Will Artificial Intelligence Give Us the Edge?

July 2016

Phil Marshall
North America

"The Hannover Fair in Germany – held in April – disappointed some watchers by not showing many steps forward for Industrial IoT."

"Yes, the marketing noise was loud but in effect little was actually being delivered. I am proud that my own company stood out with its new portfolio of IIoT products and the news of our partnerships with IBM, and SAP."

"Our IIoT strategy is clear. IIoT is just another “gateway” challenge, right? Well, during our research we realized that we needed to address the entire data path - from sensor to the Cloud. Our netIoT strategy is based on three levels of hardware: sensor connectivity, edge gateways, and services. Oh ... and partnerships with major IT organizations!"

"I still hear objections to IIoT nevertheless. For example, that IIoT obsoletes existing network structures and systems."

"What nonsense! It should be clear by now that while IIoT requires new thinking, the technologies on which it is based are well-proven, readily-available and easy to deploy. Examples include the lightweight MQTT protocol for transmitting data to the cloud, which has been in use for years in other industries and has just been standardized under ISO. There’s also OPC UA, which has been around for a decade."

"It's important to realize that IIoT operates in parallel with existing equipment. Normal PLC operations continue unaffected as the data needed by the Cloud is  extracted via our Edge gateways. Think of it as a "shadow network" operating unseen but delivering big benefits."

"Of course, all raw data is dumb until you imbue it with some kind of “knowledge”."

"Interpretation of the data is key. What does my data mean? And, how best can I use it? Which brings me to the magic of algorithms, those computer routines that dig out meaning."

"Artificial Intelligence (AI), which has been promising much for decades finally seems to be delivering here."

"The current batch of projects demonstrating AI’s potential shows how far we’ve come."

"IBM’s Deep Blue has overcome the world’s best chess players. More recently, Google’s AlphaGO beat the world’s best GO! player! AlphaGO uses “deep learning” technology and relies on neural networks for its computational power. It seems to have taught itself to win, although its builders cannot fully explain how it does this."

"At Hannover Fair, Hilscher was part of an extended demo based on IBM BlueMix, where messages were sent to a Predictive Maintenance Application in the cloud to generate Intelligent advice to the operator via IBM’s Watson. A pilot project with John Deere is now providing real-world experience."

"Elsewhere, massive strides are being made in quantum computing that should reinforce these advances. One thing is clear – Moore’s Law is safe, although the way it manifests itself may be changing. It’s still early days, but the odds that “thinking” machines will impact on automation sooner rather than later are rising. With IIoT, anything is possible!"

Adapted with permission from Automation World's IIoT Supplement.