Telefónica forms a posse to push industrial AI in Spain

Mary Lennighan
By Mary Lennighan

Jun 16, 2021

  • Incumbent telco, Microsoft, big businesses create IndesIA
  • Consortium designed to push AI agenda in industry
  • 60-plus AI and data analytics use cases already set out
  • Bridging the skills gap also a key area of focus

Telefónica is one of the big names behind a new group formed to push the artificial intelligence (AI) agenda in Spain.

The group of six – which also includes Microsoft and four major players in the energy, automotive, naval and engineering industries – has christened its new venture IndesIA, describing it as the first data economy and AI consortium in the Spanish industrial sector.

The wording of the announcement suggests there's a bit of decision-making by committee going on, but the aim of the project appears to be pretty straightforward: To put Spain on the map for AI and to address some key challenges faced by the industrial space in the country.

On the latter point, the biggest issue is a drive to become more competitive through the use of automation and by optimising processes, but the big industrial players are also looking at energy efficiency, the development of environmentally-friendly materials, and so forth. And there's also an upskilling angle and a touch of CSR too.

"Achieving all of this will require scaling the use of data and artificial intelligence throughout the value chain," the parties noted.

There are a couple of key points in IndesIA's (rather wordy) action plan, from the telecoms point of view, at least. Firstly it is looking to build an industrial AI platform, or in its own words, "powering the creation of a large-scale interoperable industrial data platform that promotes the development and consumption of artificial intelligence solutions." And secondly, it wants access to cutting-edge technologies – it listed IoT, 5G, the cloud, supercomputing, quantum, and edge computing specifically – to help develop use cases. It is looking particularly at identifying industrial use cases that can be resolved with data and AI.

The plan also includes a nod to making big data and AI solutions more agile, more quickly, and promoting knowledge-sharing between startups, technological centres and universities

Although IndesIA is a new consortium, the parties have clearly been hard at work ahead of its official launch. It says it has identified more than 60 AI and data analytics-based use cases across the five industrial areas covered by its founder members: the four listed above, plus telecommunications. "IndesIA envisions the creation of a library of industrial cases," it said, which in addition to being a source of reference material, will help stimulate the adoption of AI by businesses.

"For the more than 100 small and mid-sized businesses already in the process of joining the consortium, the integration of this technology throughout the value chain presents an opportunity to accelerate their digitalization processes and enhance both productivity and sustainability in the highly competitive industrial sector," IndesIA said, in a statement. And it shared a list of 71 businesses and a dozen associations and technological centres that it says have expressed interest in joining up. There are no other telcos on the list, incidentally.

There's also a skills angle; one of the group's aims is to help bridge the training gap in STEM subjects and work on attracting – and retaining – domestic technology talent. IndesIA said it is working with universities on upskilling and reskilling for employees in STEM disciplines, focusing on AI particularly. One of its action points is to open a Data & Artificial Intelligence School to train industrial professionals in data and analytics. The group was also keen to point out that its training programmes will focus on promoting diversity and gender equality.

There's a lot going on in this announcement, in no small part due to varying requirements of the half-dozen companies involved in putting it together; aside from Telefónica and Microsoft, its founder members are Repsol, Gestamp, Navantia, and Técnicas Reunidas. While there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes already, it will be interesting to see whether the group chooses to share details of any concrete developments in future.

- Mary Lennighan, reporting for TelecomTV

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