Est. reading time: 4 minutes
Author: Liam Sproule
Microsoft Project Bonsai is a low-code AI platform that can be used to build AI-powered systems. These can provide guidance to operators or control industrial equipment. This allows optimisation of process variables, leading to an increase in production efficiency and reducing equipment downtime.
Microsoft Project Bonsai is a low-code AI platform for industrial systems. It speeds up AI-powered automation development and is part of Microsoft’s Autonomous Systems suite.
Project Bonsai can be used to build AI-powered systems that provide guidance to operators of control industrial equipment. Other uses include optimising process variables, improving production efficiency and reducing downtime.
What is Project Bonsai?
Project Bonsai is a tool offered by Microsoft that allows developers with little or no AI experience to design and train an AI agent to do various tasks. It is a ‘machine teaching’ tool. These tasks could be to advise a human operator or to optimise industrial process variables to improve production efficiency.
Does your organisation need Project Bonsai?
Project Bonsai can improve the production efficiency of existing manufacturing equipment or provide guidance to human operators.
You may need Microsoft Project Bonsai if:
- You wish to improve production efficiency
- You want to reduce downtime
- Your manufacturing lines experience a loss of yield during product changeovers or shift changes
- You want a low-code platform that speeds up AI-powered automation development
- You want a tool that allows the subject matter experts to design the AI control system; not a developer who may not have any experience with the subject matter
- To have the ability to run the trained brain either in the cloud or on-premise
- You wish to use machine teaching in your manufacturing environment to leverage the skills and knowledge of your subject matter experts
Benefits of Microsoft Project Bonsai include:
- You have the option of designing AI systems using an intuitive UI system or by using code
- The intuitive nature of Project Bonsai allows subject matter experts to design the AI control systems, not experts AI control systems who might not have any idea how the process being controlled works
- Easily understand exactly why decisions are made with a black box free AI that allows a greater understanding of the AI’s decisions.
- Build once and reuse your AI in multiple projects to save time and money.
- Add safety policies to ensure that your company meets safety and compliance regulations and keep your staff safe.
Prerequisites and Integrations
To get started with Microsoft Project Bonsai, you need a Microsoft Azure account.
Setting up and getting started with Microsoft Project Bonsai is quick and easy. Project Bonsai is currently in preview and requires an Azure subscription to run, there is no free tier at this time.
To get started with a Microsoft Project Bonsai project:
- Get a free account on Microsoft Azure, if you don’t already have one
- Enable Azure cloud services
- Create a Bonsai workspace by visiting the Azure portal and creating a workspace.
- Go to the Azure Marketplace via the tile on your dashboard
- Search for the Bonsai service and click
- Give the resource a name and choose your subscription, resource location, and resource group
- Resource provisioning can take up to 5 minutes. Once complete, open up the Bonsai UI and select your subscription and workspace to complete the setup process
You must run a training simulation to provide an authentic training environment for the Bonsai brains. The simulators can be produced using a variety of common simulation platforms, like Simulink or AnyLogic. If you use a simulation software package that is not supported then use the simulator API to integrate the custom simulation.
Another aspect that needs to be well defined before you can train a Bonsai brain is to ensure that the control problem the Brain will be tackling is well defined, with set limits to ensure safe operation of equipment.
Security and compliance
Microsoft Project Bonsai is built on Microsoft Azure security infrastructure and uses Microsoft Azure security measures. It is still in preview, however, so does not have robust security and compliance documentation at this time. It is recommended to not use preview services for critical production workloads.
At the current time, Microsoft Project Bonsai is in preview. Because of this, there is no publicly available pricing information. To get more detailed pricing information request a quote.
Alternatives to Microsoft Project Bonsai
There are no real direct alternatives to Microsoft Project Bonsai that offer the same range of benefits. There are other low-code AI platforms, but there are not necessarily intended for a manufacturing environment. An alternative that should always be considered is to produce an autonomous control system in a software package like MATLAB, or using a programming language like Python, in combination with one of the AI/machine learning packages.