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Spix: an intelligent voice assistant for the performance of operators in the nuclear industry

A Smart Vocal Assistance solution tailored to the trades and constraints of the nuclear industry

Smart solutions for the nuclear industry

SIMSOFT INDUSTRY offers a Smart Vocal Assistance solution, adapted to the specific constraints of nuclear production, maintenance and deconstruction, with an ambitious aim of increasing the industrial performance of the sector. This solution leverages the Skills of Spix, SIMSOFT INDUSTRY’s Industrial Vocal Assistant.

Les enjeux de digitalisation de la filière nucléaire

The development of an Industrial Vocal Assistance solution dedicated to the nuclear sector responds to the demands of the nuclear industry toincrease the productivity and competitiveness of playersin the nuclear sector, through the introduction of technologies such as “factory of the future” or “industry 4.0”.

A major effort has already been made by the nuclear industry in France to digitize, digitize and even robotize certain tasks. This effort makes it possible to improve the standardization and reliability of industrial processes. For example, the introduction of “IoT” technologies generates more structured data to provide installation monitoring, and better planning predictive maintenance interventions.

Nevertheless, the competence of the French nuclear industry still depends mainly on the skills and professionalism of its operators and field technicians. In the French nuclear industry, 2/3 of the jobs (or 133,000 jobs) are held by employees, technicians, and masters who bring together strong skills and unique industrial know-how.

In order to increase the competitiveness of the sector, a lever is therefore to improve the capabilities of these players in the field by successfully transitioning to employees, technicians and masters of the future. As in other industrial sectors, the introduction of innovative Intelligent Vocal Assistance solutions will meet this challenge.

Nevertheless, the needs and constraints of the nuclear industry lead to specific technical locks, special validation needs and demands increased security. SIMSOFT INDUSTRY is taking up this challenge with nuclear industry manufacturers to provide the industry with reliable, robust and compatible Industrial Vocal Assistance solutions that are compatible with the requirements of the field.

The development and generalization of an Interactive Vocal Assistant for the nuclear industry should enable technicians who work on production sites or in deconstruction:

  • To improve the efficiency of operations carried out, through guidance in their activities and access to knowledge libraries,
  • To improve the security of their interventions,by freeing the operator’s hands from any keyboard/screen input. The operator is thus focused on the current activity and has more control over the associated risks.
  • To improve the completeness and quality of databases:the easier collection of field findings will increase the data collected and make its collection more reliable.

Un Assistant Vocal Industriel pour la filière nucléaire

A Vocal Assistant brings together a set of integrated artificial intelligence technology bricks (recognition and speech synthesis, multimodal dialoguing agent in natural language, automatic language processing, knowledge base) capable of completing a business process and integrated into an existing production or maintenance application. Its objective is of course to benefit from the power of voice in the business tools of the nuclear industry, but above all to help technicians in their tasks and increase the quantity and quality of data lifted from the ground.

The idea is to radically change the user experience of technicians, to reconcile them with their digital environment by integrating voice and intelligent business support to truly succeed in the digital transformation of the industry.

Unlike a consumer voice assistant (Google, Alexa, Siri, Xiaomi, Baïdu, …), an Industrial Vocal Assistant meets the needs of a technician, much more specific than providing weather information for example. The technician needs help because:

  • He has to carry out more and more complex tasks without making mistakes,
  • The instructions for his work work voucher are long and difficult to understand,
  • The instructions are dependent on the context of the intervention,
  • His hands are busy carrying out his tasks,
  • It needs to quickly access an increasingly voluminous and varied documentation,
  • He’s having problems on the ground that he needs to solve,
  • It needs to reassemble more and more information from its field observations.

An industry voice assistant is made up of four major components:

  1. a voice recognition brick,
  2. a brick of speech synthesis,
  3. a dialogue manager,
  4. a business knowledge base and their associated tools.

An “Industrial” Vocal Assistant must also take into account the constraints of the field that are not those of the general public: factory noise, the mandatory port of EPI, absent or reduced connectivity, the security of the data collected, mobility, compatibility with existing ranges, procedures or instruction sheets, integration with existing information systems, and acceptability by operators…

The industrial characteristics of the Vocal Wizard are a discriminating factor for most solutions on the market, and its implementation requires multiple skills that go beyond a simple push of technology.

The implementation of Intelligent Vocal Assistance solutions for technicians and operators in the nuclear industry responds to a need to improve the competitiveness of the sector. The addition of Intelligent Vocal Assistance services to the software tools used by industry manufacturers will eventually help to promote their use by field operators.

In general and without precautions, the current digitalization approach does not yet bring all the expected benefits. The gains expected by nuclear industry manufacturers from the introduction of Vocal Assistance solutions for their technicians are:

  • Time saving:Industry technicians and operators spend an average of 25% of their time on low-value-added tasks[2]. This time is mainly dedicated to “computer” tasks of access to information, information uplift or misunderstanding.
    An Intelligent Vocal Assistant can reduce low-value-added time by 60%.
  • Reducing non-quality:The nuclear industry is looking for “zero defects” and must ensure the safety and security of its facilities. Non-quality is often linked to the misunderstandings of technicians and operators on increasingly complex instructions.
    A Vocal Assistant can reduce human errors related to misunderstandings.
  • Technician Comfort:Changes in positions to go to computer equipment, wearing a tablet with gloves, and handling a PC, are uncomfortable situations for a technician or field operator. “Computer” interactions are not always well experienced by technicians or field operators whose area of expertise is not.
    A Vocal Assistant helps reconcile technicians with the digital world.
  • Securing people and goods:Recalling safety guidelines is a major issue for the industry, and for the nuclear industry in particular. Safety instructions are often misunderstood, difficult to find when they are needed.
    A Vocal Assistant reminds you of safety instructions at the right time.
  • More qualified “field” data:Understanding the reality of the field, the condition of a piece of equipment, and the quality of a facility, in real time, is a major challenge for the nuclear industry. This information may be derived from IoT data, but not only. Much of the qualified information is based on observations by men and women in the field. This critical task is complex.
    A Vocal Assistant facilitates the generation of reliable and qualified field findings.

These gains, once incorporated into the tools used by nuclear industry, are important competitive advantages for gaining competitiveness in today’s economic environment.

With Intelligent Vocal Assistance solutions integrated into their digital business tools, nuclear industry companies maximize the return on investment of their digital transformation, and improve their competitiveness.

Les Skills de Spix: services unitaires d'assistance vocale

Introducing a Vocal Assistance solution into existing applications will extend their context of use (technician to three meters or away from the screen) and will add various useful features to the technician to carry out his tasks.

For technicians to work effectively with the help of a Vocal Assistant, and for the Vocal Assistant to be intelligent in their work environment, it must have specific characteristics for the business applications targeted:

  • Natural Conversation:The Intelligent Vocal Assistant allows technicians to speak in natural language with their own words to trigger multiple actions or identify a set of information, as if they were addressing their co-worker.
  • Robustness to the work environment:The AVI and its associated audio devices must be developed to withstand the constraints of work environments: noise, humidity, heat, dust, mandatory PPE wearing, prohibited frequency bands, etc.
  • Understanding trades:AVI should allow technicians to use all the words and phrases used in their trade. It feeds on work instructions and all associated technical documentation.
  • Contextual intelligence:The AVI must understand a technician’s voice queries based on their work context, machine status, system data or tasks already performed, and those to be performed.

Vocal Assistance service components are unit interactive voice programs that allow a dialogue between a user and business applications on a topic or domain. These services are the basic bricks for developing a complete and consistent Intelligent Vocal Assistant for a technician’s work environment, depending on his or her job and the tasks he or she must perform.

Basic services exist at SIMSOFT INDUSTRY without being representative or suitable for a particular trade. They are grouped into categories:

  • Work instructions (white): components related to the follow-up of work instructions.
  • Voice (orange): components dedicated to controlling the vital functions of the Intelligent Vocal Assistant.
  • Utilities (green): components designed to simplify the lives of operators. (e.g. unit conversion).
  • Information search (violet): components dedicated to the search for information (documents, media) .
  • Internal communication (blue): components to help operators communicate with each other, to contact an expert if they need help.

Un projet soutenu par le "plan de relance"

The development, validation and implementation of this intelligent voice support solution for technicians and field operators in the nuclear industry is made possible serious in support of the French industrial recovery plan.

An AVI-TECHNUC development project will meet technical objectives and meet societal constraintsassociated with the introduction of Vocal Assistance solutions for nuclear industry technicians.

Technical objectives

The technical objective of the AVI-TECHNUC project is to remove the technical and human locks associated with the development of a Intelligent Vocal Assistance solution for nuclear technicians and field operators, in order to respond effectively to the productivity gains demanded by the industry.

This “Intelligent” Vocal Assistant will benefit from the latest developments in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and in particular automatic language processing (TAL), Information Research (RI) and Knowledge Engineering (IC). The proposed project, deliberately ambitious, aims first of all to adapt these emerging AI technologies to the specifics of the nuclear field by removing a number of identified technical locks. The next step is to develop and test a prototype of Intelligent Vocale Assistance which, with a short phase of industrialization, is likely to deploy quickly for as many trades and technicians as possible while respecting the constraints of safety, security and sovereignty specific to the French nuclear industry.

Societal goal

Reconciliation of technicians and operators and field to digital applications deployed in the nuclear industry is an essential key to a successful transition to the industry of the future.

The introduction of a Smart Vocal Assistance solution that controls and simplifies access to the digital tools of technicians and operators will allow them to better adhere to the digitalization process that is underway in their companies.

The consumer voice assistants with whom we will interact tomorrow, with connected objects or intelligent systems will shape our own social system. The voice systems that are currently developing come mainly from the United States and China. They are in accordance with the values and social organization of the United States (SIRI, Cortana, ALEXA…) or China (TmallGenie, TingTing, XiaoAI). For example, social rules and data protection laws such as the RGPD apply differently in these countries compared to Europe. It is therefore important to develop intelligent systems, intelligent voice assistants that are compatible with social rules, personal data protection and European security.

Today, it is vital for French industry to have voice systems that are in line with its values, its social organization, and its work organization.

The relocation of entire sectors of industrial production or maintenance, in the nuclear sector as well as in other fields, is part of the industrial roadmap for the coming years. This re-industrialisation of Europe will take place if the workforce is more efficient, generates better results, allows for a faster upscaling than subcontractors located in low-cost countries.

With this project, SIMSOFT INDUSTRY will be able to offer more industrialists Vocale Assistance solutions for optimizing the cost of working hands in the euro area. The competitiveness of nuclear deconstruction industrialists is a major axis for the French sector. This competitiveness will create many skilled jobs in France in the years to come.