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AI, Social Innovation, and the UK IEP
Thu, 23 Mar 2017

IEP stands for the Intercity Express Programme, which will convert the current 60+ year old diesel UK intercity trains to state of the art, high speed electric trains. The new trains are from Hitachi and are packed with the latest technologies based on Hitachi Ai Technology/H to create a cleaner, safer, smarter transport system for passengers, workers, and residents along the rail corridors.

Hitachi IEP.jpg

This train is being delivered as a service, and Hitachi is taking on the billions of dollars of up front risk in rolling stock and train control system; building a factory and maintenance depots. This is a 27-year project and Hitachi is confident that they can return a profit to their investors through the use of big data, IoT, and AI.

 

The challenge of converting a running system from old diesel trains to electric trains without disruption was answered in the same way that we do in IT conversions; through the use of virtualization. Hitachi built a virtual train, an electric train that has a diesel engine in the undercarriage that can run diesel on the older tracks and electric on the newer tracks. When all the tracks are converted the diesel engines can be removed so that the lighter electric train would have less wear on the tracks.

 

The trains will be built in County Durham at a new factory which marks the return of train manufacturing to the north-east UK, supporting thousands of jobs and developing a strong engineering skills base in the region. The plant will employ 900 by this spring with more than double that as new maintenance facilities are opened for this fleet. AI will play an important part in the efficiency of maintenance workers and rolling stock utilization. KPIs and sensors will be incorporated in measures to improve and enhance work efficiency based on the maintenance workers daily activities and level of well-being (happiness). While many believe that AI will eliminate jobs, Hitachi AI is being applied to create jobs and enhance the work experience. By improving the rolling stock utilization rate, anticipating the relationship between time related deterioration, operating conditions of rolling stock and worker well-being, Hitachi AI can be applied to detect the warning signs of system failure.

 

Hitachi AI is also used in the analysis of energy saving performance in traction power consumption, the energy consumed by the traction power supply system which is influenced by parameters such as carriage mass and speed and track infrastructure data such as track gradient and curve information. By managing acceleration and deceleration, AI showed that it can reduce power consumption and carbon emissions by 14% while maintaining the same carriage speed.

 

In addition to passenger amenities like Wi-Fi and power outlets, AI provides improved passengers comfort through reducing noise and vibration and increased happiness with a workplace environment that manages air conditioning and airflow sensing when doors are opened and closed. Residents along the rail corridors enjoy less noise and cleaner air. Commuters to London can enjoy a reduced commute time, greater productivity during this time and the ability to locate their families outside the congestion of the city.

 

On June 30 2016, the Great Western Railway unveiled its first Intercity Express Programme (IEP) Class 800 train carrying invited passengers from Reading to London Paddington Station. This commemorated 175 years since the opening of the Great Western Main line. This service is scheduled to go on line in the summer of 2017 with a fleet of 57 trains, and will run on London and Reading, Oxford, Swindon, Bath, Bristol and South Wales as well as north and south Cotswold lines.

For more information about the Hitachi AI Technology/H that is being applied in this train service, please link to this Hitachi Research paper. Hitachi AI Technology/H is a core part of our Lumada IoT platform to deliver social innovation.

Hitachi's strategy is focussed on a double bottom line. One bottom line for our business and investors and another bottom line for social innovation.


Stephen Hawking - will AI kill or save humankind?
Mon, 20 Mar 2017

Stephen Hawking – will AI kill or save humankind” was the title of a blog post by Rory Cellan-Jones on BBC News. This was a report on a speech by Stephen Hawking at an event in Cambridge in October of last year at the opening of the Centre for the Future of Intelligence. Stephen Hawking summarized his speech by saying “"In short, the rise of powerful AI will be either the best, or the worst thing, ever to happen to humanity. We do not yet know which."

 

BBC News reported in January of this year that a Japanese Insurance firm will be laying off 34 staff and replacing them with an AI system that can calculate payouts. The firm expects to save 140m yen ($1.2m) a year in salaries after the 200m yen AI system is installed. The annual maintenance is expected to be 15m yen. The AI system is the IBM Watson, which is described as cognitive technology that will gather information needed for the policy holder’s payout by reading medical certificates and data on surgeries or hospital stays. By eliminating people with AI, the efficiency of calculating payout should increase by 30%. Saving salaries and being more efficient may be good for the insurance company, but I’m sure it does not feel good to the 34 staff who were replaced.

 

Hitachi AI technology/H takes a different approach to the use of AI and staff. Dr. Dinesh Chandrasekar, Director, Global Solutions and Innovation(GSI) Group at Hitachi Consulting, published an article on linkedin which showed how Hitachi AI Technology/H was used in an existing warehouse logistics solution to provide appropriate work orders based on an understanding of demand fluctuation and on-site kaizen activity derived from big data accumulated daily in corporate business systems, and its verification in logistics tasks by improving efficiency by 8%.

 

The key to the difference in Hitachi’s AI approach is the incorporation of Kaizen, which humanizes the workplace and solicits the participation of the workers in increasing productivity.

 

Dr. Chandrasekar, explains that conventional systems, operate on preprogrammed instructions and do not reflect on-site Kaizen activities or employee ingenuity. In order to reflect this input, a systems engineer may need to redesign the system, which could be disruptive and expensive. It may even require the rewrite of the work process and design which would make it difficult to respond to demand fluctuation and corresponding on-site changes. By taking a deep learning approach to AI and incorporating it into business systems, it will be possible to incorporate Kaizen activities or employee ideas while flexibly responding to changes in work conditions or demand fluctuations to realize efficient operations.

 

AI and Kaizen.jpg

Other examples of the use of Hitachi AI Technology/H are shown in the following 5 min video. The above warehouse example about improving worker efficiency by 8% is shown. Another example shows the use of Hitachi AI Technology/H to enhance the buyer experience by locating staff in the optimum location in a retail store to increase sales by 15%. The operation costs of a desalination plant was decreased by 3.6%. and the power consumption costs of a high speed train was also decreased.

 

 

Instead of replacing staff, Hitachi AI Technology/H can improve the efficiency and productivity of human staff by incorporating Kaizen, the humanizing process of improvement. In this way AI can be lead to Social Innovation and save mankind.