Internet of Things

In this article, Oliver Rickett and Caroline Churchill, both with law firm Womble Bond Dickinson, look at where AI regulation might be implemented and what impact both AI has, and its regulation would have, on the manufacturing industry and what role the UK might have in this ever changing sector

Industry 4.0 and the regulation of AI


t is impossible to escape from the fact that technology, and increasingly artificial intelligence (AI), has transformed everyday life. It all started with how we play our music,

but Apple’s Siri and Amazon's Alexa (along with other similar “virtual assistants”) now have a daily interface with many of us. We are also, increasingly, now daily users of the Internet of Things (IoT) – connecting up smart fridges, boilers and alarm systems, each controllable from a smartphone. The “everyday” form of AI is almost unavoidable in the modern home. There is also an ongoing growth in AI in the manufacturing sector. What is still lacking, however, is concrete regulation in place for the use and development of AI in the industry.

WhAt Is “InDUstRy 4.0” AnD hOW Is AI RelAteD? The term “Industry 4.0” is not a new one. It relates back to discussions in 2012 of a forthcoming “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, the idea being that the current trend of automation would increase, with technology enabling “smart factories”. These factories take existing automated assembly line structures and include a cyber element, allowing for the underlying manufacturing machinery to communicate with one another and with the wider factory system as a whole via an IoT setup – increasing efficiency.


MAChInes WIth AUtOnOMy The whole process is, and would still be, overseen by a human element, who the machines can also communicate with. But one of the main goals of Industry 4.0 is to have the machines operating in a decentralised way and with as much autonomy as possible save only where exceptions, interferences or conflicting goals require additional input.

hOW Is AI BeIng UseD CURRently? “So far, so sci-fi” you might think, but Industry 4.0 is alive across our manufacturing industry and there are already plenty of examples of manufacturers using this kind of technology across the sector. Developments are being pioneered by high-end technology companies such as Tesla, Intel and Microsoft on an international scale, some through investment or others through actual manufacturing and application.

AI effICIenCIes AnD COst sAvIngs Siemens has been using neural networks for a number of years in monitoring the efficiencies of their steel plants. Siemens is now using this prior experience to make waves in the manufacturing AI sector, using AI to monitor variables (e.g. temperature) on their gas

turbines which then adjusts the operation of the machine for increased efficiency and without unwanted by-products. Others use system masters to spot potential

problems and possible solutions, often before a human operator would notice such issues. The use of this technology has resulted in positive improvements across their smart factories, reducing maintenance costs, as AI can now detect wear on machinery long before it becomes unmanageable.

the UK’s ROle In AI AnD plAns fOR RegUlAtIOn In the UK, The Manufacturer’s Annual Manufacturing Report 2018 conducted a survey on the possibility of a more widespread use of smart factories - 92 per cent of senior manufacturing executives believe that digital technologies (including AI) will enable them to increase productivity levels. Yet, the UK is generally seen as “lagging behind” many other developed countries when it comes to implementing AI in the manufacturing sector. Is this an example of the UK “traditional mind- set”? With estimates on global turnover of the smart manufacturing market soaring to a projected $320bn by 2020 – let us hope not.

seCtOR-leD RegUlAtIOn Despite technology advancing at a rapid pace,

November 2018 Instrumentation Monthly

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