Let’s admit it: ChatGPT and generative AI are now the belles of the ball, although some experts have asked to pause their development for a while to reflect on their impact. We all know this won’t happen. Things are still rushing ahead with the promise that AI will change everything. But, in the meantime, what about the IoT market and other emerging technologies? Spoiler alert: They’re still kicking in and continuing to expand. How can they help develop services cost-effectively while addressing the green and digital transitions?
When you cut from a close-up to a long shot, the viewer no longer sees the details, and it is thus easier to make a chronological jump. In this scenario, it’s tempting to focus on the shiny promises of Generative AI and forget about everything else, that is to say the rest of emerging technologies. And yet, they’re still making their way.
Predictions for the Internet of Things haven’t changed a bit. The IoT industry is expected to be worth over $1 trillion by 2024, according to Global Data. Plus, IoT Analytics still estimates that there will be more than 27 billion connected devices by 2025 that will continue to ease our lives.
A direct consequence of the increase in connected devices and applications it powers is the unprecedented amount of constantly changing data that is generated. As a result, more and more industries strive for operational efficiency and sustainability. European Commission points out that “data is processed in an increasingly decentralized fashion, meaning that processing takes place where the data is ⎼ that is called decentralized intelligence”.
Yet this data is not yet utilized optimally, and therefore, “industrial innovation is intrinsically linked to advances in data analytics and especially AI, which has now reached such a degree of maturity that it is recognized as a strategic area for the digital transformation of businesses”.
This is the reason some say that the true potential of IoT can only be achieved through the introduction of Artificial Intelligence, or what they call Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT). And yet, this is not so new, acknowledges Miguel Llorca, Global CIO & Digital Transformation Director at Grupo Torrent and speaker at IOTSWC23: “The concept of AIoT or Artificial Intelligence of Things has been applied for a long time, especially in scenarios of trend analysis, predictions, preventive maintenance, anomaly detection or artificial vision”.
So, what has changed? “What is revolutionizing everything is the incorporation of the new capabilities of Generative AI, with very interesting applications, such as the generation of synthetic data from plants for the training of models. This enables a great increase in the efficiency and autonomy of the devices and accelerates decision-making, as it also makes man-machine communication much easier. Simply put, now we can ask our systems to show us the information we need, just as we need it”, he says.
And this is crucial as “the industry wants faster and faster results”, recognizes Carles Gómara, expert in Technology and Digital Transformation from the Business Strategy Department at ACCIÓ, the Catalan Business Agency. This growing need for data processing and AI algorithms to be executed closer to the source will probably push “the use of Edge Computing and processors with embedded AI” so that “AI can generate the needed responses in the company’s production chain”.
Stuart Bashford, Digital Officer at Bühler Group and speaker at IOTSWC22, summarizes it this way: “AI will help us deliver the stories we talked about five years ago.” “Smart plants deploying IoT devices measuring tens of thousands of parameters reflecting all aspects of process quality and plant performance, stored on the cloud, and analyzed in real time using advanced machine learning algorithms. This enables an entire plant to be operated by setting the required output… The algorithms will do the rest. Combine this with the possibility of analyzing your entire documentation history of manuals and parts lists etc. with Large Language Models (LLMs) as used in OpenAI’s ChatGPT. This creates the very real possibility of fully autonomous plants with hyper-efficient chatbots that can answer any question on your assets more effectively than you can yourself.”
On the same token, Shyam Varan Nath, Specialist Leader on Analytics and Cognitive at Deloitte Consulting and speaker at IOTSWC23, highlights that “we can expect to see even more innovative ways to use AI to improve industrial IoT, such as generative scenario design and simulation, data augmentation for sensor data and product design enhancements over the lifetime of physical assets.”
Doing what is right
Obviously, for all these changes to be implemented across different sectors, they must coincide with the industry’s need to generate value from digital infrastructure, “while preparing for empowering its workers to make best use of advances in AI-data analytics and semantic knowledge platforms like ChatGPT in a transparent and responsible manner”, says EU Commission.
Stuart Basford recognizes that “these technologies open up the possibilities of job losses”. “But every company has a choice on how to deal with this increased productivity. Let’s remember that industrial revolutions do not happen overnight. Changes will probably occur over the next few years. Even with the latest very rapid advancements in AI”, he says.
In order to calm the waters and ensure that AI is trustworthy, the European Commission has prepared a legal framework for AI which it is currently negotiating with the co-legislators. This new framework will facilitate the uptake and use of AI in the EU as it will ensure that every AI marketed in this territory corresponds to Union values.
The EU law will probably not be perfect. Nothing is, says Carles Gómara. So, companies will also need to establish “internal ethical codes” and make a push on privacy and security.
What is for sure is that “the human race is at a pivotal and exciting time with regard to its technological advancement”, as Stuart Bashford puts it.
“At a time when every organization is facing a highly challenging business environment where high raw material prices, high energy prices, and employee retention and attraction are common challenges across the board, the ability to deploy these deep tech solutions at scale is a highly welcome opportunity”. “The next 10 years will be very exciting”, Bashford concludes.
They surely will. And IOTSWC24 will not miss the opportunity to give you the hints you need to make the most of them.
Article by: Anna Solana