IIoT startup showing that machine-driven innovation is really about people
Discussions pertaining to the Industrial Internet of Things often focus on the longstanding giants, such as General Electric and Siemens, who have started to transform their operations and product offerings around information technology. However, this strong foundation from the industry leaders is creating space for startups to rise below the surface to meet specific operational demands and drive innovation.
The rise of startups in the IIoT was evident in 2016. CBI Insights found that 321 investment deals took place in the IIoT startup space last year, leading to a total spend of $2.2 billion. This represents a 5 percent increase in year-over-year funding with a 21 percent increase in the number of deals taking place. This rapid move to invest in IIoT startups emphasizes the growing role of disruptive newcomers in the sector, and plenty of industry giants are getting involved. For example, GE Digital recently put $2 million into an IIoT development program being run by the Alchemist Accelerator, TechCrunch reported.
Ravi Belani, a managing partner for the Alchemist Accelerator, told the news source that these investments come as the IIoT is having a disruptive impact beyond what many industry leaders initially imagined.
“Industrial applications and next-gen internet in the industry are exciting right now,” Belani told TechCrunch. “Robots and drones get a lot of attention. But AI and machine learning advances are also making forecasting and automation possible in ways we never even imagined.”
With startups becoming so central to the IIoT, let’s take a look at one startup that is beginning to disrupt the space – Eigen.
What does Eigen do?
Eigen isn’t necessarily a splashy startup that is promising the world. Instead, what it does do is capture the core identity of IIoT solutions – solving specific business problems invaluable ways. Eigen aims to tackle quality control in manufacturing, and like many IIoT technologies, it does so with a combination of cameras, sensors and cloud technologies that gather relevant data. What makes Eigen truly stand out is how its technology focuses on empowering humans to work at their best.
The Eigen solutions begin with a video and sensor data capture. High-quality cameras that can analyze objects accurately – even items with reflective, transparent or otherwise tricky surfaces – perform a visual inspection of items moving along the assembly line. At the same time, sensors scan the object for inconsistencies in size, shape, weld quality and similar key metrics. Between the cameras and the sensors, the automated system quickly performs a deep analysis of an object, identifying small problems that may be difficult for a human inspector to identify.
The cameras and sensors analyzing items automatically send their findings to a cloud platform that formats that information into actionable reports that are delivered almost immediately to inspectors. This rapid data collection and delivery creates an operational climate in which:
- The machines can analyze a large number of products compared to human inspectors picking small quantities of goods out of batches.
- The scanning points out small issues that human inspectors can focus on when they may otherwise overlook them.
- The human inspectors can be notified when a given item has potential flaws and intentionally analyze those goods.
- The backend software can be updated based on product changes, regulatory laws and quality control policies to ensure full accuracy at any time.
Eigen gaining recognition
The ability to analyze IIoT data to inform human-centered operations can be incredibly disruptive in manufacturing, and this functionality contributed to Eigen achieving Gold winner status in the Dell “Connect What Matters” contest. The event was designed to challenge businesses to demonstrate practical solutions that allow for data-driven operations in manufacturing, and Eigen’s video analytics system was recognized among the leaders.
After winning the award, Greg Picot, director of product development for Eigen, spoke with Smart Industry. He told the news source that the Eigen platform is particularly unique because it goes beyond using big data and machine learning in isolation. Instead of simply performing analytics, the technology emphasizes bringing that information to the human experts within production processes. This creates an augmented intelligence environment in which the machine data and human knowledge are unified to maximize the potential for value creation.
In an interview with ThinkApps, Eigen CEO Scott Everett emphasized this focus on the human factor:
“Most systems on the market rely on humans to manually program every variation of pattern and anomaly to detect during the inspection,” Everett told ThinkApps. “Leveraging a machine learning engine, we are able to use a fraction of user input to realize massive gains in efficiency and accuracy of detection not possible to achieve in a manual way.”
Eigen is an example of how the IIoT is disrupting the manufacturing sector. It isn’t all about machines and robots. Instead, industry leaders are finding ways to maximize the work that humans are doing by using the IIoT to inform and assist people as they try to get the job done.