AIoT & how COVID is impacting adoption of industrial IoT technologies…
Author : Mark Gradwell | Editor | EPDT
02 June 2021
AIoT & how COVID is impacting adoption of industrial IoT technologies
Ubiquitous sensing, connectivity & intelligence – enabled by cloud computing, and ultimately, all powered by electronics – continue to accelerate innovation throughout consumer & industrial products, systems & infrastructure, ensuring IoT, Industry 4.0 & smart devices remain hot topics for our sector. Let's review the role of AIoT & how COVID is impacting adoption of IIoT technologies…
A version of this editorial was originally featured as the intro to EPDT's H1 2021 IoT & Industry 4.0 supplement, included in the June 2021 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. And sign up to receive your own copy each month.
Both in the pages of this supplement and in EPDT, we’ve talked a lot about how COVID-19 is accelerating adoption of IoT & Industry 4.0 technologies – particularly in manufacturing, but also in logistics and throughout the supply chain, as well as at the sharp end in consumer products, services and distribution channels. Trends towards automation and the integration of smart technologies, as well as the reshaping of supply chains to try and introduce greater resilience, are speeding up in the wake of the pandemic – overcoming inertia, scepticism and objections, and ramping up investment.
Back in October, at industrial IoT & embedded computing specialist, Advantech’s first Global IIoT Virtual Summit, Jash Bansidhar, Advantech Europe Managing Director asserted that a flywheel had been activated in terms of COVID helping accelerate digital transformation and IoT adoption. Meanwhile, Jerry O’Gorman, leader of Advantech’s IIoT business in North America, described how growing anti-globalisation sentiment in the US, coupled with a trend towards developing more resilient supply chains in reaction to disruption precipitated by the pandemic, trade wars and climate uncertainty, was helping drive reshoring of manufacturing operations.
More recently, I attended a media briefing summarising some of the key themes from their Online Partner Conference, Advantech Connect, which ran from 24th February to 6th May (at connect.advantech.com). The multi-stream technical conference centred around how companies are leveraging AIoT, 5G, cloud computing and edge intelligence technologies to revolutionise product and service delivery across diverse sectors including manufacturing, logisitics, transportation, healthcare, retail and hospitality. And while Advantech executives were keen to outline their vision of the key trends and vectors influencing IoT adoption over the next 5 years, there was also recognition that COVID has been an inflection point in take-up of such technologies.
AIoT: When Artificial Intelligence meets the Internet of Things
Business magazine, Forbes recently described AIoT – the convergence of AI and IoT, the artificial intelligence of things, if you will – as a lethal combination that delivers intelligent connected systems and is set to redefine the future of industrial automation, impacting multiple industry verticals. While IoT is the digital nervous system, Forbes argued, AI is the brain, making decisions and controlling the overall system. Cloud computing enabled connected systems by providing an always-on architecture of connectivity, storage and compute power, connecting machines to one another (M2M) and ingesting telemetry (big) data from multiple distributed devices and inputs, before processing and analysing it to derive and deliver actionable insights and visualisations to support and enable decision making by operators.
But by combining AI and IoT, bringing intelligence to the edge, connected systems become capable of acting independently. AI can go beyond the visualisations by identifying patterns and correlations in the data, and taking appropriate actions. Instead of just presenting data to human operators to enable them to act, AI closes the loop by automatically taking an action, essentially becoming the brain of connected systems. This supercharges IIoT at two levels: firstly, it impacts the telemetry data by augmenting the sensor nodes with intelligence; and secondly, it can be used to analyse inbound telemetry data streams in real-time or in batch mode. It plugs itself into both the start (devices) and end (analysis) of the IoT workflow.
For example, cameras with image sensors can send each frame to the connected IoT system to analyse the feed to recognise certain objects. But by applying AI processing at the device, it can send the frame only when a specific object is detected. This significantly speeds up the process, saving the CPU from processing every frame. AI-enabled sensors are the future of IoT systems and smart cameras, powered by AI accelerators, will soon become the standard image sensors.
AIoT systems will also apply deep learning models based on neural networks to incoming sensor telemetry data, enabling them to identify anomalies in real-time. When a critical error is predicted by the neural network, the faulty device may be shut down to avoid an unwanted event or even a fatal accident. The key difference between existing IoT rules engines and AIoT lies in being reactive versus proactive: current IoT systems are designed to react to events, while AIoT systems will proactively detect (or even predict) failures and events. The infusion of AI in IoT systems can deliver the promise of predictive maintenance, rather than just condition monitoring, helping save organisations millions of pounds in support and maintenance of equipment.
Allan Yang, Chief Technology Officer at Advantech talked about how COVID-19 is accelerating adoption of IoT technologies, with enterprises pressured to find effective ways to operate remotely with far less on-site physical presence. Enabled by increasing IT-OT convergence, cloud-connected, data-driven digital twins enable operators to use models of machine assets to manage production remotely – while the integration of AI at the edge brings intelligence, creating increasingly self-reliant systems.
Michael Kreft, Executive Sales Director of Advantech Europe’s Service-IoT Group outlined how its technologies are supporting different vertical market needs in a post-COVID world. For example, in retail, connected IoT technologies are playing a major part in helping companies to enforce social distancing, delivering a safe shopping experience for customers and also helping protect retail staff. Self-service was already becoming increasingly popular across various retail and hospitality sectors, but the pandemic has accelerated this trend significantly, as shoppers look to minimise face-to-face interactions. Advantech is working with partners to deliver innovative solutions for contact-free check-out, including technologies for object recognition and gesture-based or voice-controlled kiosk solutions.
In logistics and supply chain management, as resilience and transparency become increasingly vital, smart RFID shipment tracking and cold chain management solutions are helping secure safe vaccine shipments. Digital transformation in hospitals is also starting to help relieve pressures on overworked healthcare workers and systems, added MC Chiang, Vice President of Advantech’s Service-IoT Group, enabling remote monitoring, diagnosis and consultations, for instance.
EPDT's latest IoT & Industry 4.0 supplement also contains features exploring IoT deployment cybersecurity challenges, outlining a new methodology for remotely debugging fleets of IoT devices, and asking if the next gen of sensor-to-satellite solutions could help deliver affordable, universal IoT access. Read more on what's inside EPDT's June 2021 IoT & Industry 4.0 supplement...
And for everything you need to know about how to get the best out of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), check out EPDT’s sister title, Connectivity, over at www.connectivity4ir.co.uk
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