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Why AI is critical for an IoT breakthrough

It often feels like our connected devices are alerting us too frequently. When we have this firehose of signals, it becomes overwhelming and eventually makes us not care about the alert anymore. Now imagine this feeling multiplied to the scale of a smart city.

For an IoT revolution to truly take off, organizations must use AI to turn signals from connected devices into business and operational insights. This will move IoT from an on the cusp technology to something that significantly changes our culture.

When we turn IoT sensor signals in a physical environment into insights, we achieve the next level in the connectivity revolution. The internet and AI no longer live just in the screens of our devices. Rather, they live all around us, effectively digitizing the physical world.

Understanding regular behavior is key

It’s predicted that there will be more than 64 billion IoT devices by 2025, an increase from 10 billion in 2018 and 9 billion in 2017, according to Business Insider’s “IoT Report: How Internet of Things technology growth is reaching mainstream companies and consumers.” As connected devices increase, so will notifications. We need to better understand normal behaviors in given locations to ensure these notifications add value, and AI is crucial in tracking this timeline.

Let’s say during regular hours, a connected sensor on the storage room of a small business opens 30 times instead of the average ten times. Or an elderly parent with the same daily routine isn’t following it as usual, and this is picked up by strategically placed, non-invasive sensors around the house. AI can be used to build an intelligence layer by learning regular behavioral patterns, and then provide a suggestion or alert when something might be out of trend. This enables IoT devices to connect into a lifestyle seamlessly without businesses or users having to think about it.

As an industry, we need to talk about intelligent use cases like these, and not just show off clever gadgets. Otherwise, the value and potential adoption of IoT will not be realized.

From behavior analysis to predictions

Beyond looking for irregularities, an AI layer can also be used to give predictions of what might happen in the future and change depending on the proposed outcome. Notably, it can make a connection between various sensors that humans can’t comprehend.

For example, take a look at a smart city. With a mix of noise and motion sensors, a city might be able to detect that a previous pattern led to a large gathering a few hours or days later. AI can give an alert of a probable event in the future and call for closer monitoring. This connection creates a next step prediction that can be executed on.

Once sensors are widespread, everything will be tracked and key performance indicators created in the physical world, much like they are on an e-commerce website such as Amazon. Physical locations then have the same efficiency as online shops. We can predict when people might come and go, how long they are engaged and better understand behaviors.

Digitization of the physical world relies on communications providers

Even with better intelligence, the IoT revolution is nothing without trillions of connected devices and seamless connectivity. The next step in the physical-to-digital revolution rests on the shoulders of a communications service provider (CSP). Beyond implementing the right technologies in the cloud, CSPs will play a significant role in the physical deployment of sensors, and taking these solutions to market with enterprises and customers. This adds another layer of services beyond traditional connectivity.

Further, large scale use cases such as smart cities and campuses will require more integration than anything we’ve seen before. It requires a facilitator to gather insights, create hotspots, enable consumer services and onboard devices to networks, care and maintenance. In their ability to provide this direct integration, CSPs will have a pivotal role. However, they’ll need to stake their place in the value chain now. If not, they lose the opportunity to scale beyond faster pipes and monetize this revolution.

There is so much waste in not understanding our surroundings. When we do understand it, it makes everything more efficient and also makes us more knowledgeable. We can have safer cities, smarter buildings, more sustainable environments and better support for our communities. This is where the real impact of IoT will shine through.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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