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Module adds AI to industrial controls and I/O

18 December, 2018

Siemens has developed a module that adds artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to its Simatic S7-1500 controllers and the ET 200MP I/O system. The S7-1500 TM NPU (neural processing unit) is equipped with an Intel Movidius Myriad X Vision neural network chip, which is used in combination with a trained neural system on an SD card.

The module can process data from a connected sensor system – such as a camera or microphone – or from the CPU. Using machine-learning algorithms, for example, it can guide robot systems or perform visual quality checks in production plants. It is said to result in efficient, “human-like” behaviour.

In pick-and-place applications, for instance, it can help mobile robots to recognise, pick out and place components that are lying randomly in a crate. It quality control applications, it can transfer expert human knowledge about parameters such as the consistency, colour and quality by continuous training of a neural network with image data from a connected camera, for example.

Data from sensor systems (connected to the module via USB 3.1 interfaces or a Gigabit Ethernet port), as well as information from CPU programs, is processed using neural networks. The results are then evaluated in the CPU program.

The bland exterior of Siemens’ artificial intelligence module gives no indication of the power that it could add to industrial applications.

Intel’s Myriad X VPU chip is claimed to be the first in its class to have a dedicated hardware accelerator for deep neural network structures. An integrated image processor combined with the neural network processing is said to make the Myriad X a “trailblazer” for computer vision applications. Siemens predicts that the chip will open up new industrial automation applications by speeding up image-processing and evaluating data rapidly using trained models.

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