“The Internet of Things”? Not too long ago, we all said at some point, “The Internet of What?!” Siri Who? Self-driving cars?!! Those days are long gone …
The Internet of Things (IoT) has changed everything, everywhere. And at record speed. At Schneider Electric, we are responding by leveraging IoT’s early-day big bang (that is, big data), additional transformative technologies such as sensing and mobility, and its powerful present: artificial intelligence (AI).
Today’s IoT world is incredibly pervasive. IoT is the reason there are dozens of cookie and soda flavors on any given grocery shelf thanks to the fact that software-driven production lines can quickly change up a process. And it’s the reason everyone from homeowners to building operators can keep a sharp, conservative eye on energy use. The benefits are immeasurable.
Connected equipment can tell farmers when to adjust their irrigators remotely based on real-time wind and weather conditions, thereby saving water and energy related to the pumps. And it can improve the efficiency of industrial robots.
Now that’s the stuff of IoT we see today. Even more exciting is what’s coming. Here is where artificial intelligence enters the picture. AI is taking IoT to the next level. This leap is especially important as we face three megatrends — urbanization, industrialization, and digitization — that demand that we all do more with less, including energy.
The fundamental reality is that we are entering a major transformative cycle across nearly every industry thanks to AI and widespread connectivity. Tomorrow your connected cars will tell you when it’s really time to go to the garage for maintenance. Perhaps we’ll see self-repairing machines and equipment in factories and data centers enabled by digital services. How cool is that?
The fuel that powers AI
The volume of data collected by IoT devices is now massive. This pool is only getting exponentially bigger. The latest estimate is that 30 billion devices will be connected to the internet by 2020 (IHS, March 2016). It is therefore imperative that we find a way to transfer big data into tangible value. AI is the way.
In a nutshell, big data fuels AI, which gives all this data meaning through machine learning (as in predictive maintenance), augmented reality (data in context), and deep learning (technology that mimics the brain’s ability to learn).
At Schneider Electric, we leverage AI technologies to turn data into actionable insights. Our IoT-enabled, open EcoStruxure™ architecture is our “vehicle” for doing so. We bring together energy management, automation, connectivity, and software to make it possible for our customers to compete in today’s digital economy with one IoT architecture.
Knowing that data comes from every device imaginable, from across manufacturers and vendors, we’ve made EcoStruxure an interoperable system. It takes data from our products and systems and from others’ products to create insights. In turn, users can make effective, business-driven decisions.
You can get these data-based insights from any mix of hardware in a single view. What kind of insights? Productivity, energy, power quality, environmental conditions, real-time location, potential risk of failure. The list goes on. Are you starting to see data’s tremendous value here?
Agility, automation and innovation at a new level
The intersection between AI and the IoT brings innovation to another level by:
- Opening new frontiers to explore disruptive business fields and revenue models
- Reinventing interactions between man and machine
- Creating systems that learn from the data they process
Specifically, we’re currently focusing on anomalies detection and image and natural language processing. These areas are best understood by their benefits:
From data to business decisions
Buildings are more connected than ever, and collecting data from them is easier than ever – but simply having many, many times more data doesn’t serve any purpose on its own. The best way to turn that digital data into valuable data is with AI. There is no traditional way to do this, no model-driven system. Only pure AI, deep learning technologies will allow us to do this better by transforming static approaches to more dynamic, real-time ones.
AI can help give customers on-the-spot, proactive, support. Traditionally with an electrical switchboard, for example, you could detect or predict a problem and somebody would have to go operate on the machine to fix it. With AI applications, the technician can connect to support while standing in front of the machine. Then customer support automatically crossmatches actual system data with historical data from cases we have solved in similar applications. This is the intersection between real-time, structured data and unstructured data in our customer care database. It fundamentally is overhauling the customer experience.
Training and safety
Virtual reality (VR) training applications can close the gap between retiring experienced workforces in capital-intensive industries. VR feeds into the hands of the current computer-savvy, gaming generation, the new source of a skilled workforce. It also raises the bar for multimedia training. More important, VR is a powerful training tool. It improves response management to safety-related “What if?” scenarios that are impossible to replicate in real life.
Who is leading the way?
Schneider has over 1 billion connected devices with the support of 9,000 system integrators, across several industries and market segments, enabled by open communication and interoperability standards. This breadth places us in a unique position to develop next-generation platforms, influence technology standards, and to lead the next wave of technology innovation and adoption.
With EcoStruxure architecture, Schneider already is at the center of this intersection of pioneering technologies and leading a new world of energy. EcoStruxure is improving our customers’ experience and their bottom-line related to operations, energy management, safety, and sustainability.
What’s more, we partner with best-in-class players such as Microsoft to leverage the Microsoft Azure cloud to deliver our digital services, apps, and analytics. We’re working with Accenture to build a digital services factory that accelerates the development of our IoT solutions and services, and we recently expanded our use of the Salesforce Customer Success Platform to scale up connectivity and its related value for our customers.
So when we ask, “What will AI bring tomorrow?” We know the possibilities are both endless and beyond exciting.