The Fourth Industrial Revolution is blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres — creating breakthroughs in robotics, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence (AI).
Underneath the sheer scale and speed of this new age for industry are some human-scale innovations that are changing the nature of difficult, dirty and dangerous work and creating valuable feedback loops that can generate new services, new products and better ways to service customers.
What does this look like on the floor of the average factory or along the power grid or on an oil rig? Sensing and monitoring technologies along the production cycle, together with the data produced by those sensors, are already enhancing safety, predicting potential breakdowns and increasing productivity across industries. But the full potential of AI for manufacturing, utilities, mining and all heavy industry will be measured in more profound ways by changing the value chain and — most significantly — saving lives.
Creating a Safer Work Environment
When a power line goes down in a storm, repair crews face any number of potential hazards working with unstable equipment, dealing with bad weather or encountering unforeseen damage. According to T&D World, utility line work is one of the top 10 most dangerous jobs, with as many as 50 out of 100,000 workers killed on the job every year. Traditionally, equipment inspection might involve line workers climbing poles or standing in cherry pickers, or helicopters flying in low.
A growing network of sensors installed along the power grid is already helping with power-line operation and maintenance, while advanced algorithms are helping to predict potential problems before they happen. Now, drones coupled with intelligent analytics can dramatically streamline routine inspections, increase emergency responsiveness and decrease power outage times, according to eSmart Systems, a company in Norway that specializes in operational technology.
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