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Artificial intelligence (AI), once confined to the realms of science fiction, has finally come of age – and it’s already making a visible impact on our everyday lives, from intelligent virtual assistants to online customer support bots. And now, AI is starting to fundamentally transform the way we do business.
Rolls-Royce is one company keen to harness the capabilities of this innovative technology; and Terence Hung, chief of computational engineering at the power systems giant, says it’s already playing a number of essential roles across the business. “We’ve been using AI in many areas,” he says. “For example, when we are designing a new engine, we use an AI system that can learn from past engine designs and past simulation data, to help us predict its performance.”
Maintenance is another area where AI is proving indispensable, says chief technology officer Paul Stein. Using predictive technologies, Mr Stein and his team are moving towards what they call a “prognostic” approach to equipment health monitoring. He explains: “Using AI in equipment health monitoring, we can predict when certain components may fail.”
This need to power innovation at an even greater level resulted in the launch of R2 Data Labs in December last year. This brand new team now leads work on advanced technologies – including AI and machine learning – to develop data applications that unlock design, manufacturing and operational efficiencies. “We’re building a number of AI hubs internationally,” says Thomas Lee-Warren, chief technologist at R2 Data Labs. “We need to pluck the very best ideas out of this emerging field of AI and data engineering to solve business problems.”
For this problem-solving approach to work, R2 Data Labs needs a vast network to help assess different ideas – something the team has set up. Mr Lee-Warren explains: “We’re actively creating a vibrant ecosystem of PhD students, niche companies and large corporate companies, and bringing them together to develop an idea and take it into the marketplace.”
This is an exciting time for innovative companies such as Rolls-Royce; and with the right teams in place, the opportunities for AI are endless.