Smart Factories FEATURE NEWS

Making Smart Cars Smarter: IIC and EdgeX Roll Into Motion

By Cynthia S. Artin June 26, 2018

Wanxiang Group and Thingswise, supported by Dell Technologies, Xilinx, China Unicom, and China Academy of Information and Communication Technology (CAICT) are pushing the limits of factory automation improvements starting with a new testbed sponsored by the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) and powered by The Linux Foundation’s EdgeX Foundry open edge computing framework.

Earlier this month, the IIC announced the Optimizing Manufacturing Processes by Artificial Intelligence (OMPAI) testbed, exploring the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and industrial internet technologies, deployed from the edge to the cloud.

Clearly, given the ambitious vision to make machines smarter to build better and more beautiful cars, it takes an ecosystem to turn what used to be heavily human tasks and into machine driven routines, and the IIC, arguably the largest and most active global organization supporting the advancement of the Industrial Internet, brought the talent together initially.

The OMPAI testbed is led by IIC members Wanxiang Group and Thingswise, two technology innovation driven companies in the world’s largest automotive market, China.  The automotive industry in China has been the largest in the world measured by automobile unit production since 2008, and since 2009, annual production of automobiles in China exceeds that of the European Union and that of the United States and Japan combined.

Wanxiang is not one of the top domestic car manufacturers (SAIC Motor, Dongfeng, FAW, Chang’an, Beijing Automotive Group, Brilliance Automotive, BYD, Chery, Geely, Jianghuai (JAC), Great Wall, and Guangzhou) but they are one of the most interesting and cool.

They are behind the magnificent Karma Revero, a rival to Tesla’s electric cars, based in California but conceived of, engineered, and funded by the Wanxiang Group.

Last summer, Wanxiang announced plans to build an electric vehicle plant in Hangzhou, China, according to the company's application for an environmental impact review posted on its website; the investment value for the proposed project will be 2.5 billion yuan ($363 million) and the factory will have capacity to manufacture 50,000 cars a year.

The company’s CIO said, “Machine learning is going to be big for us and we want to take advantage of some of the technology available to get even deeper insights into how we could better serve our customers, who our customers are, and what drives the customer satisfaction and customer value as well.”

As is describes its vehicles, Karma Automotive shall remain “unapologetically conspicuous in their beauty and uncommonly light in their footprint,” and getting brains and beauty together when it comes to the future of cars, starts with brains in the factory – artificial ones.

This is where Thingswise comes in, as an IIoT developers of frameworks, architectures, cloud services platforms and big data/analytics software. Proficient at complex enterprise software product design, the company is based out of the greater Chicago area, and led by CEO & Co-Founder Shi-Wan Lin, who also happens to be the Co-Chair of Industry Internet Consortium (IIC) Technologies Working Group and Co-Chair of Industrial Task Group of Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC). He is also a lead editor and contributor to the Industrial Internet Reference Architecture, contributing to the National Institute of Standards and Technologies Cyber-Physical System Public Working Group and ISO/IEC JTC1 WG 10 - IoT Reference Architecture.

Together with Vincent Wang, Chief Innovation Officer of Wanxiang Holdings, Dr. Lin shaped the specifics of the OMPAI testbed, which is exploring the combination of AI and industrial Internet technologies to optimized manufacturing processes and which is also fostering the exchange of IT/AI/OT domain knowledge and the co-development of smart manufacturing applications. 

One application working in the testbed is the use of deep learning to improve quality assurance of an automobile part by increasing the detection of defects, which reduces the need for manual inspection.

Vincent Wang, Chief Innovation Officer of Wanxiang Holdings, said, “As a leading multinational corporation in automotive and renewable energy, with factories in Europe, North America and Asia, we believe that an industrial IoT platform will be a key enabler for our digital transformation and global synergy. We are glad to work with technology leaders to validate AI, edge-cloud collaborative computers, and high-speed cellular networks to optimize manufacturing productivity and quality. This is the first step toward an open, inclusive IIoT platform on which we will continue with further testbeds, incorporating new ideas, new data usage models and creating greater value add. We invite worldwide enterprises, innovators and entrepreneurs to enrich the ecosystem together.”

The testbed is being supported by Dell Technologies, Xilinx, China Unicom, and the China Academy of Information and Communication Technology (CAICT), while also leveraging The Linux Foundation’s EdgeX Foundry open edge computing framework, a combination you can learn more about by reading this blog on the EdgeX Foundry website, authored by Jijun Ma, Member of the EdgeX Foundry Governing Board and Industrial Internet Director at Wanxiang Group.

In the blog, Ma writes “In the edge platform, AI models and edge applications are run for the local optimization of manufacturing processes. In the cloud platform, they are run to enable global and long-term optimization, e.g. across production lines and plants. The edge platform also supports connectivity to and data collection from the equipment while the cloud enables historical data accumulation and storage and supports AI model building.”

IIC testbeds are where the innovation and opportunities of the Industrial Internet are physically proven out, with IIC member companies partnering to create solutions that are not only connected but also share data. “The outcomes from testbeds are the cornerstones of a feedback loop from concept to reality and back to guidance for further innovation,” the IIC said in the announcement regarding the OMPAI.

 “The application of artificial intelligence in manufacturing is a fledgling field of development in much need of demonstrable success or return on investment (ROI). There is also a challenge of bringing the requisite IT/AI and OT expertise together to enable this development,” said Dr. Shi-Wan Lin, CEO and Co-founder of Thingswise, an industrial internet platform solution provider. “It is exciting to see yet another large global manufacturer taking the lead in an IIC testbed, bringing their deep knowledge in production technology to bear, with a sharp focus on applying industrial internet technologies and AI to solve core manufacturing problems, extending from traditional predictive maintenance to production-quality and process optimization. I'm confident that this testbed will bring valuable experience and insights to the industrial internet community.”

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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Contributing Writer

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