Is Artificial Intelligence The Catalyst To Unlock The Power Of IoT?

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The risks and rewards of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) are topics of discussions in nearly every industry circle. Whether it’s the promise of cars that not only drive themselves but collectively learn how to drive more safely or the looming threat of apocalyptic war driven by the race for AI supremacy, AI is clearly dominating rhetoric around the heart of man-and-machine interactions.

However, no technology evolves in a vacuum, and it’s always valuable to evaluate the driving factors leading to widespread change. In the case of AI adoption and deployment, we should remember that other factors are both enabling and driving the change we see today. Like every other technical revolution, the use of AI technology is becoming more prominent because not only is the technology there to support it, but it is clearly an idea whose time has come.

Simply put, machine learning and AI, in general, will become commonplace in our lives because we need them to be. There is simply too much information, moving too quickly, for humans to process and understand. We are already data rich and information poor. And that trend is clearly set to accelerate as the digitalization of industries and life in general proceeds at a breakneck pace. AI offers the promise of handling all that information for us and extracting insights that we would never have the time or capacity to see for ourselves.

Alongside development of the capability to process massive amounts of data in innovative ways, there exists another technical revolution whose time has also most definitely come — the internet of things (IoT). In fact, I strongly believe that these two foundational changes in the way we use information technology are tightly coupled, perhaps far more tightly than is readily apparent today.

If AI offers the promise of processing immense quantities of data in ways that we can’t, then IoT provides the very tangible mechanism for generating that raw data in ways we might not expect. The deep integration of smart devices in our society, our workplaces and our bodies will not only create business and social insight, it will offer the understanding of complex behaviors in ways that quite possibly only AI machines will be able to comprehend.

There’s little doubt that businesses are already seeing the impact of the first wave of AI and machine learning. Perhaps more telling, there is already an emerging trend of AI development “following the data” in order to accelerate the capability to deliver human-machine interactions and insight based on the availability of more of those very same interactions.

However, it’s IoT that could really deliver the data in sufficient volume to both power and drive the promise of AI — with traffic volumes already climbing into the zettabyte range.

We stand on the brink of fruition of two technical revolutions that are, in reality, one and the same. And the two halves of this revolution will feed one another: The more information IoT can provide, the more quickly AI will develop and the greater its potential impact. The more AI advances, the more value it provides in the capacity to process information. This will drive a desire to gather more and more information about more of the world and therefore open the opportunity for IoT to become even more pervasive and valuable in its role as data collector. For organizations, governments and societies that can harness this virtuous spiral, there is almost unlimited opportunity — the possibility to gain greater insight into everything from global weather patterns to treatment of infectious diseases to building hyper-efficient cities.

Information is the lifeline of businesses and the currency of the future, and the capacity to handle that information (to gather it and process it) will be what creates the new mega-enterprises of the next two decades. Business leaders who have the ability and courage to bring together the power of IoT and AI to chart a course for their organizations will have the power to leave their competition in the dust and to dominate new areas of industry even before their competitors know the opportunity exists.

The way we think about and use technology is going to change, and it will change in ways that very well may not be definable today. The pace of digitalization is accelerating and will continue to do so, driven by the speed of business and the power of information. We are reaching a tipping point at which the twin revolutions of AI and IoT will fuse to become a data surge that will shape the next century and beyond. The future, as it so often does, belongs to the bold — and it is arriving very quickly.

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