As previously published in Automation World
Recently, it seems like everyone is talking about artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. As a matter of fact, IDC has predicted that AI spending will increase from $12 billion in 2017 to $57.6 billion by 2021. While large, multinational industrial companies have already started embracing AI to stay competitive, it’s time for small and midsize industrial companies to start thinking this way too.
As companies continue to amass data created from production systems with the rise of IIoT, many are finding that the insights collected are more than they can handle. Data analytics itself is not enough—the data needs to be used to drive operations forward. Here is where AI will play an increasingly significant role.
The Power of AI & Importance of AI Spending
Machine learning is only half the story. Though it can be used to sift through massive amounts of Big Data to help identify patterns and business insights, the real value will come from the power of AI because it will allow companies to leverage those insights to make something happen. This could mean anything from automatic modification of production line scheduling due to lack of resource availability to managing that change across supply chains from start to finish to prevent conflicts and avoid interruptions. With the rise of the on-demand economy and increasingly complex global supply chains, intelligence driven by AI will allow companies to remain successful in highly competitive markets.
This all might sound a little too ambitious, so let’s break it down. There are essentially two types of AI—Big AI and Little AI. Big AI aims to solve complex issues at a large scale, across multiple businesses. It uses huge amounts of data—usually in the cloud—to do so. Little AI, on the other hand, is focused on micro problems, like optimizing single lines of production while minimizing the amount of human interaction needed. On-premise situations, close to where the operation systems are being automated, is where you will find Little AI living. Essentially, Little AI is real-time, edge-based analytics deployed on systems that are highly available and driving intelligent automation.
Start Doing Some “Little AI” Now
To effectively utilize the power of AI, your initial point must be to get your infrastructure up to speed. This generally involves upgrading your networking so that information can flow easily to the systems processing it at the edge. Then you can deploy sensors to collect data and the analytics to make sense of it. From there, data scientists will be brought in to implement optimizations to assist you with fully benefiting from AI’s advantages.
Many industrial enterprises are just starting to dip their toes in the AI waters. However, with the pace of digital transformation happening across various industries, it’s necessary to start thinking about how AI can be used in your business today.