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Industry could combine robots, artificial intelligence, and blockchain technology to ensure process security.

The combination of artificial intelligence and blockchain could accelerate the robotics sector and beyond it Industry 4.0 as a whole. With AI, the smart robot will have sufficient autonomy to do more than repeat programmed movements and will be able to use information supplied by its environment.

The smart robot will directly use data from sensors to take decisions without human involvement. The blockchain will be used to secure the data, an essential requirement to safeguard the industrial process, and to guarantee the visibility and traceability of AI decisions.

“’Business’s blockchains that industry can use directly do not yet exist.”

According to Industrie & Technologies, a combined robot, AI, and blockchain proof of concept was to be initiated at the end of 2018 by the Akéo Plus company, which specialises in smarts robots, and the CEA in Grenoble, with support from major industries.

Traceability of information produced by an AI system is an issue that extends beyond the relationship between the robot and the production chain. Data exchanged via AI can involve different robots on the same assembly line but also robots in other plants, including supplier plants, that are involved in the overall production process. Corrupted or modified data could have serious consequences, for example in the food processing or aerospace industries.

Blockchain interoperability

“No industry is currently able to guarantee its data,” says Stéphane Morel, who founded Akéo Plus. 
The three-year research programme carried out by the Distributed Systems and Blockchain R&D department of the CEA in Grenoble will also test the possibility of using private blockchains and the requirements for ensuring interoperability of different public or private blockchains, says the CEA project director, researcher Christine Hennebert, who points out that “’Business’s blockchains that industry can use directly do not yet exist.”

Smart contracts are another focus of the test programme. The Akéo Plus founder believes that they will automate and speed up the supply chain, particularly in terms of maintenance. This would pave the way for the machine to order its own spare parts.