ABB and IBM to integrate Watson AI into industrial machinery

The partnership builds on IBM's commitment to spend £2 billion on the IoT industry

Robotics firm ABB has finalised an agreement with IBM that will see the pair develop and sell digital machinery powered by Watson analytics, a move that it hopes will improve the efficiency and uptime of industrial components.

The Zurich-based engineering and automation specialist already makes uses of machinery analytics through its own digital platform 'Ability', but the new partnership will enable new products to be developed with Watson AI integration.

In a statement on Tuesday, ABB CEO Ulrich Spiesshofer said: "This powerful combination marks truly the next level of industrial technology, moving beyond current connected systems that simply gather data, to industrial operations and machines that use data to sense, analyse, optimise, and take actions that drive greater uptime, speed, and yield for industrial customers."

The new product range, which will initially focus on factory machinery, will allow businesses to "move beyond current connected systems that simply gather data", to machines that are able to understand and reason, and take actions that support industrial workers. There is currently no news as to when we can expect the first products to arrive.

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Automated processes could be dramatically improved with AI that is able to spot problems otherwise invisible to the human eye. As parts flow through the manufacturing line, the new integrated systems will be able to alert employees to faults, enabling quicker interventions and keeping downtime to a minimum.

"This important collaboration with ABB will take Watson even deeper into industrial applications - from manufacturing, to utilities, to transportation and more," said IBM CEO Ginni Rometty. "The data generated from industrial companies' products, facilities and systems holds the promise of exponential advances in innovation, efficiency and safety."

ABB has also outlined plans to develop a connected product range for the smart grid. With Watson capabilities, energy companies will be able to predict energy supply demands and help with the changing balance a move from conventional to renewable sources may bring.

A similar partnership struck last year with Microsoft that saw the development of digital products for the robotics, electric car, and renewable energy sectors. The agreement also saw ABB move its digital platform to the Microsoft Azure cloud.

IBM has committed to investing around $3 billion (2.3 billion) into the IoT industry over the next few years, creating its own Internet of Things Unit and pushing the sale of its real-time data analytics tools and expertise to emerging industries.

Picture courtesy of ABB

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