Spain Outlines Vision for Industrial AI

Article By : John Walko

Telefonica has joined forces with Microsoft and four other major companies to push the development and deployment of AI in the country.

Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica has joined forces with Microsoft and four other major companies spanning the automotive, energy and engineering sectors in an ambitious project to push the development and deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) in the country.

The venture has been dubbed IndesIA, and the target is no less than to establish Spain as a powerhouse for AI in the industrial segment, and over time in Europe.

Artificial intelligence (AI)

The other companies involved are Repsol (energy), Gestamp (automotive), Navantia (ship building), and Tecnicas Reunidas (engineering).

Projects will also be helped by the experience of leading local organisations in the field, such as the well-established Basque Artificial Intelligence Centre (BAIC).

The initiative seems to be a recognition that the country’s infrastructure has fallen behind other countries in how they support and enhance the productivity of industrial processes.

Though not mentioned in the announcement, it seems clear that Telefonica will play a leading role in the venture since the company has been working on and with AI techniques for several years.

With an obvious European outlook, the target is to build what is termed an industrial AI platform that would promote the development and use of AI solutions in the country, thus making all the sectors more competitive.

The somewhat wordy announcement notes that to improve matters, it is vital to embrace urgently the use of automation and, by optimising processes, to position Spain as a leader in data and AI applications for industry, while stimulating a new economy.

The project backers acknowledge that “achieving all of this will require scaling the use of data and artificial intelligence throughout the value chain.”

From an electronics and telecoms sectors perspective, the consortium specifically hopes to “reach agreements to facilitate access to cutting edge technologies such as IoT, 5G, the cloud, supercomputing, quantum edge computing that will enable (use) case developments.”

The consortium also stresses it will be vital to make big data and AI applications and solutions more agile, more quickly, and to identify industrial use cases that can be resolved with data and AI.

The vision is “the creation of a library of industrial use cases” that would also include access to the data that enabled their resolution. All that, it is hoped, will help stimulate the adoption of AI by a variety of businesses.

And IndesIA stresses that for the more than 100 small and medium-sized businesses already in the process of joining, the integration of this technology throughout the value chain presents an opportunity to accelerate their digitalization processes and enhance both productivity and sustainability in the highly competitive industrial sector.

Although just announced, the consortium has clearly been laying the groundwork for a while, and has already identified over 60 AI and data analytics-based use cases across the five major sectors being targeted.

The announcement also includes a list of  businesses and numerous associations and technological centres that, it suggests, have expressed interest in joining up.

Of course, Telefonica has already boasted that its AI solutions are being used by a whole range of startups and well-established companies, helping them make more objective, data-driven decisions and streamline their business operations via the use of complex algorithms. Some of the project’s work will build on that wealth of experience.

The consortium also highlights the anticipated skills angle in the “catalyst project.” It will focus on helping to bridge the training gap in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), thus creating, and hopefully also retaining, the newly created talent in these important sectors.

IndesIA specifically highlighted its plans to open a Data and Artificial Intelligent School to train more much-needed professionals in these disciplines. For this reason, it notes that the venture is also working with, for instance, the Technical University of Madrid, VicomTech, and the University of Granada.

As noted, the initiative is clearly an ambitious – and welcome – one, in an important and fast-moving sector, but, perhaps problematically, no timelines are offered in the announcement by which to reach the numerous targets.

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