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When people hear the terms artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT), most think of a futuristic world often depicted in the movies. However, many of those predictions are now coming to fruition in this fourth industrial revolution that is currently transforming the way the world works in every way imaginable.
Even though the full capability of AI and the IoT are still in their relative infancy, these two technologies are now being combined across every industry in scenarios where information and problem-solving can improve outcomes for all stakeholders.
The last great convergence of this magnitude occurred in the late 1990s as mobile phones and the internet were on a collision course that has changed the course of human history. Most people now hold more computing power in the palm of their hand than was required to put a man on the moon in 1969. The convergence of AI and the IoT are about to do the same thing on an even greater scale.
The ability to capture large amounts of data has exploded in the last three to five years. Along with these advances come new threats and concerns about privacy and security. Large volumes of user data and company proprietary information are tempting targets for dark web hackers and even government entities around the world. There are also new responsibilities that come with this increased capability.
Sensors can now be applied to everything. This means that infinitely more data can be collected from every process or transaction in real time. IoT devices are the front line of this data collection process in manufacturing environments, customer service departments and consumer products in people’s homes. Any device with a chipset has the potential to be connected to a network and begin streaming large swaths of data 24/7.
Complex algorithms offer the capability to perform predictive analytics from every conceivable angle. Machine learning (ML), a subset of artificial intelligence, continues to upgrade workflows and simplify problem solving.
Companies can now capture all the meaningful data surrounding their processes and problems and develop specific solutions for real- world challenges within the organization to improve reliability, efficiency and sustainability.
While AI and the IoT are impressive superpowers in their own right, thanks to the concept of convergence, 1+1=3. The IoT improves the value of AI by allowing real-time connectivity, signaling and data exchange. AI boosts the capabilities of the IoT by applying machine learning to improve decision making.
Many in the industry are now referring to this convergence simply as “AIoT.” Presently, many AIoT applications are fairly monolithic, as companies build the expertise and systems to deploy and support these powerful technologies across their entire organization. The coming years will see this convergence allow more optimization and networking, which will create even more value.
Some of the most well-respected minds have predicted full digital integration between humans and computers by the year 2030. Between this and ongoing advances in automation and robotics, up to 40 percent of the current workforce could be replaced by technology within the next 10-15 years. Consider that by 2023:
Solutions providers and hardware manufacturers are already in full swing to take advantage of this digital technology gold rush and position themselves in the evolving industrial landscape. Forward-looking companies like Amazon are offering re-education and training opportunities for employees in soon-to-be obsolete job functions.
Convergence is a concept everyone should become familiar with, as all manner of technology discoveries and advances are being combined to innovate and disrupt the way the entire world lives, works and plays.
Joseph Zulick is a writer and manager at MRO Electric and Supply.