Connecting up AI for the Internet of Things

May 07, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
Connecting up AIoT for the Internet of Things
Linda Tsai, president of IIoT at Advantech, talks to Nick Flaherty about the boost the Covid-19 pandemic has given to the use of AI in the Internet of Things (AIoT)

Advantech is in the middle of a key transition to machine learning and AI in the industrial market (AIoT).

“In the past our focus was only IoT but then along came AI,” said Linda Tsai,  President of Industrial IoT at the company. “In the last three years everyone talked a lot about AIoT but the progress wasn’t there. After Covid I think the AIoT will be adopted in many applications so to shorten the development cycle. But no one company can achieve everything,” she said. “That’s why we are working with regional partners massively to provide the solution.”

This is key shift for the company.

“The industry of IoT started an innovation trigger in 2010 and saw a peak of over expectation in 2015, and today in 2021 it is now growing in enlightenment. By 2025 I believe we can see a much improved IoT ecosystem,” said KC Liu, chairman of Advantech.

The company expects the IoT market to reach $450bn by 2025 based on Gartner reports and its internal analysis, with integrated solutions becoming the biggest part of the business at over 50 percent.

“Phase one is edge computing and edge division – this is the hardware business,” said Liu. “Since 2015 we started the development of phase 2 with WISE-PaaS software plus many industrial apps. We expect phase one and two to enable phase three with domain specific solutions and this will be the biggest part of the business and needs to cover domain knowledge of individual sectors through co-creation with partners

Tsai is leading this move into the domain specific applications across many different industrial markets.

“Our emphasis is at the edge and our products are not just the computing boards and systems but the sensors as well so we think we can provide most of the hardware solution to the customer and reduce their interoperability issues in the hardware and the software,” she said.

“Using AI in IoT we have lots of benefits but we are finding is that many customers think AI can resolve lots of things. The problem is they want AI in their application but they don’t know how to do it. The answer will not be one supplier, it will be lots of people. That’s why we call it the AIoT ecosystem,” she said.

Customers know the application but not the technology to implement, she says. “You need data but that needs to be digitalised, so it depends on whether the customer data is digitalised. Then there is the integration capability.”  

“When we talk to customers they expect us to do everything but we are not a system integration company. That’s even more important for AIoT which requires different stakeholders, from the system integrator to digitalise the data for the end user, the AI accelerator from companies such as Intel or Nvidia, the AI software partner. We are the hardware provider – we are the one connecting everyone together so the integration capability for the domain focus is the key. This is not easy as the ecosystem needs to be focussed on one domain. Duplicating the success for AIoT is not easy,” she points out.

As part of the move to more domain-specific applications, the company is looking to work with, and back, start ups that can use its technology.

“Most AIoT we are looking at is video related and that requires high performance computing – even on the product strategy we are developing the high computing power products with industrial grade to be installed at the edge.”

Next: Domain specific AIoT

Linda Tsai, president of IIoT at Advantech

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