Opportunities for intelligent interfaces in manufacturing

Web and Mobile Applications

Benard Charumbira
5 August 2020

Opportunities for intelligent interfaces

Could it finally be possible to live the dream portrayed by classic 80s sci-fi movies? building of a technological utopia in which man and machine are indistinguishable and co-exist in harmony. A reality so advanced that our ancestors would consider it alien.

In the past decade alone, the technological landscape has vastly transformed. It is not so long ago when phones with buttons were considered the accepted norm. Take the lowest spec smartphone you can find and travel back in time to 20 years ago, you will most likely be considered a wizard;

“wow! you touch the screen and it moves, what! you can ask it a question and it responds with a human voice?! Incredible!! what magic is this sir?”

These are likely the sentiments you will receive. Intelligent interfaces, which include the disruptive introduction of touch screens in the smartphone industry, the adoption of voice commands, advanced biometric systems, the meteoric rise of AI-based systems comprised of computer vision, natural language processing and augmented reality have greatly transformed the manner in which we conduct business and interact with computers.

What are intelligent interfaces?

Intelligent interfaces aim to incorporate automated capabilities in human-computer interaction with an end goal of maximizing performance and enabling seamless, intuitive and natural methods of communication between humans and computers. More specifically intelligent interfaces embrace capabilities that have only been associated with humans. Examples include how to perceive, interpret, learn, use language, reason, plan and decide.

Intelligent interfaces can be used in various industries such as e-commerce, healthcare and manufacturing. This flexibility is made possible by the emergence of various other technologies. For example, artificial intelligence, robotics, the internet of things (IoT) and cloud computing.

Examples of domains that have utilised intelligent interfaces include the tracking of employee performance in real-time business intelligence dashboards, using cameras to monitor customer behaviour within a store, to identify regular customers and their preference for certain items, an analysis of this information allows the retailer to make an informed decision of what products to showcase in promotions. The list of possible applications is non-exhaustive and expands across many different domains. We will focus specifically on the use of intelligent interfaces in manufacturing.

Intelligent Interfaces and the manufacturing industry

The manufacturing industry forms part of the foundation of any successful economy and greatly impacts the livelihoods of people participating in that economy. The emergence of technologies such as intelligent interfaces has seen a transformation of manufacturing models, approaches and processes from human dependence to partial automation, this disruption has paved a way for a technological age that will and has fundamentally changed industry and production value chains. The various opportunities through which intelligent interfaces can be utilised to optimise manufacturing are outlined below.

  • Gesture control: Certain steps during the manufacturing process require manual labour or remote control, integrating gesture controls with existing systems could enable a safer and energy efficient approach for workers to interact with machines during the course of manufacturing.
  • Wearables: A variety of wearables such as smart watches and augmented reality goggles can be used to monitor the wearer’s biofeedback, thus enabling a coherent assessment of employee performance and health.
  • Natural-language processing: Voice dialogue systems or virtual assistants have had a large impact in other domains particularly in the smart-phone industry, the use of virtual assistants such as Siri on Apple devices, Google assistant and Alexa by Amazon are commonplace. It is projected that the global market for speech and voice recognition could reach $22.3 billion by 2024. The manufacturing sector could benefit greatly by adopting this technology, which can potentially maximize performance and ensure the safety of the employee by minimizing the amount of physical contact between user and machine.
  • Computer vision: This could be used to monitor production lines to ensure overall safety standards are being adhered to, it can extract information of which parts of the manufacturing process are lagging in performance and why, lastly, it ensures security by enabling the tracking of parts across the production line thus avoiding theft or loss.

Opportunities for intelligent interfaces

The above list is non-exhaustive. However, the ultimate idea is to collectively adopt these concepts and integrate them into a single functional system. For instance, consider an array of distributed IoT sensors that collect data in a manufacturing facility. Then send the data to a central system that processes the data into visual representations of the conditions across the entire facility. This representation could be displayed on dashboards from which the user can monitor the performance of the production line. In case of an emergency or failure, notifications can be sent to wearables such as watches. Gesture and voice controls can then be utilised to address the fault or investigate the failure.

There are various ways in which these technologies can be combined to form a single system that works harmoniously with humans to optimize manufacturing processes. The figure below illustrates how all these components can be harnessed collectively.

Opportunities for intelligent interfaces
Deloitte Insights, Tech Trends 2019

Factors to consider when investing in Intelligent Interfaces

Although the introduction of intelligent interfaces to any business could yield favourable outcomes, there are three main factors any business should consider before embarking on that journey.

  • Cost: Depending on the type of business you operate it may be necessary to heavily invest in microphones, sensors, headsets and other hardware that may be required to successfully start using intelligent interfaces.
  • Skills: Intelligent interface developers will be necessary. However, it’s essential to ensure that the company acquired for the development has expertise in your focus domain. For example, if you require a healthcare application, then ensure the development company you have selected has extensive experience in creating healthcare applications.
  • Privacy / Ethics: It’s essential to ensure that any adopted intelligent interfaces don’t infringe on the employee’s right to privacy. Technologies such as automated surveillance could be intrusive. As such, caution should be taken to ensure there is emphasis on undertaking an ethical approach.

How Integrove has used Intelligent Interfaces

The majority of the software solutions developed by Integrove are centred around usability. Thus, the aim is to always provide the best possible user experience coupled with impeccable performance. This focus has led to the merging of various features such as the use of machine learning, particularly computer vision, into some of Integrove’s applications to enhance the overall user experience. Integration of various ways a user can interface with our products will continue to be a constant area of focus as we complete current projects and plan for possible future endeavours in the technology space.

Get in touch for more information on how Integrove can help you incorporate intelligent interfaces in your organisation.

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