The Industry IoT Consortium (IIC) recently announced a foundational document for artificial intelligence (AI). This highlights the value proposition that AI can enable in next-generation industrial IoT (IIoT) systems. It also addresses the emerging requirements and implementation challenges.
In a discussion, Wael William Diab, Chair, IIC Industrial AI Task Group, and Secretary, IIC Steering Committee, tell us more. Excerpts from an interview:
DQ: Elaborate on the Industrial IoT Artificial Intelligence Framework (IIAIF).
Wael William Diab: Rapid innovation in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) has unlocked applications and services that are now fueling the digital transformation across industry sectors such as manufacturing, transportation, healthcare, finance, and retail. To realize these transformational benefits, organizations must take takes a wholistic approach to the emerging requirements and challenges to accelerate the responsible adoption of next generation AI-enabled IIoT systems.
The framework highlights the opportunities and benefits of incorporating AI. These include better insights, faster decision making, and improved efficiencies. Unique considerations, such as business, technological, architectural, implementation, trustworthiness, ethical and societal, that stem from AI being deployed in IIoT ecosystems are presented.
DQ: How is the framework addressing the emerging requirements and implementation challenges?
Wael William Diab: The framework is unique as it takes a look at the intersection of AI and IIoT. Similar to IIC’s reference architecture (IIRA) and the industrial analytics framework (IIAF), the framework looks at a decision maker’s viewpoint from a variety of perspectives such as busines and technical.
It also addresses many of the emerging considerations with AI, including trustworthiness and ethics, highlighting approaches and distinctions for IIoT applications. Finally, it looks at related emerging technologies and gives a summary of some of the international standards activities.
DQ: What are the various aspects of next-generation AI-enabled IIoT systems that are being taken into consideration here?
Wael William Diab: Broadly speaking there are 6 major areas that we look at:
a) Business perspective, which discusses how to uncover valuable insights from data intensive environments, enable digital transformation, future proof organizations and assess AI readiness.
b) Usage considerations, which discusses emerging AI-specific considerations like trustworthiness, ethical and societal concerns, impact in labor force and AI as a force for good. The IIAIF looks at these considerations within the context of IIoT systems, provides guidance to address them and discusses regional and industry specific considerations.
c) Functional perspective that looks at broad architectural considerations, as well as AI considerations when enabling next generation IIoT systems such as the data ecosystem, learning and system of system issues.
d) Implementation perspective that dives deeper into various aspects of deploying an AI enabled IIoT system.
e) A summary of the international standards ecosystem being developed by ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 42 (Artificial intelligence), that is helping accelerate responsible AI adoption.
f) Convergence with other transformative technologies when looking at the next generation of IIoT systems.
DQ: This seems like a precursor to AIoT! Right?
Wael William Diab: Indeed! The term AIoT has been used in a number of places to discuss the combination of AI and IoT to achieve higher efficiencies and deeper insights.
We agree with that noting that they are discussing the same area (not as a precursor) and take a broader perspective that the technologies IIC is working on, such as AI, are enablers to the next generation of products and services that will take the digital transformation of industry to the next level, ultimately creating more business value and efficiencies.
DQ: How can this help with workplace analytics?
Wael William Diab: That is a great question! Simply put, AI will enable deeper and better analytics that will yield insights which would otherwise not be possible with the learning capabilities of AI. Analytics is fundamentally an application of AI. IIC has developed an Industrial Analytics Framework (IIAF) by the same group that developed the IIAIF. You can download the IIAF here: https://www.iiconsortium.org/pdf/IIC_Industrial_Analytics_Framework_Oct_2017.pdf
The development of the IIAIF started in part to look at how AI would take industrial analytics to the next level.
DQ: How can this expand remote quality monitoring?
Wael William Diab: When AI is added to the analytics system, it can enable better insights. Not only is this about getting insights more efficiently, the learning aspect of AI can introduce factors that a traditional analytics system may not identify as it learns by looking at a wider data set. Put simply, we do not know what we do not know and learning can help bridge gaps that traditional analytics systems would miss.
DQ: Finally, what are unique requirements of AI in IIoT environments?
Wael William Diab: These fundamentally stem from the unique nature of AI and the industrial aspect of the IoT environment. The framework addresses both these aspects, their interaction and where appropriate provides guidance and references to address them. For instance, AI as an information technology is different from other IT technologies due to its learning nature.
Similarly, the industrial aspect of the IoT environment means that certain aspects such as safety and security are treated differently than in a consumer type application.
DQ: What is the next process going to be in all of this?
Wael William Diab: This is a very exciting area of work that we anticipate will continue to evolve in the next few years. We are fortunate to be a part of it as it will fundamentally change the way we live, work and play. Now that we have completed this framework, we will start to collect input via activities such as expert panels, engagement of our members and liaison partners, to frame what the next project will be. It is a very exciting time to engage with IIC, and we invite anyone interested to reach out and join our community!