IBM has announced it is partnering with automation company ABB to develop new Internet of Things (IoT) solutions with artificial intelligence (AI) for industry.

They are set to bring together ABB Ability with the IoT cognitive capabilities of IBM Watson, a system enabling a new partnership between people and computers. It is intended to offer new value for customers in utilities, industry, transport and infrastructure. The collaboration’s first two joint industry solutions are set to bring real-time cognitive insights to factories and smart grids.

ABB chief executive Ulrich Spiesshofer said that the strategic collaboration will mark “the next level of industrial technology”. Explaining that ABB has an installed base of 70 million connected devices, 70,000 digital control systems and 6,000 enterprise software solutions, Mr Spiesshofer said that IBM and ABB “will create powerful solutions for customers to benefit from the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.

IBM and ABB’s new suite of breakthrough solutions are meant to help enterprises address significant industrial challenges, including improving quality control, reducing downtime and increasing speed and yield of industrial processes.

The two firms explained that these solutions will move beyond current connected systems that simply gather data, to cognitive industrial machines that use data to understand, sense, reason and take actions supporting industrial workforces to eliminate inefficient processes and redundant tasks, allowing them to work smarter.

Ginni Rometty, IBM chairman, president and chief executive, said: "This important collaboration with ABB will take Watson even deeper into industrial applications – from manufacturing, to utilities, to transportation and more. The data generated from industrial companies' products, facilities and systems holds the promise of exponential advances in innovation, efficiency and safety.”

In one example of how the collaboration will help industrial businesses, IBM and ABB explained that they will leverage Watson’s AI to help find defects via real-time production images that are captured through an ABB system, and then analysed using IBM Watson IoT for Manufacturing.

These inspections were previously done manually, which, the companies said, could often be a slow and error-prone process.

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