accelerated our timeline to bring game-changing solutions like Flavorly to market. But most critically, it's shown how combining the strengths of two industry leaders can unleash exponential value for customers. AI is the future, and I'm confident that with partners like Google, GE Appliances will continue pushing the boundaries of what's possible.

With SmartHQ and Flavorly, we are continuing our legacy of firsts by offering customers a one-of-a-kind cooking experience powered by generative AI.

Democratizing AI innovation across the organization

The resounding lesson from developing Flavorly is that our employees collectively have the answers when given access to the latest technologies, including not only AI but other powerful cloud services like data analytics and scalable infrastructure.

And while generative AI was instrumental in the functioning of the SmartHQ app, it played just as big a role in creating it, too, especially as quickly as we did. Making generative models accessible to everyone unlocked innovation at a pace and scale we've never experienced. We’re already seeing early signs of a 10x increase in productivity in code creation. Equally significant, though, has been our ability to learn more, iterate faster, and drive greater value with each successful — or unsuccessful — use case.

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The Flavorly AI feature in the SmartHQ app recommends recipes based on what ingredients you have at home.

The SmartHQ app demonstrates the immense potential when established businesses embrace generative AI. Many large language models are fairly similar out of the box, and any organization has access to them. The differentiators that are likely to attract and engage customers are often what’s unique to your organization already.

While GE Appliances has more than a century of expertise in industrial innovation, augmenting our teams with cutting-edge generative AI models allowed us to conceive and develop this revolutionary app in a fraction of the time compared to traditional methods. Teams across industries can work at these incredible speeds now. Those who will stand out are the ones with the best mix of tech, talent, culture, and vision.

By providing access to these powerful AI tools across our organization, our coders can rapidly prototype novel applications like Flavorly that would have taken months through manual means alone. The productivity gains and acceleration of innovation were only possible by leveraging our institutional knowledge in tandem with generative AI capabilities.

Combining machine learning algorithms, machine-shop knowledge, and customer connections has allowed us to create a truly customized and integrated cooking experience far surpassing what separate industrial and AI experts could have developed independently. The SmartHQ app exemplifies the synergistic potential when world-class industry leaders invest in their workers with transformative new technologies

Today's special: a taste of the future

Releasing a product that has never been done before with these emerging technologies is both thrilling and daunting. Thrilling because of the immense potential we are just beginning to realize to reimagine the appliance industry. It's daunting because we are charting new territory and reimagining consumer experiences from the ground up.

Overall, I am confident and optimistic about what the future holds. The possibilities seem limitless when you can count on trusted technology partners, a workforce hungry to innovate, and a mission to use technology to enrich lives. We are pioneering a new era of intelligent, connected living, and I could not be more excited to get a taste of what comes next.

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