The way all devices are becoming networked, referred to as the Internet of Things, is about to take a leap forward, as vastly greater intelligence gets built into automation. But it requires both vision and investment, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
There is bad news for fans of science fiction movies like Star Trek and Star Wars: the near future does not promise “warp speed” that can take us to the next galaxy in a few blinks of an evolved eye or three. The good news is that we are about to take another warp speed-like leap into the future.
“We’ve barely started – we’re in the first hour of the first day of the first week of the networking revolution,” says Dr Marcus Weldon, chief technical officer of Alcatel–Lucent and president of Bell Labs, which could be said to have started all the trouble with its founder’s invention of the telephone back in the 19th century.
He was speaking at the recent launch in London of the first book by Bell Labs, entitled “The Future X Network”, which argues that automation is about to enter a new era, driven by massive network capacity and interconnectedness. The result will be a revolution across numerous sectors and disciplines, from vehicles to medicine to tourism.
“In each of the industrial revolutions there was a measure of automation. But, most of the time, automation was still local, and a local control room managing the local process. That’s still the world of today.
“What we’re talking about is extreme or remote automation, or the virtualisation of automation. You can run anything from anywhere, so you could create a virtual production line which would have virtual products built in one place, and printed on a 3D printing machine elsewhere.”
This level of networking will be made possible by massive increases in data availability, speed and analysis.
And there is an additional factor that will ensure this is not your great-grandfather’s automation.
“Automation has been an element of previous industrial revolutions, but this is the era of intelligent automation of everything. The Internet of Things is becoming a tired term, because is makes it sound like its just about networking of things. The Automation of Everything (AoE) is what it’s about, in that you have things being networked, but also the intelligence built into it.”
Weldon believes that the AoE will be routinely used to solve problems.
“Let’s start with basic examples: if you place instruments throughout the water supply and immediately know where water is leaking out of conduits and water facilities, you can optimise that infrastructure. Twenty per cent of the world’s water supply is lost through leaks. If you can see where the leaks are as they occur, you can improve the water supply by 20 per cent and, in many countries, by much more than that.
“You can say the same of roads and traffic. If you can optimise traffic flow, you create more efficient use of infrastructure. If you have more intelligent automation of that system, you get more bang for your buck from investment. If you can get 20 or 40 per cent more bang for your buck, that’s free money, just by adding intelligent control.”
Investment in fibre optic networks is an obvious move for creating the supporting infrastructure for more efficiency in all systems, says Weldon. Not only does it result in a greater return on investment, but frees up capital for expanding infrastructure.
“You can add massive amounts of new capacity that allows you to do new things. I may have enough wireless capacity to put sensors along road or railways, but maybe not enough to have 100 sensors per person. But if make it more efficient, then add and add and add, that’s how you create a digital society. That’s how you move from today to tomorrow.”
He gives examples ranging from virtual tours of the Kruger Park to mining companies in Australia being able to analyse massive amounts of data on site rather than having to transport it physically to other locations for analysis. Not only is the analysis faster, but far more can be discovered through applying far more powerful analytics.
“We’re not even talking about new data; they just can’t afford to operate on all the data they have! All kinds of stuff comes for ‘free’ if you’re willing to make the investment.”
The challenge is no longer the technology to make all of this possible. The real challenge is having the vision for a future that is built on the foundation of this technology. In the absence of both the vision and the foundation, one can throw any amount of tablets and gadgets at schools and students, for example, and see little return on investment.
Welcome to world of 2099
The world of 2099 will be unrecognisable from the world of today, but it can be predicted, says one visionary. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK met him in Singapore.
Futuristic structures tower over the landscape. Giant, alien-looking trees light up with dazzling colours amid the hundreds of plant species that grow up their trunks. Cosmetic stores sell their wares via public touch-screens, with products delivered instantly in drawers below the screens.
This is not a vision of the future. It is a sample of Singapore today. But it is also an inkling of the world we may all experience in the future.
Singapore was the venue, last week, of the World Cities Summit, where engineers, politicians, investors and visionaries rubbed shoulders as they talked about the strategies and policies that would enhance urban living in the future.
As part of the Summit, global payment technologies leader Mastercard hosted a small media briefing by one of Singapore’s leading thinkers about the future, Dr Damian Tan, managing director of Vickers Venture Partners. The company’s slogan “We invest in the extraordinary,” offers a small clue to Tan’s perspective.
“We look as far forward as 2099 because, as a venture capital firm, we invest in the long term,” he tells a group of journalists from Africa and the Middle East. “Companies explode in growth because there is value in the future. If there is no growth, they won’t explode.”
The big question that the Smart Cities Summit and Mastercard are trying to help answer is, what will cities look like in the year 2099? Tan can’t give an exact answer, but he offers a framework that helps one approach the question.
“If you want to look at 81 years into the future, and understand the change that will come, you need to double that amount and look into the past. That takes us to 1856. The difference between then and now is the difference you can expect between now and 2099.”
Click here or on the page link below to read on: Page 2: Soldiers and Health in 2099.
- Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
Street art goes electric
Kaspersky Lab and British street artist D*Face have unveiled the first-ever “art helmet” design at the Formula E finale for electric cars in New York.
The ‘Save The World’ helmets will be raced by DS Virgin Racing’s drivers, Sam Bird and Alex Lynn, as they traverse the New York street circuit during the final races of the Formula E season.
The announcement signals the first art helmet by a Formula E team, continuing the heritage of art in motorsport and the cybersecurity brand’s commitment to contemporary art, creativity and innovation. D*Face took inspiration from Kaspersky Lab’s tagline, “A Company To Save The World”, and hopes that his colourful work will inspire people to take positive action.
D*Face will announce his first-ever art car design with a custom-made livery for the DS Virgin Racing Team. Its design will be released at the “Art Goes Green” event after Saturday’s race. The helmets and art car are the latest installations in the “Save the World” collection, following a major permanent public mural that was installed in Brooklyn, New York, in May.
D*Face, whose real name is Dean Stockton, said: “It is exciting to work with Kaspersky Lab on this project and create art with a real message of hope for a better future. After all, this is our world and we need to look after it. It will take every one of us to make a real lasting, impactful change. I love the mentality of the DS Virgin Racing Team and that of Formula E by showcasing sport in a way that doesn’t harm the environment, but is still just as exhilarating and fun.
“It is time for us all to stand together and make a change… be that stopping data steals, climate change, plastic waste or using damaging fuels. I want everyone to make a pledge to do one thing that will help make a change.”
As a sponsor of DS Virgin Racing Team, Kaspersky Lab is responsible for protecting the team’s devices against cyber threats. The company sees the technical environment in the global sport of Formula E as the next frontier in furthering its research and development of new technologies to keep vehicles secure in the digital world.
Sylvain Filippi, Managing Director at DS Virgin Racing, said: “The whole team fully supports this great initiative and our thanks got to Kaspersky and D*Face for their collaboration. It’s an honour to have such an innovative artist bring his talents to bear in our team ahead of the season-finale; the car, drivers’ crash helmets and mural all look amazing.”
Aldo Fucelli Pessot del Bo, Head of Global Partnerships and Sponsorships at Kaspersky Lab added: “There is a need for innovation on a global scale, both in contemporary art and in the fast-growing sport of Formula E. Now, for the first time ever, Kaspersky Lab is proudly bringing together the two sectors in an effort to Save the World and unleash creativity, encourage freedom of expression and further innovation.”