Comprehending the Current and Future Transformation of Business by Autonomous Machines

Self-driving cars! Not so fast, autonomous devices include much more than just vehicles.

Autonomous devices perform their function using data it collects from its surroundings and acts based on its analysis of that input. This is often combing AI/ML and edge computing so that the device can operate without direct commands from an operator. It is not automatic, where it follows a rule-based logic that do not account for changes in the environment.

Autonomous devices are often closely associated with robotics, vehicles, and drones. Most tasks that autonomous devices are trained to do require it to move around in the physical world and respond to it.

How do autonomous devices dynamically interact with the world? By equipping the device with sensors and cameras to collect data, and by using AI/ML models to detect objects, recognize and classify what they are, make predictions about what those objects may do, and determine how best to react to them. For more information on the types of regression algorithms that are often used in autonomous vehicles and other devices, click here.

Where future is already reality

Autonomous devices are being used today in several industries, and more are to come.

Autonomous devices are best understood by their function. They can range from devices that support logistics by monitoring, sorting, delivering, or driving/flying. Health devices that help bring mobility to people with paralysis include exoskeletons. Farming uses autonomous robots already for crop and soil monitoring, and harvesting.

There are some driverless vehicles on the road, but these are exceptions rather than the norm. But it’s still possible to take a ride in one.

Its easy to write autonomous devices off as novelty experiments, but the impact on business will only continue to grow. There is high potential for better efficiency and improved safety.

The double-edged sword of autonomous machines

But we should still be cautious with autonomous devices, and here’s why:

Connectivity issues: Autonomous devices must have the lowest latency possible for the split-second decisions that they must make. Any disruption in the connection could be disastrous.

Connected and Automated Vehicles will require low latency, high volume communication potentially creating terabytes of data every day. Leadership Brief: 5G Impact on Organizations and Security

Data privacy: Devices, especially vehicles, rely on sensors and cameras to process its surroundings. What are the implications for individuals passing by if images of their faces are streamed to the cloud, or the current location information of individuals not in the car? Or the license plates and driving habits of other drivers on the road? Will this data be sold to insurance providers, law enforcement, or retail giants is consent is collected from the driver? And does the driver have the right to disclose data about other people and their property? These questions must be clearly answered, and airing on the side of caution and privacy by design.

Swarm intelligence: It sounds ominous, and it could be. Different types of autonomous devices that do different types of tasks could share information or trigger a follow-up action. Or the same types of devices could collaborate to all do their tasks more effectively, such as a fleet of autonomous vehicles braking in synchronization to prevent a traffic slowdown.

Protection and preparing for dangers

Research in other areas will have to advance and be implemented before autonomous devices become widely used.

Advances in edge computing will reduce dependency on cloud processing by moving computing and storage resources closer to a device’s geographical location. 5G could also help establish the communication infrastructure that connected devices will need, which many autonomous devices will be. 5G is already being rolled out in different parts of the world, but it has not reached the ubiquity that is needed for massive machine-to-machine communication that could help autonomous devices flourish.

5G is intended to handle up to 1000 times greater data volumes and up to 100 times more connected devices than with 4G today. It can also reduce communications latency and enable up to ten-year battery life for lower power devices. – Leadership Brief: 5G Impact on Organizations and Security

IoT security must become stronger if autonomous devices are to be used more widely. Secure identities for devices must be managed, and vulnerabilities must be managed. More research must be focused here, and it must be implemented in any organization that wants to use autonomous devices.

Explainability in AI/ML must become more advanced, because this is our link to accountability. Autonomous devices must be able to account for why they took a certain action in a human-understandable way.

Final thoughts

Autonomous devices hold great promise for a digitally transformed organization and world. However, using autonomous devices as a means to become “digitally transformed” is shortsighted.

Technology should never be implemented for its own sake, but because it is clearly the best way to address the gaps and business needs of your organization. Rather, begin by assessing how your business will best survive and compete in a changing world – the IT side as well as the business model side. By creating a structured plan towards digital transformation and taking necessary initial steps like establishing an identity fabric, your organization can support the integration of autonomous vehicles into daily processes.