It’s being widely lauded as the fourth industrial revolution. Ambient intelligence (AmI) is a step in the current progression of computing and artificial intelligence (AI), and it’s something most of us take advantage of every single day. Take search engines, for example: the 1990s produced several, and now that the technology has gotten smarter, these engines can predict what we are looking for after only the first few keystrokes of input.
The anticipation of our needs is the basis for AI technology: finding the next logical step in the chain and taking us there. AmI takes this idea one step further, learning from our past behaviors and carrying out processes based on minimally invasive input.
What is ambient intelligence?
Ambient intelligence can be best described as a computer environment that responds and interacts in the presence of humans within that environment.
An AmI-enabled environment might consist of a network of connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices that are embedded or present in the vicinity and that can respond to voice commands or gestures. Some will simply react to your presence according to perceived needs, such as turning your interior lights on when you come through the front door.
AmI is “always on” and ready to receive input. Examples of AmI in the home include smart home hubs like Amazon Echo or Google Home.
Ambient intelligence environments have the following attributes:
- They are aware of the presence of individuals
- They can recognize an individual’s identity
- They are aware of contexts
- They recognize actions, such as gestures or spoken commands
- They can adapt to the needs of the individual
AmI in industry
In an automated industrial environment, AmI can be used to assess conditions, communicate with other connected devices, perform various top-level functions, and transmit collected data.
Computers in an AmI network are not stand-alone. Instead, they are made up of a multitude of systems that have computing abilities. They are often completely invisible and are fully context-aware, collecting and analyzing data from the environment to facilitate and guide its responses. Machines in AmI have the ability to learn, and can therefore autonomously expand in capability over time.
AmI in our environment
All signs point to a greater pervasion of AmI devices in our immediate future. Self-driving vehicles are a perfect example. Responding to GPS and environmental data — such as proximity, image processing, scene analysis, and object recognition — assists in identifying traffic issues like oncoming vehicles or objects in the road.
In retail applications, beacons and RFID deliver notifications to shoppers in order to encourage desired buying behavior. However, just as your smart home may not know that you’re in a bad mood and aren’t interested in watching your favorite sitcom when you get home, they do not take into account social and emotional factors. Responding to these stimuli requires affective or social computing, of which AmI may be capable of soon enough.
AmI in business
AmI has two distinct components: ambient and intelligent. Each has its own subset of capabilities.
On the ambient side, we have smart sensors in embedded systems, always-on states, and adaptive technologies, currently driven by smartphones, wearables, and IoT devices. In the future, these items will be built into our environments and will be basically invisible.
On the intelligence side, we have data management, interaction, contextual awareness, and emotional computing. The latter item will likely determine the success or failure of a particular AmI situation – that is, its ability to discern emotional input such as facial expression, an accent, or tone of voice.
A few of the ways we are already seeing great benefit from AmI technologies include:
- Healthcare: AmI will be a key driver in helping seniors to maintain their independence. Security: Remote security monitoring is nothing new, but AmI enables new levels of protection for both home and business applications.
- Safety in the workplace: While industry gets more connected, the human workforce is shrinking. It is no longer practical to have eyes on every aspect of a job site, but AmI can detect safety violations and send out immediate alerts to either the manager or the worker.
Security issues and the “darker side” of AmI
As with any system that is highly attuned to its users, an AmI will need to collect and store a large amount of personal data. As with IoT, this presents a serious security concern, especially for businesses whose networks house large volumes of sensitive and/or confidential information.
In the consumer realm, AmI may become the next frontier in ransomware attacks. Beyond locking up files on a person’s computer, think of the havoc it would create if hackers were able to lock down your entire home. Smart televisions, connected appliances, smart home hubs, and even vehicles could provide a platform for DDoS as well as a range of other nefarious purposes, some of which we probably have not yet imagined.
On the other hand, AmI can act as a protective element, isolating anomalous patterns, looking for vulnerabilities, and patching up the gaps in real-time. It’s a double-edged sword, however, because you need to allow your machines to control systems at a very deep level to enable that kind of protection. On one hand, if things go south, you stand to lose everything. On the other, if you don’t allow the AmI full and total control, you can’t expect it to work to its fullest potential.
What you can do to protect yourself and your business
In either a business or a home environment, care must be taken to protect not only the larger network but also each individual device on it to ensure there are no persistent backdoors open to allow system access.
As businesses become more connected, there will be an even greater need for overarching cybersecurity protocols and data privacy. Ultimately, we need to protect the larger network as well as our own personal data, inasmuch as our data exists as a component of the network’s functionality.
If you are doing business in Arkansas and would like to learn more about what ambient intelligence can do for your business, call to set up a consultation with Business World today. We are a technology-forward organization dedicated to helping you make sense of today’s most exciting business trends.