Leading with AI: Innovating for industrial AI and industrial analytics

ABB India's Mangesh Nawarange talks about innovating for industrial AI, leveraging capable IIoT startups, sharpening digital skills and the future of Industrial Control Systems in the age of AI.

This was piece originally appeared on IndiaAI portal


In its 130-year history, ABB has been constantly reinventing the wheel to aid industries in various industrial revolutions. As businesses prepare for the rollout of 5G and advanced AI applications on device, ABB India’s Mangesh Nawarange talks about innovating for industrial AI, leveraging capable IIoT startups, sharpening digital skills and the future of Industrial Control Systems in the age of AI.

Can you provide some broad strokes on how ABB is leveraging AI for key industries in India? 

At the heart of our cutting-edge solutions is ABB Ability™, which combines ABB’s deep domain expertise with connectivity and software innovation to empower real-time, data-driven decisions for safer and smarter operations that maximize resource efficiency and contribute to a low-carbon future. Our broad portfolio of digital offerings – from sensors to cloud – helps energy, infrastructure and transport organizations to automate, optimize and future-proof their businesses to achieve new heights in performance and drive sustainable progress. Here are some examples:

  • A very large section of domestic oil and gas production is controlled by ABB’s SCADA system, thereby connecting thousands of product wells with hundreds of control rooms and data centres. ABB is a leader in the fast-growing domestic market of city gas distribution – key to clean and sustainable energy to local users. ABB SCADA together with AI capabilities allows advanced data analytics for deeper insight into enterprise-wide operations performance and efficiency.
  • ABB is partnering in India’s journey of sustainable growth, an ambitious target of 175GW of renewable and reduced dependence on fossil power. We help connect distributed renewable energy sources and implementing data analytics to increase efficiency and reduce maintenance costs. We work closely with large fossil power facilities to optimize plant performance, reduce emissions and finally enable smart grid integration.
  • India is considered the world’s pharmacy. Its role during the current pandemic is once again underlined. ABB is working with pharma customers to digitalize their production, provide insights into product quality, and forecasting and optimizing energy.

AI is driving Industry 4.0 – how is ABB aiding this new wave in manufacturing?

As a global technology leader, ABB has constantly pushed the boundaries of technology and remained at the forefront of all industrial revolutions. ABB Ability™ Genix Industrial Analytics and AI Suite is a comprehensive yet modular big data analytics and industry AI suite for rapidly deployable industry value applications on an enterprise-grade industrial analytics platform. It is important to understand that what makes the difference is the word “industrial,” tied in with analytics and AI, so we have “industrial analytics” and “industrial AI.”

Our continuous engagement with customers, industry experts, partners and our delivery teams help us to understand new-age business challenges, customer focus areas and opportunities to create more value. As a result, our digital transformation solutions are built on deep industry understanding, technological capabilities and implementation expertise. Our customers gain from digital transformation that is completely customizable to their needs and operating environments.

New and enhanced systems bring security challenges – how is ABB addressing this gap for its various industries?

Industries are increasingly relying on digital technology to meet growing demands for efficiency and cost-optimization. The convergence of operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) has enhanced penetration of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), transformed industrial assets, which now work mostly in silos as smart and connected assets. However, the very benefits of digital solutions make industrial assets more vulnerable to cyberattacks. The cybersecurity approach, priorities and solutions vary significantly between IT and OT systems. Another challenge customers face is the sheer number of tools in the market to address cybersecurity. Hence, many do not know where to begin.

ABB has documented its cybersecurity capabilities in compliance with IEC62443 2-4 requirements and other leading standards in process automation. This helps our customers to understand IEC 62443 2-4 requirements and how ABB can help support these requirements, identify potential gaps, and find pragmatic and rapid ways to improve cybersecurity posture, including people, processes and technologies. ABB’s portfolio of cybersecurity products and services both actively protects customers’ assets from the rapidly growing security threats and enables customers to manage their security while adopting new digital solutions and services. ABB has restructured the portfolio into three tiers simulating a customer’s cyber journey of getting started, the foundation tier, then progressing to more advanced and customer-specific functionalities in the services and operations tiers.

How is ABB leveraging the industrial/IIoT startups in India?

Indian startups are playing a key role in the “Digital India” success story. They are well-supported by various initiatives from GoI and industry bodies like NASSCOM. The Ability Innovation Center (AIC) in Bangalore is home to ABB’s largest innovation center worldwide and houses its three pillars of innovation: the Corporate Research Center (CRC) with a focus on research and innovation, India Development Center (IDC) with a focus on product development, and the Operations Center (OPC).

The technologies that ABB deploy are many and varied, and no single company can be equally good at all. The pace and complexity of technological change are simply too great for any organization to master alone. In this era of digitalization, artificial intelligence and IIoT, partnerships and collaborations are more important than ever. Our vision is to reach shorter innovation cycles, decreased time-to-market and together strengthen competitiveness. This is made possible by sharing the same innovation environment with startups and innovators.

ABB Technology Ventures (ATV), the venture capital investment arm of ABB, scouts the globe for category-defining startups and industrial innovators aligned with ABB’s goal to write the future of industrial digitalization, and, when appropriate, invest in the best of these startups. The second pillar of ABB’s startup engagement program is SynerLeap, an innovation growth hub. It creates an ecosystem for R&D collaboration and helps startups worldwide to scale and grow by connecting them with different parts of ABB. ABB businesses can utilize and enable these startups to grow and expand globally in three areas: industrial automation, robotics and energy. Indian startups have been part of this ecosystem and are directly working with ABB businesses to create greater value for ABB customers.

Why is it crucial to address the skills gap in digital technologies today? How is ABB filling this lacuna?

Digitalization is changing the way organizations do business. A key challenge that organizations face is rapid advances in emerging technologies, which are occurring in ever shorter cycles. This alters the very nature of the jobs that need to be done and the skills required to do them faster and more efficiently. Pioneering technology and innovations are the foundations of ABB’s world-class products and solutions. This is made possible by people; the right mix of talent and motivation to write the future. Our cross-functional teams work closely with industry experts, technology startups and partners to complement skills.

ABB customers can choose from a broad portfolio of advanced digital services. ABB Ability™ Collaborative Operations connects people in production facilities, headquarters and at ABB to harness the power of people and information at any time and from anywhere to make the best data-driven decisions. We help our customers to get started with technology with 24/7 access to ABB digital technologies, data analytics and domain expertise. Applications like ABB Ability™ Remote Insights improve the interaction between remote experts and field personnel for a quick and quality resolution the first time.

Manufacturing enterprise management worldwide envisions a future with autonomous manufacturing plants capable of self-reporting and self-performing. Highly skilled ABB experts continue to work on emerging technologies and innovation to realize autonomous manufacturing concepts.

What do you reckon are some of the leading trends in the domain of industrial control systems (ICS), as industries anticipate the rollout of 5G and advanced AI applications?

On the face of it, Industry 4.0 is driven by automation alone. Smart sensors, IIoT and the use of wireless technology have helped in fast scale up to meet the digital transformation goals, such as operational excellence, asset performance, safety, environment, et cetera. The industrial control system remains a vital cog in this revolution and continues to provide a cockpit view of the manufacturing facility for real-time monitoring and critical control. ICS will remain the largest and critical data producer for digital applications. The role of the modern-day control room operator will change as digitalization is flattening the OT-IT hierarchy. The control room operator’s role will grow beyond process monitoring to decision-making based on data-driven operational insights, keeping an eye on security events, and so much more.

From a control and operations point of view, there is a clear trend toward fewer operators with greater responsibility. Another trend is centralized monitoring and operation of several distributed facilities like hydropower plants in remote locations or offshore oil platforms using onshore control rooms. Another critical trend is toward cyber-secured ICS over its full operating lifecycle to ensure secure data connectivity. Additionally, AI capabilities will help to build analytical insights into plant operations and assets.

ICS will become a major building block in a cloud-based digital infrastructure, acting as IIoT gateways for fast and reliable wireless communication with field sensors and cloud-based deployment for enterprise-wide operations.

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About the author

Mangesh Nawarange

Mangesh is Digital Lead for Energy Industries Division, Process Automation, ABB India. In this role, he works closely with the customers in driving digital transformation in their organization. He is also leading the Digital invitiatives for Energy Management for IMEA (India, Middle East and Africa) region in ABB. Mangesh has more than 20 years of experience in Industrial Automation and Product Development. He joined ABB in 2003 and has held various positions spanning engineering, software and product development, product management and sales. Mangesh’s focus on digitalization is hinged transformation in IT & OT catalyzed by IoT, big data and simulation models. He brings in-depth knowledge of the advancements leading to a new industrial revolution by making manufacturing smarter and solving complex problems across the entire energy value chain. Mangesh holds Bachelor’s degree in Instrumentation Engineering and Diploma in Software Application Development.
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