Drones using artificial intelligence soon will be everywhere, monitoring crowds at major events, checking out traffic patterns on busy roads, surveying disaster sites and inspecting airplanes.
IBM is edging into this airborne safety and maintenance market early, with a deal to bring its Watson internet of things technology to unmanned aircraft systems built by Netherlands-based Aerialtronics.
Data captured by high-resolution drone camera lenses will be fed into IBM's visual recognition application programming interfaces (APIs) and services on its Watson cognitive computing and Bluemix cloud-based analytics platforms.
The first market for the Aerialtronics drones is expected to be for cell tower maintenance. Instead of sending humans to laboriously climb towers and report back, inspection teams can deploy drones, which quickly gain a 360-degree overview, according to IBM. The visual recognition APIs can then analyze the images captured by the drone to detect problems like damaged cabling or equipment defects.
Watson IoT interacts with information and unstructured data input from devices and sensors to "learn" or analyze it for patterns, applying confidence ratings to its analysis to, for example, help inspectors decide when repairs should be done.
IBM will bill Aerialtronics based on the volume of data fed into Watson. The Dutch company will be deploying the first commercial drones using the Watson IoT platform.
The deal comes after IBM's recent announcements of agreements to get Watson IoT technology into, among other things, Nokia wearables, Whirlpool dryers, Bragi earphones, Local Vehicles' self-driving vehicle, Ollie, and Kone elevators.
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