Saturday, May 28, 2022

IBAK Artist Explained

Artificial intelligence (AI) is not only on everyone’s lips as a key technology of digital transformation but is already part of our daily life

Artificial intelligence (AI) is not only on everyone’s lips as a key technology of digital transformation but is already part of our daily life. AI-supported software has also found its way into the sewer industry.

IBAK ArtIST (Artificial Intelligence Software Tool) is a cloud-based extension to the IBAK IKAS evolution sewer analysis software for automatic condition detection in inspection films. We spoke with Arno Jugel, Head of Software Sales at IBAK Helmut Hunger GmbH & Co. KG, about the status quo and the perspectives for the near future.

Mr Jugel, in your paper that is available online, you state that ArtIST learns what connections, cracks, intruding roots and other defects look like. What progress has been made since your paper? What is the status of the IBAK ArtIST project as of March 2022?

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In the paper, the main point was to demonstrate basically thatA rtIST can help to satisfy the continuously increasing requirement for accurate condition data. The presentation aimed to show that the industry can address the high demand for inspections considerably more efficiently with AI-supported software. This is of course still the case in March 2022.

Last year, several hundred kilometres of sewers were again analysed and processed by IBAK for this purpose. So, the AI model has been continuously further trained. As from this year, the trained conditions are being used in practice. The updates required for IKAS evolution are available, the ArtIST service is in operation and ArtIST is being used on real projects. It is important to continuously monitor how well the AI algorithms work in practice and whether they provide sufficient and accurate results. IBAK has made AI applications available to the sewer inspection industry, but transition is a long-term process.

Which users have you moved to practical operation with?

As you can achieve the greatest effect with a PANORAMO system, the system has been put into operation to begin with for inspection with this equipment. This means that defects cannot be ‘overlooked’, that is, escape the view of the camera, because the camera looks everywhere. So, a complete data basis is available for the AI application. Nevertheless, PANORAMO model training is designed such that it can also be used for pan and rotate cameras. With the insight that IBAK gains from operation by PANORAMO users, it will then be a question of making the AI application available for all types of IBAK inspections with the IKAS evolution software package.

Are you making progress as fast as you expected at the start of development?

At that time, we gained some recognition very quickly. In next to no time, it became clear that the principle does not only work for photos of cats. But, as is often the case, the devil was in the detail of achieving sustainably and objectively the self-set aim and the intended high quality of the results for the ArtIST web service. Looking back, it is not surprising that the project has required more time and effort than we initially expected. But perhaps it is a good thing not to know beforehand what problems are in store for you, otherwise you might not risk making the first step.

Now there are some competitors on the market with the same or similar aims as the development of ArtIST. Are you being outdistanced?

It might seem so in some cases. One of them might be a bit ahead in one respect, we are perhaps a step or two further at another point so at the moment no-one can definitely say. As said before, transition is a quiet, constant process. There is not just one big final, to use your metaphor. It is not a question of short-term success at one stage, you need a lot of staying power for the whole process of transition. Right from the start of AI development, IBAK has had in mind various applications that can be of benefit for sewer inspection in the future. But ultimately, it is not a question of changing operating procedures but of establishing new techniques and methods so that procedures are simplified and optimised and job performance can be enhanced without the need for additional personnel.

What challenges still need to be overcome before additional benefit is generated for users?

An additional benefit already exists. Even if the inspector only no longer has to enter the most frequent standard data himself but only has to check it for factual accuracy, this already generates additional benefit through the increased efficiency.

The measured values and the dimensioning of defects are a further aspect. The ArtIST service also takes over the job of determining the required measured values for the condition data by 3D reconstruction methodology. We still have some work to do before we can make the technical potential fully available to our customers.

An issue outside our sphere of influence concerns the data networks that require further optimisation. A task that with a solution that is crucial for the unlimited application of AI support.

Can you explain more clearly why the data networks are so important in this connection?

The procedure must also function online. The problem is not the technology in the TV system. The mobile and terrestrial internet connections are in existence and are available and integrated. The problem is far more that broadband connections must be available. The installation of fibre optic cables is the keyword as far as the office is concerned and LTE – with at least 4G, or better 5G – is vital for the mobile internet

connection for the TV system. This is not comparable to mobile phone reception for a telephone call; here large volumes of data must be exchanged rapidly and reliably.

When as a result the days of hard drives and time-consuming data transfer are over, what will be the procedure for ArtIST users?

Not much different from up to now. The inspector does not have to adapt himself to a new workflow. He captures the optical inspection data during the camera inspection. The ArtIST web service is linked to the software. He sends the film with a click in IKAS evolution to the web service and this sends the condition data back to him. It goes without saying that the sewer data rulebooks and the specifications of the customer are observed and are supported by the software.

How long is the processing time, until the inspector gets the condition data back from the AI software?

That depends on how many defects there are in the sewer. So, you cannot give an overall indication how long it takes to process the data per metre. At the moment, we expect that the condition data for a day’s output of films will be available the next morning.

What happens to the data in the web service, who has access to it?

The rights of exploitation remain with the contractor that has captured the data and their customer. The information is protected and does not come into the hands of third parties. IBAK hosts the ArtIST service with a European web service provider so the data does not leave Europe and is processed in line with the regulations of the GDPR.

IBAK has also seen the film, of course. IBAK uses the film exclusively with the aim
of operating and further improving the web service. Beyond that, the data is not evaluated by any third parties. We do not employ any additional inspection companies or service providers for the AI service to make any evaluations with or of the customer’s data in addition to the conditions detected by the AI.

Where is the added value for the contractor if ArtIST evaluates a day’s output of optical film material virtually overnight?

With the ArtIST service, the user books an additional tool to optimise his work with artificial intelligence methodology. He does not book a sub-contractor to do part of his work. Our customers’ job remains, now as ever, to perform the optical scan and to capture the condition data. This billable service is not passed on to the AI application either, but is optimised. With the web service, the user saves a great deal of time by eliminating routine work, but he is still in control. It remains his work, it remains the added value that he provides for his customer. The human being and the web service complement each other. ArtIST makes suggestions, the specialist is in control.

When does AI make sense for service contractors in the sewer industry?

If you work with IKAS evolution, you do not have to buy anything new for the AI application. The service will be available to everyone who uses our software. Thus, the AI application can also increase the efficiency of small projects and is not only profitable for big projects. ArtIST is the web service that generates knowledge. This
it does at any time, independently of how the inspector feels on a particular day or when he is available. If the required manual routine work for standard occurrences is done by the web service, this gives users more valuable time for other work. But the AI application does not only make sense for contractors but also for sewer system operators and engineering offices.

Where do you see the biggest advantage for sewer system operators?

Arguments as to how the skills shortage can be counteracted and the need for greater efficiency in the face of a multitude of tasks certainly also apply here. A further aspect is the quality that remains consistently high. The ArtIST web service also contributes towards providing a more reliable answer to the question as to what a pipe will look like in 10 or 20 years. Predictions of deterioration depend among other things on being able to take into consideration conditions that from today’s perspective may not yet constitute defects. The capture of such conditions is very time-consuming, requires meticulous care, but as yet does not directly affect present rehabilitation planning which perhaps covers the next 2 to 3 years. However, if even slight defects can be captured systematically and in detail by the web service, these can also be processed in a prediction model. Forecasts made by prediction models are becoming more reliable.

Finally, a question regarding the IFAT which is due to take place shortly: Will IBAK be in Munich and present the ArtIST web service at the exhibition?

That is what is planned and we all very much hope that the IFAT will be able to take place with on-site attendance. These are very exciting times. The deployment of ArtIST in practical operation is providing us with a lot of stimuli and impressions from the field and we use these to further improve the quality of our service. We are looking forward to lots of interesting conversations on this subject at the exhibition. My personal wish is that our stand will be buzzing with visitors again, just as it was before Covid19.

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