30th anniversary event: artificial intelligence and automation

Published 7th October, 2020

Risks and Opportunities from the increased use of Artificial Intelligence in Industry and Society, a report on an event at the Institution of Civil Engineers on 18 June 2019

The event marked the 30th anniversary of the Hazard Forum and was opened by a keynote address from the Chair of the Board of Trustees, Luise Vassie.  The meeting then proceeded onto its main item: risks and opportunities from the increased use of artificial intelligence in industry and society.

John Duller, Control Systems & Automation Manager with UK Power Networks, spoke on how Distribution Network Operators need to continuously improve and innovate to meet customer, regulatory and shareholder expectations.  The control and automation systems are key to a distribution network operators’ success and this role will continue to increase over the next few years.  John gave an overview of UK Power Networks and how automation in the distribution network has evolved into the Adaptive Power Restoration System (APRS) developed with GE Digital Energy.

He described the importance of the Supervisory Control & Data Acquisition System (SCADA) and its importance in managing distribution to the consumer from numerous power generation systems like power stations (nuclear and fossil), wind and other alternative energies.  He outlined the main drivers for automation and the safety barriers put in place.

Steven Naylor, Data Scientist with HSE, described the demand in use of artificial intelligence-based technologies in industrial workplaces in transforming process operations and how operational decisions are arrived at in workplaces.  Such technologies are transforming the interaction between humans, equipment and industrial processes in workplaces and the general consensus of opinion is that this is only likely to gather pace.  Such a trend is opening up a host of new opportunities for using technology to better control health and safety risks.  However, the trend also has the potential to introduce new health and safety risks into workplaces requiring attention.  Steve gave a number of examples where industry and society can benefit from Artificial Intelligence but also highlighted a few examples where things have gone wrong.  He also discussed the role of the Regulator in the future and the extensive programme HSE has put in place with Manchester University and Lloyds Register to deliver health and safety benefits through a data driven global community.

Alan Norbury, Siemens Central Technology Officer, spoke on ‘Industry version 4’ and the impact on Health and Safety.  Digitalisation is changing all areas of life: the way we stay informed, the way we travel, the way we buy things, and the way we manufacture products.  It also changes business models.  The pace of innovation and the ability to disrupt are becoming key success factors in global competition.  This new ‘Digital Revolution’ commonly referred to as ‘The 4th Industrial Revolution’ is driven by ‘embedded’ or ‘cyber physical’ systems interacting intelligently.  The most important characteristics of the 4th revolution are: Virtual/Augmented Reality, Digital Twin, Cyber-Physical Systems, Big Data/Smart Algorithms, Advanced Robotics, Cloud Technology, 3D Printing/Additive Manufacturing and Cyber-Security.

Alan described how the future of manufacturing will rely on the integration of both the physical and the digital aspects of not only manufacturing facilities and the entire supply chain but of the products they are producing. Utilising data from product design through life service to improve the customer experience and future product design in a virtuous circle.

He presented arguments on how technologies will change the way we do business, what this means for UK productivity and growth, and how will this impact on Health & Safety.

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