News / Press release

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Watson IoT!

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Ladies and Gentlemen, we have lift off. Watson IoT now has a bird’s eye view of the world thanks to a partnership we unveiled today with Aerialtronics.  Aerialtronics designs unmanned aircraft systems or what we like to call drones. These are not the toys you see kids using on their front lawns or at the local sports field. They’re commercial drones that can do incredible things and now with the help of Watson IoT they just got a whole lot smarter.

Consider this – a major telecommunications provider has 600,000 cell towers that can be as tall as 200 feet. These towers are essential for smartphone addicts like me who spend countless hours every day making phone calls, texting colleagues and friends, catching up news, you name it.

Yet telecom companies are forced to relying on manual inspections to make sure there aren’t any areas of concern such as a faulty antenna (for example). What if the issue wasn’t recognized by the inspector? Can you blame them? These people are being asked to scale tall structures that are the equivalent of a 20 story building and then assess all the vital components, all while dangling hundreds of feet above the ground. Yet one miss could severely damage the quality of service.

There has to be a better way right? There is now.

We are bringing our IBM Watson IoT Platform, specifically our Visual Recognition APIs, to these devices. Now rather than climbing towers, inspectors can gain a more complete 360-degree view from the ground. Then, using the drone’s high-resolution cameras, they can capture critical images anywhere on the structure and immediately send them to the IBM Watson IoT Platform, all with just the click of a button.

Watson IoT analyzes the images in near real-time, looking to identify potential areas of concern. Watson even learns over time, providing a confidence rating into what it’s seeing, perhaps a loose or frayed cable or growing corrosion. Teams can then determine if and when repairs should be made. These capabilities will increase the number of daily cell tower inspections, reduce possible human error and help maintain the safety of workers.

And oh yeah, it will make sure that smartphone is connected 24/7.

The sky’s the limit for cognitive drones

And this just one example. The fact is, the sky is the limit, literally. Perhaps there is a summer concert in Central Park. City Law enforcement could use these drones to gain a full aerial view of crowds, tracking the flow of individuals and identifying any anomalies that might be cause for concern. For example, an unusually large group of people gathers near an emergency exit, where there happens to be a watering station for overheated fans. By identifying this from above, teams can be alerted to clear these areas to ensure easy accessibility to those leaving. They can also move the station so that water seeking fans can refresh without putting anyone in potential danger.

Close your eyes and you can imagine even more possibilities where this dynamic duo of insights and unlimited perspective can be invaluable, from the inspection oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico to commercial airlines in flights and wind turbines. Find out more about IBM’s work with Aerialtronics, or watch a video of the work in action.

We’ve just begun our journey on this one. See how IBM is building IoT momentum and helping our clients shape the connected future.

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