The Internet of Things continues to slowly change the world. It integrates with numerous industries and can be found in many homes around the world. Research firms like Gartner and the International Data Corporation (IDC) also predict monumental growth in terms of connected devices and profits.
Its rising position, however, may not be wholly due to its own efforts. Rather, the IoT’s intersection with artificial intelligence brings about advantages including workplace efficiency, cost savings on utility bills, and convenience. The two operating in tandem make work and life easier and more enjoyable.
While the benefits are good, the intersection of AI and the IoT still has a ways to go. Consumers, designers, developers, government leaders, and manufacturers worry about various aspects of the combined technologies. And those items must be addressed to allay the fears surrounding AI and the IoT and develop a positive, forward-looking roadmap.
The view on artificial intelligence
When people mention the Internet of Things or artificial intelligence, one of two reactions tends to occur. The first group gets excited. Wonder fills their voices and visions as they talk about all the possibilities and applications. The second group steps away from the first, with a look of skepticism at best and a look of fear at worst.
To this second group, the two technologies provoke images of The Terminator, Blade Runner, Space Odyssey, and I, Robot. Connected devices cannot be trusted—they could endanger lives and livelihoods. The fear might seem overblown, but runaway self-driving cars, hacked medical devices, and other recent incidents form foundations for this opinion:
- Self-driving cars. Last year, a Tesla self-driving car failed to see a semi-truck and crashed into it at a speed of seventy-four miles per hour. Tesla has shared data about the accident, but it gave little insight into why it occurred in the first place. And in September 2017, Uber reported a self-driving car involved in a car crash.
- Medical devices. Lily Hay Newman at WIRED calls medical devices the “next security nightmare,” saying their vulnerabilities endanger not only people but also networks.
- Bluetooth. Last month, researchers ran an attack named BlueBorne to assess Bluetooth’s vulnerabilities. Their verdict? Any Android, Linux, or Windows device missing the latest updates could be compromised.
Even without those stories, other fears and concerns remain. Some people worry smart devices, including robots, could put them out of work. Others experience anxiety about security and data privacy. Using AI-enabled devices might help these individuals take control of or better organize their lives, but they worry about how the data is collected, stored, and used.
The usefulness of IoT-connected AI
AI and the IoT are admittedly scary, at least on some level. But they are exciting too. The first group mentioned earlier—the one comprised of individuals whose eyes light up when they think of AI and the IoT—hold an opinion as worthy as that of the second group. By employing AI and the IoT together, great strides can be made for humankind:
- Smart agriculture. Business Insider reports the IoT “is set to push the future of farming to the next level.” With it, farmers can remotely monitor equipment and irrigation, saving time and money. Farmers also can look at data about crop yields and use the information to guide where and when to plant in future seasons.
- Transport and logistics. Deloitte Insights reports the Internet of Things makes it easier for shipping companies to track products and drivers. However, as Deloitte points out, it also “[expands] the ways in which T&L firms function—cutting costs, increasing efficiency, and creating new revenue possibilities.”
- Global development. CIO contributor Joe Weinman, citing the 2016 Cisco-ITU report, says, “IoT solutions can make a dramatic impact on human welfare. . . . Simple solutions such as networked temperature sensors on refrigerators containing vaccines or medicines literally can make a life or death difference.”
- Medical applications. A report from Aruba states that 60 percent of healthcare organizations across the world have started using the internet of things in their facilities. Current uses include insulin delivery, activity trackers for cancer treatment, ingestible sensors, depression-fighting apps and more.
Such applications happen on a grand, sometimes global scale. But the unification of AI and the IoT offers benefits for communities, families, and individuals, even if it’s simply convenience. (Netflix bingers across the world breathed a sigh of relief to learn that AI may have solved the problem of buffering).
But whether it’s something as mundane as faster streaming or as grand as smart cities, the Internet of Things, combined with artificial intelligence, clearly has potential to benefit the world.
Hope for the future of AI and IoT
The easy path forward would be to develop connected devices without taking people’s fears into consideration. However, chaos likely lies at the end of such a decision. Unsecured devices put multiple parties at risk, from the person using the product to the company pulling data from it.
A better approach to the situation rests in analyzing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats AI- and IoT-enabled devices offer. Reaching that point requires addressing several areas. Some big-ticket items include IoT standards, privacy measures, and security. It could also involve education, job training, and general change management.
Alec Sears is a digital journalist who writes for BYU News, KSL, and Lucid Press.