For big companies and industries, AI can boost growth and profitability and transform businesses
By Bhaskar Mandal
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been the focus of research for more than 30 years. During this time, major advances have been made in this area of technology: for example, more powerful hardware and software and improved computing power and data transmission. Intelligent software with sufficiently intelligent analytical technology is already available. But whether data processing is performed using a cloud solution or at the local level (for example, using Edge computing) will depend on the user’s requirements. Data on an Edge platform is available more quickly and at a higher resolution, whereas a considerable amount of computing power is available in the cloud.
In many cases combining edge and cloud computing is required to benefit from both worlds. Open cloud-based IoT operating systems like MindSphere can be used to link products, plants, systems, and machines. In the context of Totally Integrated Automation (TIA), scalable solutions from the field level to the controller and the edge level and all the way to the cloud will be possible with the open IoT operating system MindSphere. This means that an AI solution can be adapted to its environment and target application as needed, either at the machine or for solutions across all machines or even plants.
With increasing development and usage of “digital twin” as a virtual representation of a physical product or associated manufacturing process, AI will be able to recognise whether the workpiece currently being manufactured meets quality requirements.
AI is also set to play a key role in automation by reducing the programming and engineering effort required to create automation solutions. It is also making control logic more agile and production processes more flexible and precise—especially in industry. For example, Siemens recently launched the S7-1500 TM NPU module that is equipped with the AI-capable MyriadX Vision processing unit chip from Intel Movidius which, among other things, enables the efficient processing of neural networks. The module can be seamlessly integrated into the SIMATIC automation system, this way permitting a simple and profitable combination of AI algorithms and PLC logic. This is how inexpensive applications using SIMATIC can be implemented at the machine based on AI.
As estimated by various industry studies, the manufacturing sector could see a share-of-profit increase of 39% due to AI-powered systems whose ability to learn, adapt and evolve over time can eliminate faulty machines and idle equipment. AI is a huge opportunity for India, if Indian manufacturers can come up with ideas for shaping it in a positive way and turning AI into a job and growth engine. For example, adoption of AI will lead to creating better products with lesser defects. The cost optimisation that factories achieve as a result of automation would be translated into better products at lower costs for the customers.
As AI starts getting adopted more frequently by the industry, it will also bring immense benefits for the customers. But this must always be accompanied by an awareness that digitalisation and cyber security need to go hand-in-hand. A precondition for both Industry 4.0 and for AI is a state-of-the-art, end-to-end IT infrastructure, regardless of the size of the company.
AI developments will certainly change the nature of work humans carry out. Shop floors will become more efficient and flexible as AI-implemented industrial edge-cloud solutions decrease down-time caused by connectivity issues or broken equipment and allow for a higher degree of customisation within industrial production processes. We can’t stop it. And there is no need to. We just need to stay tuned and make the best out of it. That’s the only way a business can become part of the digital future.
The writer is head, Digital Industries, Siemens India