ABB & IBM join forces to drive industrial artificial intelligence

Posted on 27 Apr 2017 by Jonny Williamson

ABB and IBM have announced a strategic collaboration that brings together ABB’s digital offering, ABB AbilityTM, with the cognitive capabilities of IBM Watson IoT to accelerate the adoption of industrial artificial intelligence

ABB and IBM - Harriet Green, general manager of Watson IoT, Customer Engagement and Education for IBM, and Guido Jouret, chief digital officer of ABB.
Harriet Green, general manager of Watson IoT, Customer Engagement and Education for IBM, and Guido Jouret, chief digital officer of ABB.

The collaboration seeks to leverage ABB’s understanding and portfolio of digital offerings, combined with IBM’s knowledge of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine to being real-time intelligent insights to factory floors.

According to ABB CEO, Ulrich Spiesshofer, the aim is to transition beyond current connected systems that simply gather data, to industrial operations and machines that employ data to sense, analyse, optimise and take actions in order to increase uptime, speed and output.

Over the past four decades, the Swedish multinational has grown to encompass an installed base of 70 million connected devices, with 70,000 digital control systems.

The creation of technology giant, IBM, Watson IoT is a ‘cognitive’ supercomputing platform, combining artificial intelligence (AI) and highly advanced analytical software built to handle the new challenges of the Internet of Things. Watson understands, reasons, learns and interacts, representing a potential redefinition of the relationship between people and computers.

Initial offerings

The initial suite of solutions developed by ABB and IBM look to help companies overcome some of the biggest and most longstanding industrial challenges; that of improving quality control, reducing downtime and increasing speed and yield of industrial processes.

By developing cognitive industrial machines, aim to help eliminate inefficient processes and redundant tasks by using data to understand, sense, reason and take appropriate actions – in essence, taking a vast information pool and turning it into value.

IBM Chairman, president and CEO, Ginni Rometty explained: “The data generated from industrial companies’ products, facilities and systems holds the promise of exponential advances in innovation, efficiency and safety.”

Real-time insights

For example, ABB and IBM will leverage Watson’s artificial intelligence to help find defects via real-time production images that are captured through an ABB system, and then analysed using IBM Watson IoT for Manufacturing.

Previously these inspections were often done manually, a slow and error-prone process. By combining Watson with ABB’s industrial automation technology, companies could be better equipped to increase the volume flowing through their production lines, while improving accuracy and consistency.

As parts flow through the manufacturing process, the system would alert the manufacturer to critical faults – not visible to the human eye – in the quality of assembly, enabling swift intervention from quality control experts.

Easier identification of defects impacts all goods on the production line, and helps boost a company’s competitiveness, while helping avoid costly recalls and reputational damage.