With 28 testbeds, the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) has become well recognized for its work with industry, government and academic organizations to verify the functionality and applicability of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies across manufacturing, infrastructure, utilities, energy, buildings, healthcare and retail. Now the IIC has announced the creation of a new testbed aimed at the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in manufacturing.
This new AI-focused testbed—Optimizing Manufacturing Processes by Artificial Intelligence (OMPAI)—is led by IIC members Wanxiang Group and Thingswise and supported by Dell Technologies, Xilinx, China Unicom, and China Academy of Information and Communication Technology (CAICT). The IIC noted that this testbed is the first to use The Linux Foundation’s EdgeX Foundry open edge computing framework.
According to the IIC, the OMPAI testbed will explore the application of AI and industrial Internet technologies deployed from the edge to the cloud to optimize automotive manufacturing processes. It also seeks to create an ecosystem that will foster the exchange of information technology (IT), operational technology (OT) and AI domain knowledge and the co-development of smart manufacturing applications. For example, deep learning may be able to improve quality assurance of an automobile part to substantially increase the detection of defects and reduce the need for manual inspection.
Richard Soley, executive director of the IIC, said that both the IIC and its parent, the Object Management Group (OMG), have significant short-term interest in the application of artificial intelligence. He noted that several testbeds, including the IIC’s Smart Building testbed, are already focusing on AI and machine learning. “It is clear that this critical technology has come of age,” he added.
“The application of artificial intelligence in manufacturing is a fledgling field of development in need of demonstrable success or return on investment,” said Shi-Wan Lin, CEO and co-founder of Thingswise, an industrial Internet platform provider. “There is also a challenge of bringing the requisite IT/AI and OT expertise together to enable this development.”
Speaking of the testbed’s focus, Vincent Wang, chief innovation officer of Wanxiang Holdings, a multinational corporation in automotive and renewable energy with factories in Europe, North America and Asia, noted. “We are glad to work with technology leaders to validate AI, edge-to-cloud collaborative computers and high-speed cellular networks to optimize manufacturing productivity and quality. This is the first step toward an open, inclusive IIoT [Industrial Internet of Things] platform on which we will continue with further testbeds, incorporating new ideas, new data usage models and creating greater value add.”
In reference to Wanxiang’s involvement in the testbed, Dr. Shi-Wan Lin said, “It is exciting to see yet another large global manufacturer taking the lead in an IIC testbed, bringing their deep knowledge in production technology to bear, with a sharp focus on applying industrial Internet technologies and AI to solve core manufacturing problems extending from traditional predictive maintenance to production-quality and process optimization.”
Considering the heavy involvement of China-based corporations in this testbed, I asked Dr. Soley if the IIC is seeing more interest from China and Asia in implementation plans for AI in the near term versus other parts of the world. He responded saying this testbed is not indicative of specific interest or application of AI in Asia.
“AI is spreading around the world,” he said. “The IIC has an active group focusing on the application of AI to all of our testbeds worldwide; and the OMG has an important group focusing on where standardization of AI can have the most critical impact in increasing the interoperability of AI systems.”