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Lexmark adds edge AI solution to industrial IoT suite for smart manufacturing

Print services company Lexmark has stepped up its adventures in IoT service provision with the introduction of a new edge AI solution for Industry 4.0 projects, and for the manufacturing sector, in particular. The firm noted the trend towards edge computing in the industrial space, with the rise of private 5G and industrial IoT, and said its new AI bundle, part of its new Optra IoT suite, will help enterprises to manage AI functions on site.

The firm, which claims to have reworked its own IoT journey into a commercial offer for other industrial groups, introduced the Optra IoT suite last September, for manufacturing companies to monitor usage of their connected devices in-market, and provide their customers with a platform of analytics-based maintenance and service solutions. Its new AI application fits into this offer, as an analytics platform to go in their developing edge infrastructure.

The solution, pitched to manufacturing companies “of all sizes”, is available in the US and Canada. A statement said: “Manufacturers, in particular, stand to benefit because they often face human or machine errors – leading to critical parts being misplaced or out-of-spec parts making it through the production line.” The firm quoted research house IDC in its press note, that spending at the edge will reach nearly $274 billion in 2025.

Running edge-based analytics-borne AI and ML processes on site (as opposed to in the cloud, and even to network-based MEC resources) reduces latency, network traffic, and any backhaul costs – as data is not required to go to and from far-away compute stores. “This results in cost savings, increased productivity, and competitive advantage,” noted Lexmark. It also helps in terms of data security and data sovereignty.

Lexmark said its edge-AI offer incorporates: AI/ML skills (“ready-made… built by Lexmark or developed by customers or partners”); unified hardware, software and device management (“vertical integration”); home-grown security-by-design “Lexmark’s award-winning…”); and compatibility with native and non-native IoT devices (“protocol conversion”). It also offers Level 1 certification with Microsoft Azure.

Lexmark has put its own opportunity for industrial IoT services at $50 billion (“for Lexmark”), citing sales into existing Fortune 100 customers, looking to offer as-a-service IoT to their own clients. It said it expects to take one-to-two percent share of the total market value (between $500 million and $1 billion) in short order. “We are in position to take a share of that right away, and we want a fair share,” it said during a webcast last September.

Its Optra suite, also available in Europe, comes out of its own services offering. The printer maker stands apart in a crowded market, it reckons, with an IoT solution that is already road-tested. Vishal Gupta, chief information and tech officer at the firm, said: “The solution we’re offering is the same one we’ve used ourselves… Others are giving you an experiment, we are giving you a proven experience.”

Vishal Gupta, chief information technology officer at Lexmark, said: “While the convergence of 5G and IoT is creating greater demand for computing power at the edge… it is also exponentially multiplying the amount of data available. We’ve designed Optra Edge so our customers can run innovative AI applications on the edge while still enjoying enterprise grade management, holistic security, open standards, and ability to leverage their existing infrastructure.”

Sudhir Mehta, global vice president at Lexmark, said: “Lexmark’s own success in identifying real-time insights at the edge through advanced analytics and anomaly detection for our core business served as the catalyst and inspiration for Optra Edge. We can share and relate our own experiences, as we aid other organizations with their edge AI strategy. The Optra Edge solution vastly enhances quality control on the manufacturing shop-floor.”

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