How AI Affects Business through the Internet of Things

Even if you don’t really understand algorithms or machine learning, you understand the reality that artificial intelligence (AI) is evolving, applications for it growing and the human experience—including how we do business—changing because of it. Depictions from sci-fi movies have us waiting for human-machine wars or at least a daily life where humans coexist with a robot race. In reality, at least currently, however, AI is still “behind the curtain,” quietly changing business operations, largely through applications in the Internet of Things (IoT). While the benefits of AI in IoT are mostly reserved to large enterprises, one may realistically expect that the benefits will soon be available to small business owners and consumers as well.

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things is a relatively new phrase to describe “the network of devices, vehicles, home appliances and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators and connectivity”* that allows these machines to gather data, transmit data and (in some cases) alter performance based on that data.

For end users, the IoT includes integrated devices in our homes and cars, like:

  • Digital assistants—Siri, Alexa, etc.
  • Voice-activated home devices, like Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod
  • Blue-tooth connected toothbrushes, scales, posture trackers, etc.

Yet, the IoT is exponentially bigger. Sensors, software, etc. are embedded in countless machines in the commercial/industrial realm—everything from production equipment to fleet vehicles to climate control and security systems—all of it gathering massive amounts of data that is just now being more effectively processed and used, thanks to AI.

Growing Applications for AI in IoT

One of the most notable developments in AI is that of machine learning. AI itself has the capability to apply existing schemes to new data and/or expand schema to include new data. At the enterprise-level, machine learning is allowing AI to take on more analysis of the data collected by IoT. Compared to human analysts, AI can detect patterns and anomalies in data sets with more accuracy and up to 20 times faster. AI can also generate recommendations, strategies and/or operational alternatives based on that data even when those alternatives contradict established best practices (i.e. when they are “out of the box” where most human analysts and decision makers are not looking for solutions).

The implications of AI-facilitated IoT data analysis are real, sometimes tangible, such as:

  • The development of new products and/or services
  • (Re)structured systems to increase efficiency and/or product/service quality
  • Increased profitability resulting from increased efficiency, lower maintenance costs, reduced downtime and/or reduced risk

The bottom line is that AI allows enterprise-level businesses to increase profitability. Right now, because of the cost, only large businesses can afford to implement AI to their IoT. But, the benefits will not long be experienced just by big business.

Medium and small businesses and end consumers will likely begin to feel the benefits of AI-integration in the IoT because:

  1. New consumer products and services will hit the market
  2. Cost of established products (including raw materials used by medium and small businesses to make their products) may decrease because of reduced operation/production costs

Plus, AI itself will become less cost-prohibitive, allowing smaller businesses to implement AI into their own operations.

* Partial definition courtesy of Wikipedia, “Internet of Things”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_of_things