GE Makes Short Films in Tiny Town About Big Data

Company Looks to Illustrate the Industrial Internet Through Scenarios Involving Blood-Sucking Vampires and Extraterrestrials

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GE filmed a teensy town in Germany to teach everyday people about the internet of really big things. The maker of data-generating wind turbines and jet engines today will unveil the first of a series of short films that mimic summer-blockbusters to illustrate the industrial internet through scenarios involving blood-sucking vampires and extraterrestrials.

"What if there was a little town that had the industrial internet and they were using it every day to keep the town folks happy, healthy and productive?" asked Tommy Means, founder and creative director at Mekanism, the creative agency behind the campaign.

The mini-films were shot on location at Miniatur Wunderland, a massive world of model trains and their surroundings in Hamburg that's loaded with intricate replicas of an airport, ships, hospitals, a soccer stadium, and countless itsy-bitsy inhabitants. GE has named the realm created for the campaign "Datalandia."

The company wants people to understand that the internet of things encompasses far more than their refrigerators and thermostats; it's also the data-enabled industrial contraptions used in air travel and healthcare -- or the Industrial internet.

"The industrial internet is the layer of data that sits on top of those machines," said Linda Boff, executive director, global brand marketing at GE. For instance, GE software can disseminate information from hospital CT scanners and MRIs to nurses and patients.

"Imagine if your jet engine could tweet," she said.

But this is not a b-to-b campaign. GE aims to reach consumers in tech-savvy cities like Brooklyn and Austin with the message. Not only does GE hope to educate investors about its innovations -- around 40 percent of GE stockowners are retail investors according to Ms. Boff -- it hopes to woo tech talent with the campaign. The firm is up against new competitors when it comes to attracting employees, she said.

A short film will launch weekly, posted on GE's social pages, and hitting the big screen in places like Brooklyn's DUMBO, home to the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy's outdoor film series sponsored by Syfy.

In the first GE film, set to launch today, "sexy vampires" flood Datalandia. To ward them off, they're lured to the small town's soccer stadium which is flooded with light, vampire kryptonite. Subsequent videos will feature speeding locomotives "in love," an alien invasion, and extreme weather. GE's smart machines and the data that fuels them serve as the heroes of the adventures.

A preview of the series that's available on YouTube now starts with a screen rating the film "GE" for General Electric, and suggests, "Data Geeks strongly cautioned: explicit use of industrial internet, intelligent, machines, and things that spin."

In keeping with the movie theme, GE also plans to distribute film posters associated with the shorts via wild postings in tech-centric places including Austin, Boston, Brooklyn and San Francisco.

And how about a mini-me? Later this month, GE will invite people to upload photos of their faces at its Datalandify Yourself site, and in return they'll receive a small version of themselves generated by a 3D printer. Datalandia figures are under one inch in height, said Mr. Means. Though GE will gather contact information in order to send people their personalized dolls, data collection isn't a goal, said Ms. Boff.

"There's not a retargeting effort in place," she said.