June 29, 2017


General Electric Builds an AI Workforce : As part of its shift toward high-tech businesses, the 125-year-old company is threading artificial intelligence throughout its operations, starting with its scientists.
 (Elizabeth Woyke  June 27, 2017, MIT Technology Review)

Fifteen years ago, GE's machine operators and technicians monitored its aircraft engines, locomotives, and gas turbines by listening to their clanks and whirs and checking their gauges. Today, the company uses AI to do the equivalent, even predicting failures in advance. By marshaling this technology, GE hopes to become one of the world's top software providers by 2020, a quest that amped up in 2011 with a $1 billion initiative to collect and analyze sensor data from machines. Creating smarter models via AI is the next step in the company's strategy--one that it hopes will give it an advantage over longtime rivals like Siemens and software giants, such as IBM, that are now expanding into industrial analytics. [...]

Besides forecasting a machine's life expectancy, the virtual models allow GE to optimize the operation of its products. GE says digital twins are increasing the amount of electricity wind farms produce by as much as 20 percent and reducing annual fuel consumption and carbon emissions for one of its locomotives by 32,000 gallons and 174,000 tons a year, respectively. More than 700,000 models have been delivered to clients, a number that could exceed one million by the end of this year.

The technology depends on artificial intelligence to continually update itself. What's more, if data is corrupted or missing, the company fills in the gaps with the aid of machine learning, a type of AI that lets computers learn without being explicitly programmed, says Colin Parris, GE Global Research's vice president for software research. Parris says GE pairs computer vision with deep learning, a type of AI particularly adept at recognizing patterns, and reinforcement learning, another recent advance in AI that enables machines to optimize operations, to enable cameras to find minute cracks on metal turbine blades even when they are dirty and dusty.

Take the tiny robot, a little bigger than a Matchbox car, used to inspect working engines. Using computer vision and a variety of AI techniques, the bot can look for cracks inside plane engines by riding on top of a slowly moving fan blade.

Similar technology can be attached to a drone to find corrosion on the 200-foot-high flare stacks that burn off excess gas released at oil and gas production sites.

Posted by at June 29, 2017 6:23 AM