How the FBI and Siemens Demonstrate the Need for Automation

19-11-2020 |   |  By Robin Mitchell

In totally unrelated announcements, the FBI has stated its use for robotic systems in its hard-copy filing system. At the same time, Siemens announced its new software platform, SmartService, to streamline logistic systems such as warehouses and baggage handling. Why is automation becoming ever more popular, how can predictive algorithms improve workflow, and what do the announcements made by the FBI and Siemens represent?

What is predictive AI?

AI is quickly becoming a key technology that not only helps to drive modern technology but also improve it. Unlike traditional programming methods, AI has the ability to improve itself over time via learning reinforcement, and this allows it to recognise patterns without ever having been exposed to that specific pattern before. For example, an image AI can be trained to recognise cats in photos, and with enough training, will recognise images of cats that it has never seen before.

While AI has been instrumental in technologies such as smart assistants and advanced speech to text, another area of AI that is rapidly growing is predictive maintenance. Just like recognising pictures of cats in photos, AI can also be trained to observe systems and identify when anomalies form

For example, an AI predictive system can be used to monitor sensory data from a motor, and determine when the motor requires maintenance due to increased vibration, unexpected stalls, or small variations in current consumption. During this time, the motor is still operation, and from there maintenance can be pre-planned, thus reducing downtime of machinery. Predictive AI is also becoming increasingly popular in automated systems which can operate entirely on their own and take advantage of AI to make such decisions.

Siemens Announces SmartService

Understanding the need and importance for predictive AI systems, Siemens has announced its latest AI platform, SmartService. The service allows for AI predictive maintenance systems to be integrated into logistic systems such as delivery companies and baggage handling at airports to reduce downtime.

SmartService can work with a whole range of critical components, including those from third-party vendors, which makes it easy to implement into any logistical system. From there, data gathered by sensors is first pre-processed at the edge. Then this data is sent to a cloud platform (such as Siemens Open IoT OS) with the use of secure channels to ensure security and privacy of data gathered.

The use of predictive AI can improve reliability with the minimisation of downtime, improve efficiency, provide smart optimisation, and even improve safety by detecting faulty processes and equipment before they undergo catastrophic destruction (i.e. snapping belts).

FBI Announces Robotic Systems for Hardcopy Filing Locations

Recently, the FBI announced that it would be implementing robotic systems into their hard-copy file storage units to improve their agent’s ability to access files. One of the biggest problems faced by the FBI is the large amount of paperwork stored, almost more than 2 billion pages, and since these are hard copies instead of softcopies, they cannot be quickly and easily accessed. The inability to quickly access such information can see innocent people spend more time behind bars. At the same time, they await exoneration or can hinder a criminal prosecution case while agents are required to go through years of evidence from previous crimes. 

Realising the mammoth task of the General Services Administration (who are tasked at retrieving files), the FBI has decided to implement 140 robots for finding files and retrieving them to agents. The automated filing systems utilise robotic systems that travel on overhead guide rails which allow for any system to access any one of the 360,000 bins, and the use of overhead robotic systems allows for file storage to be made more compact (i.e. removing aisles between storage units). The chosen company, AutoStore, was one of many others who were examined all being security vetted due to the sensitive nature of the files.

What do these announcements mean and how are they related?

While these two announcements are unrelated to each other, there is a common theme that is present in both; how AI and automation are becoming increasingly important. While the use of AI was not made clear in the robotic storage system being used by the FBI, both solutions are being utilised to automate processes. Predictive AI systems help to automate maintenance and optimisation. In contrast, the use of robotics helps to speed up processes while being able to be made more efficient (i.e. no need for heating, lighting, or walkways). The next generation of technology will see greater use of AI to continue to remove the human decision-making element out of systems and designs. In contrast, automation will continue to remove the physical human factor to a system.

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By Robin Mitchell

Robin Mitchell is an electronic engineer who has been involved in electronics since the age of 13. After completing a BEng at the University of Warwick, Robin moved into the field of online content creation developing articles, news pieces, and projects aimed at professionals and makers alike. Currently, Robin runs a small electronics business, MitchElectronics, which produces educational kits and resources.

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