As a child, I was a fan of the Star Trek series on TV and was mesmerized by all the futuristic gadgets. Funny enough, I never bought into the “Scotty, beam me up” transporter or even the laser gun concept. I was impressed by those sliding doors simply opening as you approached them, and the small mobile communication devices.  However, I was absolutely amazed by those voice-activated talking computers that could do massive calculations and then advise on a course of action!

Half a century later,  some of those concepts have actually come to fruition, particularly smart computing devices that, unlike the human brain, can handle massive amounts of data, process them in milliseconds, make sense of them, then predict and prescribe a solution or course of action. Hence the advent of Artificial Intelligence (AI) — the genesis of which is massive data, pure and simple — along with ever-increasing computing power and data modeling that can effectively find insights and trends to mathematically create a model and use it to meet various user requirements.

Today, we have all the essential elements of AI to handle at least a portion of human-driven tasks at home, cities, industrial operations and factories. Sooner rather than later, virtually every physical entity will be sensory and smart, self-aware, somewhat intelligent and connected to its ecosystem via WIFI/Internet.  For instance, everything in your car from its engine and its status to devices within it will be connected and self-aware; as would everything in your home — and your home will be fully aware of your car and its location.  Your garage door may someday open up automatically as you approach your house with your connected car. Your meal could start cooking or heat/air conditioning start running at home as soon as you set home as your destination in your driverless car — which by the way gives you another extra hour to continue to work while the car drives itself home using  the most optimal path that it determined on its own.  One day we may see planes taking off, landing and taxiing to the gate on their own, running a complete diagnostic of the engine after the engines are turned off, scheduling maintenance, etc.

There is no question that as part of ongoing digital transformation everything will be connected and self-aware with its own digital twin. The question regarding artificial intelligence is — How much will AI help us improve our daily life, our missions and the outcomes?  That’s the premise of the Internet of Things, yet AI will be the vehicle to take us to the next level by making decisions and actions smarter and automated based on operational data, algorithms and facts rather than human judgement.

In the production and manufacturing world, the result will be self-aware (and to some extent self-healing and self-maintaining)  factories that do not waste human capital on routine inquiries, monitoring and diagnostics of machines.Rather, the “dumb” machines (pun intended) will perform the laborious tasks so humans can use their “smarts” to focus more on innovation and collaboration leading to the optimization of vital resources. 

Lets’ get more specific in what we have experienced at the heart of many factories:  After we help manufacturing enterprises create a digital twin, we implement an MES and Control Tower system that allows them to have far better outcomes by reducing factory downtime, improving the OEE and OLE and leading to a significant increase in production quota per line per shift.  In combination with artificial intelligence we are now leveraging the data modeling/AI to not only predict but also prescribe/recommend the best course of actions – covering the entire spectrum from preventive intelligence to predictive to prescriptive actions.  What’s the next step for IIoT? We believe computers will advise us on the best course of action and then execute on it.

How can IIoT lead your enterprise to self-managed self-operated smart operations?  What innovations could your “smart” humans unleash if they were free from routine time-consuming monitoring, diagnostics and operational tasks?

What proactive steps are you taking so your organization can compete with your AI-empowered competition? I’d love to hear your feedback.