As usual, there is more than one conference this week. I have two more to report on. This one is a bit of a surprise. I was providing thoughts about potential disruption of the mainstream automation market from below when I received this news from Amazon Web Services (AWS). This is a lengthy report, because there is a lot of news here. And it’s worth pausing to consider. I worked with another IT company a few years ago about predictive maintenance as a possible market. That company did not see the sales possibilities and bailed. 

AWS is not just a remote server farm for cloud services. It has packed tons of tech into the company. Imagine your possibilities using this.

  • Amazon Monitron provides customers an end-to-end machine monitoring solution comprised of sensors, gateway, and machine learning service to detect abnormal equipment conditions that may require maintenance
  • Amazon Lookout for Equipment gives customers with existing equipment sensors the ability to use AWS machine learning models to detect abnormal equipment behavior and enable predictive maintenance
  • AWS Panorama Appliance enables customers with existing cameras in their industrial facilities with the ability to use computer vision to improve quality control and workplace safety
  • AWS Panorama Software Development Kit (SDK) allows industrial camera manufacturers to embed computer vision capabilities in new cameras
  • Amazon Lookout for Vision uses AWS-trained computer vision models on images and video streams to find anomalies and flaws in products or processes
  • Axis, ADLINK Technology, BP, Deloitte, Fender, GE Healthcare, and Siemens Mobility among customers and partners using new AWS industrial machine learning services

This week at AWS re:Invent, Amazon Web Services Inc. (AWS), an Amazon.com company, announced Amazon MonitronAmazon Lookout for Equipment, the AWS Panorama Appliance, the AWS Panorama SDK, and Amazon Lookout for Vision. Together, these five new machine learning services help industrial and manufacturing customers embed intelligence in their production processes in order to improve operational efficiency, quality control, security, and workplace safety. 

The services combine sophisticated machine learning, sensor analysis, and computer vision capabilities to address common technical challenges faced by industrial customers. To learn more about AWS’s new industrial machine learning services, visit  https://aws.amazon.com/industrial/

Companies are increasingly looking to add machine learning capabilities to industrial environments, such as manufacturing facilities, fulfillment centers, and food processing plants. For these customers, data has become the connective tissue that holds their complex industrial systems together. With these evolving needs and opportunities, industrial companies have asked AWS to help them leverage the cloud, the industrial edge, and machine learning together to get even more value from the vast amounts of data being generated by their equipment.

Amazon Monitron and Amazon Lookout for Equipment enable predictive maintenance powered by machine learning 

In order to make predictive maintenance work, companies have historically needed skilled technicians and data scientists to piece together a complex solution from scratch. This included identifying and procuring the right type of sensors for the use case and connecting them together with an IoT gateway. Companies then had to test the monitoring system and transfer the data to on-premises infrastructure or the cloud for processing. Only then could the data scientists on staff build machine learning models to analyze the data for patterns and anomalies or create an alerting system when an outlier was detected. 

Some companies have invested heavily in installing sensors across their equipment and the necessary infrastructure for data connectivity, storage, analytics, and alerting. But even these companies typically use rudimentary data analytics and simple modeling approaches that are expensive and often ineffective at detecting abnormal conditions compared to advanced machine learning models. Most companies lack the expertise and staff to build and refine the machine learning models that would enable highly accurate predictive maintenance. As a result, few companies have been able to successfully implement predictive maintenance, and those that have done it are looking for ways to further leverage their investment, while also easing the burden of maintaining their homegrown solutions. 

Here’s how the new AWS machine learning services can help:

  • For customers who do not have an existing sensor network, Amazon Monitron offers an end-to-end machine monitoring system comprised of sensors, a gateway, and a machine learning service to detect anomalies and predict when industrial equipment will require maintenance. Amazon Monitron detects when machines are not operating normally based on abnormal fluctuations in vibration or temperature, and notifies customers when to examine machinery in order to determine if preventative maintenance is needed. The end-to-end system includes IoT sensors to capture vibration and temperature data, a gateway to aggregate and transfer data to AWS, and a machine learning cloud service that can detect abnormal equipment patterns and deliver results in minutes with no machine learning or cloud experience required. Amazon Monitron also includes a mobile app for a customer’s onsite maintenance technicians to monitor equipment behavior in real time https://aws.amazon.com/monitron.
  • For customers that have existing sensors but don’t want to build machine learning models, Amazon Lookout for Equipment provides a way to send their sensor data to AWS to build models for them and return predictions to detect abnormal equipment behavior. To get started, customers upload their sensor data to Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) and provide the S3 location to Amazon Lookout for Equipment. Amazon Lookout for Equipment can also pull data from AWS IoT SiteWise, and works seamlessly with other popular machine operations systems like OSIsoft. Amazon Lookout for Equipment analyzes the data, assesses normal or healthy patterns, and then uses the learnings from all of the data on which it is trained to build a model that is customized for the customer’s environment. Amazon Lookout for Equipment can then use the machine learning model to analyze incoming sensor data and identify early warning signs for machine failure. https://aws.amazon.com/lookout-for-equipment.

AWS Panorama uses computer vision to improve industrial operations and workplace safety

Many industrial and manufacturing customers want to be able to use computer vision on live video feeds of their facility and equipment to automate monitoring or visual inspection tasks and to make decisions in real time. However, the typical monitoring methods used today are manual, error prone, and difficult to scale. 

Customers could build computer vision models in the cloud to monitor and analyze their live video feeds, but industrial processes typically need to be physically located in remote and isolated places, where connectivity can be slow, expensive, or completely non-existent. This type of video feed could be automatically processed in the cloud using computer vision, but video feeds are high bandwidth and can be slow to upload. Most customers end up running unsophisticated models that can’t be programmed to run custom code that integrates into the industrial machines. Here’s how AWS can now help:

  • The AWS Panorama Appliance provides a new hardware appliance that allows organizations to add computer vision to existing on-premises cameras that customers may already have deployed. Customers start by connecting the AWS Panorama Appliance to their network, and the device automatically identifies camera streams and starts interacting with the existing industrial cameras. The AWS Panorama Appliance is integrated with AWS machine learning services and IoT services that can be used to build custom machine learning models or ingest video for more refined analysis. 
  • The AWS Panorama Software Development Kit (SDK) enables hardware vendors to build new cameras that can run meaningful computer vision models at the edge. Cameras that are built with the AWS Panorama SDK run computer vision models for use cases like detecting damaged parts on a fast-moving conveyor belt or spotting when machinery is outside of a designated work zone. Customers can train their own models in Amazon SageMaker and deploy them on cameras built with the AWS Panorama SDK with a single click. Customers can also add Lambda functions to cameras built with the AWS Panorama SDK to be alerted to potential issues via text or email. AWS also offers pre-built models for tasks like PPE detection and social distancing and can deploy these models in minutes without doing any machine learning work or special optimizations.
https://aws.amazon.com/panorama.

Amazon Lookout for Vision offers automated fast and accurate visual anomaly detection for images and video at a low cost

One use case where AWS customers are excited to deploy computer vision with their cameras is for quality control. Machine learning-powered visual anomaly systems remain out of reach for the vast majority of companies. Here’s how AWS can now help these companies:

  • Amazon Lookout for Vision offers customers a high accuracy, low-cost anomaly detection solution that uses machine learning to process thousands of images an hour to spot defects and anomalies. Customers send camera images to Amazon Lookout for Vision in batch or in real-time to identify anomalies, such as a crack in a machine part, a dent in a panel, an irregular shape, or an incorrect color on a product. Amazon Lookout for Vision then reports the images that differ from the baseline so that appropriate action can be taken. Amazon Lookout for Vision also runs on Amazon Panorama appliances. Customers can run Amazon Lookout for Vision in AWS starting today, and beginning next year, customers will be able to run Amazon Lookout for Vision on AWS Panorama Appliances and other AWS Panorama devices so customers will be able to use Amazon Lookout for Vision in locations where Internet connectivity is limited or non-existent. https://aws.amazon.com/lookout-for-vision.
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