Together, AI and IoT bring out the best in each other and are perfect partners to drive digital transformation.
For decades scientists, writers and filmmakers have been fascinated with the concept of artificial intelligence (AI)—from Isaac Asimov’s iRobot series to the the endearing droids of “Star Wars.” We tend to view these examples through the lens of AI, but what you might not realize is that without the Internet of Things (IoT) they wouldn’t exist.
If “the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain,” as Nikola Tesla envisioned back in the 1920s, an interconnected network of things is required for that brain to actually do anything. You might say that if AI is the brain, then IoT is the body.
Just as our bodies sense the world around us and send that information to the brain to process, billions of sensors and cameras in the IoT gather vast amounts of environmental and operational data for AI to sort, analyze and turn into actionable insights. In return, IoT can act upon these insights and decisions through end devices such as robots, drones and industrial machines.
This remarkably synergistic relationship is generating hundreds of billions—some say trillions—of dollars in value globally over the next five to 10 years. Hundreds of well-developed use cases have been delivering solid improvements in productivity and efficiency for years.
For example, connected operations, remote operations, predictive analytics and preventive maintenance are well-proven fast paths to IoT payback that often incorporate AI capabilities. But that’s really just the beginning. There are rich opportunities for more transformative solutions in virtually every industry. Here are three:
- A rail line in Spain is competing head-to-head with air carriers, focusing first on the route between Madrid and Barcelona. The 200 mile-per-hour train is an attractive option for commuters, but the real differentiator is the way the company is using IoT data coming from trains, tracks and external weather sources to predict and optimize on-time arrivals. By offering an on-time guarantee, the train has claimed 60 percent of airline customers taking the same route.
- Japanese industrial equipment maker FANUC is transforming itself from product manufacturer to services provider. The company collects operational data from its machines and offers remote monitoring, analytics and predictive maintenance services to reduce customer costs and improve equipment uptime. IoT-generated data plus AI-driven analytics are providing business and operational insights and recommendations.
- Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) allows drones to comprehend unknown surroundings on the fly—even in dark, obstacle-filled environments beyond the reach of the Internet and even GPS. Using SLAM, drones can fly into dangerous situations, such as buildings damaged by fire or natural disaster, to check for people who are hurt or trapped. With real-time machine learning built into IoT devices, SLAM has become one of the most important drone applications in safety, security and surveillance.
These opportunities deliver more than incremental process improvements--they have the potential to transform entire industries. AI could not do this alone because it needs IoT to link to the physical world. IoT could not do this alone because it needs AI to make it smart and insightful. It is only when you combine their capabilities that you get truly transformational results.
So, if you are working in artificial intelligence, now is the time to bring IoT into your thinking. After all, most of the data you use in your AI systems is generated and delivered by IoT. Don’t take these data sources and underlying data distribution systems for granted—integrate them into your designs from the beginning.
-- Maciej Kranz is vice president of strategic innovation at Cisco and author of the New York Times Best-seller, “Building the Internet of Things.”