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Alexander Smolensky, Business Development Director of Zyfra explains prospective Indo-Russia AI coop in defence & nuclear energy. Military and technical cooperation and nuclear energy form significant part of the government agenda, he says.

New Delhi: Alexander Smolensky, Business Development Director of Zyfra explains prospective Indo-Russia AI coop in defence & nuclear energy

How do you rate the prospects for cooperation between Russia and India in terms of artificial intelligence?

There are undoubtedly prospects for cooperation between Russia and India, Russian and Indian companies, in the area of industrial artificial intelligence. India is an industrial power with a long history and extensive experience of IT development and understanding of the relevant tasks. India is very interested in innovation, and we’re seeing that from both the various government agencies, which are actively participating in international conferences on artificial intelligence, as well as companies. We are seeing high demand for digitalisation from companies in India.

Zyfra has a unique position in this respect because we integrate the artificial intelligence in traditional IT products related to production process management and industrial production. I’m sure that the scale of cooperation with India in this area will increase in the coming years.

Military and technical cooperation and nuclear energy are facilitating the growth in Indo-Russian relations. Is there room for innovation in this list?

Military and technical cooperation and nuclear energy form significant part of the government agenda. With regard to innovation, it’s about private business. I think commercial companies have a distinct advantage in that we don’t have to adhere to the state agenda.

Of course, it’s great that our countries are working together. But Indian clients choose Zyfra products because we offer unique solutions which increase production efficiency, not because our countries are strategic partners.

I’m sure that cooperation on innovation will continue growing in the medium to long term – say in three to five years it might reach the level of cooperation seen in the defence and nuclear energy sectors; over time, it might even overtake it.

Could you recommend ways in which innovation companies from Russia and India should engage with one another?

These engagement methods predated us. You get the most out of it when you aren’t just meeting people who are responsible for business development but when you meet the tech guys, too. Run joint seminars. Talk about your ideas and how to implement them. It’s not just an opportunity to discuss business, but a chance to chat in an informal setting.

In my view, technical experts from any country always find a common language and understand each other very well, in contrast to, say, politicians, who often find it hard to cast aside their preconceptions.

Are you familiar with the scheme “Make in India”? Is it possible to implement it in the context of innovation?

That’s quite a difficult question, and it’s hard to give a straight answer. Innovation – a hardware and software package – is a set of technology and software working together to complete one or several similar tasks.

As a first step and from our point of view, I would suggest producing the hardware in India for the domestic market and then deal with Russian software. For example, at the moment, we also have to find international hardware in India, or even export it. This is not very convenient, is relatively expensive and is not in the interests of either party in the long term.

Secondly, India has brilliant mathematicians and IT developers. We’re interested in forging strong partnerships in India, which could team Zyfra solutions with local know-how, including technological processes. Essentially, we’re ready to transfer base technology and tools so that our Indian partners can transform that into an end product geared towards the local market.

What are the main challenges at the moment with regard to implementing artificial intelligence and the Industrial Internet of Things?

We have analysed scientific projects and commercial roll outs of AI and IIoT projects conducted by research organisations and companies from 27 countries. The largest number of publications are in the USA (32%), China (12%) and Germany (10%). India has made it to the top 10 countries (5%).

Typically, machine learning techniques have been used in discrete manufacturing (44%), in the process industry (22%) and in the electric power industry (11%). A further 23% of projects belong to industries where AI applications are at early stages of development.

The main barrier for commercial projects is a lack or absence of data which correctly describes the process which is underway. Successful results are mainly achieved by interdisciplinary groups consisting of data scientists, IT specialists and industry experts.

Companies have been called upon to organise hackathons to solve problems linked to AI applications, as well as to build bridges with universities and the academic community in general to solve more fundamental problems in the area of artificial intelligence and perform the subsequent commercialisation of results.

Tell us about what Zyfra has achieved in India over the past year.

Last year was a success for us. In India, we connected 500 CNC machines to our real-time machine monitoring and manufacturing data collection system, MDCplus. This is one of the most important uses of the Industrial Internet of Things.

An industrial equipment monitoring system is an essential component of the digital transformation of businesses. It has proved to be in line with the up-to-date requirements to cost effective and environmentally friendly manufacturing. MDCplus collects comprehensive data from all types of machines and monitors energy consumption, which results in a substantial increase in machine utilisation and energy saving.

This year, we plan to connect 1,000 machines in India to our system. On the whole, India is currently one of the fastest growing markets in terms of how quickly solutions based on the Industrial Internet of Things appear and are implemented.

Another major project is that Thriveni Earthmovers Private Limited (Thriveni) has awarded Zyfra the contract to implement our Intelligent Mine solution at NTPC’s flagship Pakri Barwadih Coal Mining Project (PBCMP) in Jharkhand.

Nowadays we are getting signals from the market to improve the efficiency of the production chain as a whole, not its separate elements. We are ready to offer to our customers a single digital platform using the “Mine to Mill” principle, which will allow different data to be integrated into one digital layer and will result in an optimisation of the processes with the help of artificial intelligence.

Our solutions allocate mining equipment, create a schedule and assign routes to mobile equipment according to the production objectives in real-time. Payload and fuel level monitoring system allows us to optimise the average payload of haul trucks and eliminate under loading and overloading. Using Intelligent Mine, a connected work force and well-informed operators can enable better safety practices and add real business value to mining operations.