The perfect match: Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things

The idea of having your fridge turn on the AC or the washing machine and then remind you to buy some groceries on the way home doesn't seem so far fetched. This is thanks to the Internet of Things which promises to completely reshape our lives by translating our physical world into digital signals.

What is IoT and why does it need AI?

The Internet of Things or IoT can be defined as a network of physical objects that use embedded sensors, actuators and other devices that can collect or transmit information about the objects. According to a report from Gartner, by the end of 2020, the number of existing connected devices is expected to rise to over 25 billion. In other words, there will be more than three things connected to the internet for each person on the planet.

The use of smart devices goes beyond having your alarm clock or phone notifying the coffee machine to start brewing coffee for you. For instance, the IoT technology can be applied to transportation networks, the "smart cities" that hopefully will help reduce waste and increase energy saving. Connected devices can also be used in healthcare for patient monitoring. A smart device can gather data about a person's heart rate, respiratory rate, skin temperature and body posture. All these details can alert doctors to potential health problems before they arise, or provide them with relevant information regarding which treatments could be most effective for their patients, even when their patients aren’t in the office.

If you're wondering what role artificial intelligence plays in all this, remember that AI excels at identifying patterns and using them to make predictions. All the data that is being collected by smart devices can be analyzed with the help of machine learning models that can afterwards learn to adjust the behavior of IoT services.

Artificial Intelligence of Things

Artificial intelligence and Internet of Things are the perfect mix. Together they have created a new concept called the artificial intelligence of things or AIoT. The purpose of AIoT is to improve human-machine interactions and enhance data management and analytics. Adding artificial intelligence capabilities to Internet of Things will clearly facilitate a better analysis and decision-making progress.

Even though the Artificial Intelligence of Things is a relatively new concept, the combination of AI and IoT brings a whole new range of possibilities. At the same time, technology companies are really open to the idea of leveraging the benefits of AI to add value to IoT systems.

AI technology, more specifically machine learning,  is able to automatically identify patterns and detect anomalies in the data that smart sensors and devices collect. Machine learning approaches can make operational predictions up to 20 times faster and with greater accuracy than traditional business intelligence tools. AI applications for IoT systems can also enable companies to avoid unplanned downtime, increase operating efficiency, spawn new products and services, and enhance risk management.

Courtesy of DHL

AIoT use cases

The collaboration between the two systems can be very well observed on a series of technologies such as Google Home, Amazon‘s Alexa or Apple‘s Siri, Tesla's cars and Nest Labs smart thermostat solution.

Tesla's self-driving cars

A good example of AI's use in IoT is self-driving cars by Tesla Motors. In this case, the cars are considered the “things” and they use the power of AI and machine learning to predict the behaviour of cars and pedestrians in different circumstances. Furthermore, according to Tesla's CEO Elon Musk, all Tesla cars operate as a network and when one car learns something, they all learn it. In 2015, during an event, Musk stated that the company’s autopilot service is constantly learning and improving thanks to machine learning algorithms, the car’s wireless connection, and detailed mapping and sensor data that Tesla collects.

Nest's thermostat

Nest’s smart thermostat uses sensors and algorithms to learn its owner’s behavior over time. The device analyzes temperature preferences and work schedule of its users and adapts temperature accordingly. Temperature checking and controls from anywhere are allowed due to its smartphone integration. According to users, its look, feel, and interface have made the device more inviting and simple to use.

iRobot's Roomba vacuum cleaner

Built by MIT graduates, the smart vacuum cleaner uses artificial intelligence capabilities to scan the room size, identify obstacles and remember how to clean the carpet and which routes work best. The device is able to adapt to different surfaces and even go around a pile of laundry you've forgotten in the corner of the room. The bot can also determine how much cleaning it should do based on the room size. In a small area, it will repeat a cleaning cycle three times. In a medium-sized room, it will clean twice.

Researchers have been trying to find new ways to analyze data and make better decisions for a while. IoT devices and the amount of data they can collect are amazing. However, without the help of artificial intelligence, smart devices are just tools that gather information from multiple points and in different conditions. Artificial intelligence and IoT together are greater than the individual systems and companies are starting to move quickly to identify how they will gain more value by combining the two. Internet of Things needs AI to succeed.