Technology

technology in serviceMost AI debate is shaped by an understanding of AI as high level reasoning by machines or “human imitative intelligence”. But in a thought provoking article AI researcher and MIT professor Michael Jordan argues for the broadening of the concept to encompass “intelligence augmentation” (IA) and “intelligence infrastructure” (II) as well. In the former “computation and data are used to create services that augment human intelligence and creativity. A search engine can be viewed as an example of IA, as it augments human memory and factual knowledge, as can natural language translation, which augments the ability of a human to communicate. Computer-based generation of sounds and images serves as a palette and creativity enhancer for artists. In the latter a web of computation, data, and physical entities exists that makes human environments more supportive, interesting, and safe. Such infrastructure is beginning to make its appearance in domains such as transportation, medicine, commerce, and finance, with implications for individual humans and societies. This emergence sometimes arises in conversations about an Internet of Things, but that effort generally refers to the mere problem of getting ‘things’ onto the Internet, not to the far grander set of challenges associated with building systems that analyze those data streams to discover facts about the world and permit ‘things’ to interact with humans at a far higher level of abstraction than mere bits.” Jordan notes that the current public dialog on AI—which focuses on narrow subsets of both industry and of academia—risks blinding us to the challenges and opportunities that are presented by the full scope of AI, IA, and II. His thesis is that we are now in a phase where we are building societal scale systems whose science, functioning and implications we don’t yet fully understand and that we need an engineering effort of unprecedented scale to master a new discipline that is emerging and its impact on the world

 Just as humans built buildings and bridges before there was civil engineering, humans are proceeding with the building of societal-scale, inference-and-decision-making systems that involve machines, humans, and the environment. Just as early buildings and bridges sometimes fell to the ground—in unforeseen ways and with tragic consequences—many of our early societal-scale inference-and-decision-making systems are already exposing serious conceptual flaws…

This scope (of a broadly understood AI: AI, IA, II) is less about the realization of science-fiction dreams or superhuman nightmares, and more about the need for humans to understand and shape technology as it becomes ever more present and influential in their daily lives. Moreover, in this understanding and shaping, there is a need for a diverse set of voices from all walks of life, not merely a dialog among the technologically attuned. Focusing narrowly on human-imitative AI prevents an appropriately wide range of voices from being heard…

We should also not pretend that we are talking about something other than an engineering effort of unprecedented scale and scope; society is aiming to build new kinds of artifacts. These artifacts should be built to work as claimed. We do not want to build systems that help us with medical treatments, transportation options, and commercial opportunities only to find out after the fact that these systems don’t really work, that they make errors that take their toll in terms of human lives and happiness. In this regard, as I have emphasized, there is an engineering discipline yet to emerge for the data- and learning-focused fields. As exciting as these latter fields appear to be, they cannot yet be viewed as constituting an engineering discipline…

We should embrace the fact that we are witnessing the creation of a new branch of engineering. The term engineering has connotations—in academia and beyond—of cold, affectless machinery, and of loss of control for humans, but an engineering discipline can be what we want it to be. In the current era, we have a real opportunity to conceive of something historically new: a human-centric engineering discipline. I will resist giving this emerging discipline a name, but if the acronym AI continues to serve as placeholder nomenclature going forward, let’s be aware of the very real limitations of this placeholder. Let’s broaden our scope, tone down the hype, and recognize the serious challenges ahead.

Source:  Harvard Data Science Review

Metal 3D printing (Additive Manufacturing) will seriously disrupt the spare parts business as we already wrote in an article back in 2015. This is already starting to happen and metal printing technologies have been gaining increased traction over the past few years. Nevertheless, whole scale disruption depends on economics. Service in Industry Hub will be doing a piece on metal 3D printing cost trends in the next few weeks, but in the meantime there is an interesting article/survey in All3DP about prices of 3D metal printers. They start at approximately US$ 60,000. And 3D Printing Industry has an interesting article on the ability of the technology to print very large parts. For example ADDere, the additive manufacturing division of Wisconsin-based company Midwest Engineered Systems Inc. (MWES) produced a demonstration 5ft 11 in turbine blade and a collaboration between Cranfield University (UK) and commercial spinout WAAM3D  won Aerospace/Automotive Application of the Year using WAAM ( Wire + arc additive manufacturing technology) to produce a 2.5m x 1.5 m rearframe for the BAE Systems Eurofighter Typhoon.  Sources: All3DP and 3D Printing Industry

The US Air Force has implemented virtual reality (VR) training to enable airfield management students to have ‘hands-on’ learning experience.  It incorporated a VR classroom to teach airfield maintenance to the students. Master sergeant Joshua Stillwagon said the VR training technology enables efficient training of airmen compared to the previous lecture-based class. “This system gives instructors the capability to not just tell airmen, but instantly show them a concept.” The training scenario using VR includes visual simulation of the setting of an airfield to enable students to practice their job as if they were operational. Source: Air Force Technology

A pilot project in the Netherlands consisting of tech developer Beijer Automotive BVthe SmartwayZ.NL mobility program as well as several local governments will use sensor data from vehicles to monitor and evaluate the condition of road surfaces and prioritize and schedule maintenance according to need. Source: Traffic Technology Today

Device-as-a-Service, an old new business model, is gaining ground. Pushed by a number of large vendors, such as Lenovo, HP and Microsoft, the typical DaaS contract runs 24 to 36 months, and customers can frequently choose from a variety of software packages, support levels, product deployment services and other features. Research indicates organizations haven’t been utilizing DaaS long and the procurement process has a fairly long cycle. However while in 2016, only 2 percent of the commercial PCs that shipped in the U.S. were part of a DaaS agreement, an IDC report predicts that, by 2020, nearly a third of the commercial PCs that ship in the US will be the result of a DaaS contract. Source: IDC

M&A and Collaborations

Sulzer has acquired the Scottish aero-derivative gas turbine service provider Alba Power. The company employs 80 people and generated sales of GBP 34 million with a profit margin above 20 percent in 2018. Through this acquisition, Sulzer diversifies its gas turbine service business into distributed power and offshore as well as marine applications where there are sizable, active markets and numerous cross-selling synergies with its existing pump, motor, generator and turbo service customers. Source: Sulzer

Private Equity firm Bridges Fund Management has acquired GEV Windpower, a leading wind turbine repair and maintenance provider, from Maven Capital Partners. GEV provides blade repair and maintenance services to wind farm manufacturers and operators in the UK, Europe and the US, operating both onshore and in complex offshore environments. Wind turbine blades are susceptible to erosion and weather damage, which affects aerodynamic efficiency and reduces their energy production (and can sometimes stop the turbine operating altogether). GEV specializes in providing expert technicians to repair blades, reducing downtime and maximising production. It has repaired over 3,000 turbines to date in UK, Europe and North America. Source: GEV Windpower

 

Transformer Switchyard

National Grid, a power and gas delivery utility active in the UK and the northeastern US has partnered with Utilidata and Sense to pilot the first ever digital twin of an electric grid. It will map power flow, voltage, and infrastructure from the substation to the home and allow the company to access real time data on operations of appliances in the home and assets on the grid. Utilidata has provided its energy optimisation software and Sense its intelligent home energy monitor and integrated them with machine learning capabilities. The technology is expected to help improve grid efficiency, reliability, and utilization of distributed assets. Using the solution, National Grid is able to respond in real-time to changing grid conditions and will also detect and forecast grid performance. Source: Smart Energy

Rolls-Royce and Tennessee based Analysis and Measurement Services Corporation (AMS) have signed a partnership agreement to jointly provide advanced Instrumentation and Control (I&C) system testing services to the nuclear energy market. As part of Rolls-Royce’s Pulse predictive maintenance technology, the combined services will encompass the monitoring of the performance and health of safety I&C components, which include neutron detectors, pressure transmitters, temperature probes, cables and connections. AMS was selected last year by the US Department of Energy to study testing of electrical cables in nuclear reactors for age-related wear.

Business Environment and Markets

Consolidation is expected to accelerate in the Windpower industry: According to new analysis, top three suppliers Vestas, Siemens Gamesa, and GE  are forecast to control more than 2/3s of the global market by 2020, while Chinese OEMs Goldwind and Envision will complete the top five. The top five’s market share has risen from 47% in 2014 to 57% in 2017, and 66% in 2018, and is projected to reach 68% in 2020, according to research from Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables (WMPR). In the offshore sector, Siemens Gamesa and MHI Vestas will continue to dominate with a combined market share of more than 60% by 2023 -ahead of rival GE, which needs to focus on commercializing its 12MW Haliade-X turbine in forthcoming auctions. In the meantime, China’s onshore wind operations and maintenance (O&M) market is expected to total US$5 billion over the next 10 years. This is underpinned by a fleet of more than 60 gigawatts (GW) that has been operating for five years or more, as well as the continued rapid growth in new installed capacity. Source: Wood Mackenzie

In an interesting first, the Nottingham (UK) municipality, a local government, is opening a service center for electric vehicles to cater to its own needs as it electrifies its fleet of cars, vans and other equipment as well as to offer services to the public. That the municipality perceives a need to take this step indicates a lack of (electrical) service capabilities by traditional service providers (e.g. auto dealers and repair shops) and the continuing absence from this market of electrical motor service providers. Yet for the latter electric vehicles are a substantial strategic opportunity as indicated in our article The future of electric motor services. Source: Intelligent Transport

A new-generation direct-drive permanent magnet generator (PMG) concept that could clear the way for giant 25MW offshore wind turbines is on track to be market-ready by 2022. The PMG, developed by British start-up Greenspur Renewables, uses ferrites – an iron-rich ceramic – for its magnets rather than current go-to rare-earth materials – supply of which is monopolized by China – and is built around a modular architecture, making it scaleable and easy to repair and maintain. The design is calculated to cut the capital cost of direct-drive generators by a third, shaving almost 5% off the price of a turbine.

Danish engineering group FLSmidth has launched a new service center for mining customers in the north of Chile. The new 8,000m² space will focus on the fast delivery of mining equipment to customers and component maintenance. The facility was recently inaugurated in Copiapó to meet a high demand for mining service and technical support in the region, the company said. Source: FLSmidth

Oilfield service providers have a long history of riding the ups and downs in the energy market. They ramp up rigs, workers and prices when oil is more expensive, and cut back when the market drops. But now it’s no longer about merely navigating a downturn. It’s about survival. While large companies such as Schlumberger and Halliburton are struggling, smaller companies are facing dire consequences. “A major value transfer is underway between oilfield service companies and E&P entities,” James West, an analyst at Evercore ISI, wrote in a report earlier this year. “Rather than seek to preserve value, companies sought greater market positioning despite the structural predicament. Intense competitive conditions exist in almost every major oilfield service product line.” Some analysts and investors, meanwhile, are seeking more widespread consolidation. Even a single company cutting back on its lesser-performing service lines would help, according to Evercore’s West. “You’re starting to see companies look at their portfolios and pruning in order to drive overall better corporate returns,” he said.  Servicers need to focus more on digital technology, switching from diesel-powered frack equipment to electric and generally improving the quality of their gear, said Jud Bailey, an analyst at Wells Fargo. Doing so could lower costs by 25-35% over the next five years, he estimates. The companies that are winning are the ones “doing one to three things extraordinarily well,” Bailey said. “The ones who do 10 things—and do one or two of them really well and the rest mediocre—those are the ones who are struggling.” Source: WorldOil