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Technology / AI and automation

ATKINS SEEKS USER-BACKERS FOR EUREKA PROJECT ON PROCESS EXPERT SYSTEM

WS Atkins, the Epsom, Surrey engineering and technical consultancy, has received approval for a UKP1m plus Eureka project into expert systems, and along with its continental partners, is looking for industrial sponsors to top up the funding. Although approval has ben in the pipeline for some time, details of the system have just been announced in a proposal document issue by Atkins to attract the second half of the funding needed from other companies. The European Commission only allocates about 50% – about UKP500,000 in this case – of the funding needed for any individual Eureka project and the proposers have to find the rest from interested parties. The system is being designed in conjunction with Controle et Prevention of France; IGC of Spain and Datamat the Italian software house which specialises in expert systems, and is aimed at building a general purpose safety, reliability and maintainability expert system to help in designing industrial processes. It is being called the Fiabex expert system. A spokesman for Atkins said: Systems like this will tend to be used in the high risk industries such as nuclear power, offshore platforms and petrochemical, and the multinationals in this area have already shown an interest in putting up the rest of the money. Atkins has to find four sponsors from the UK and each of the others the same from their respective countries. Each will be expected to contribute between UKP20,000 and UKP60,000. There is already a prototype written in Pop 11 and running on VAX and MicroVAX hardware, and the eventual system will be written in Systems Designer’s Poplog. The system breaks down into a central processor with shells and the inference engine, and the individual knowledge databases. The database will be used at the design stage of any industrial process for which there is a knowledge base already built, to try to cope with the increasing complexity of keeping large industrial designs both safe and easy to maintain. These databases will be chosen from the chemical, pharmaceutical, process control, water and public health, energy, aerospace, banking and transportation sectors, but a preference will go to the sponsors’ specialist area. On completion of the project, each sponsor will have access to the full processor and the database most appropriate to its needs.

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