By Dr. Mahesh Saptharishi
Communication, in its many forms, has tremendous power. Take language as an example. The complexity and power of human language is something to behold. It connects individuals and societies, enabling the transfer of knowledge, exchange of ideas and growth of communal intelligence. When you combine language with the Internet, you see how our lives have changed; we are freed from past limitations of distance, time and memory.
Sensors give us an even greater opportunity to experience our world. The Internet-of-Things (IoT), as these connected sensors are collectively called, has enabled the digitization of language communicated by the physical world. Sensors allow the Internet to instantly extend the reach of our sight and sound. The data from sensors allow us to not only interactively, but also observationally communicate language.
Our technology-driven world is again on the precipice of change. By the year 2020, just over five years from now, everything from the way we will study the world, manage our businesses, and secure people and assets will be forever altered. Connected devices will become intelligent, able to both digitize language and even understand it. The impact of this change will be transformational. Imagine humans and machines communicating with the same natural language that has connected individuals and societies for centuries. By 2020, the boundaries between how we observe and interact with the physical and virtual world will fade.
Our daily experiences – from a trip to the mall to a flight across the globe – will become personalized to our preferences, wants and needs. As sensors become capable of intelligence, or understanding the information they take in, small and large enterprises alike will make more educated security and business decisions. The connected network of sensors coupled with the necessary intelligence to interpret and understand the physical world will provide metrics that can help organizations improve operational efficiencies, immediately flag potential physical security threats and understand their demographics.
In retail environments, this new capability will provide insight and help a storeowner identify an individual customer’s needs. The intelligence embedded in the retail store will recognize when the customer needs help, whether it is information to make a purchase decision, recommendations tailored to the preferences of the individual or assistance from a store employee. The intelligence will also be able to guide the storeowner in optimizing product placement, operations and measuring the impact of marketing campaigns. The preferences of customers in the physical will carry over from the virtual and vice versa – imagine online shopping preferences carrying over to a brick-and-mortar store and the other way around.
For enterprises, the digital physical world will help ensure the safety and security of employees and assets while also enabling efficient building management and employee collaboration. As the interplay between physical environments and mobile (and wearable) devices increases, everything ranging from the heat, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system to a coffee maker will be able to take advantage of the observations and interactions to better serve us.
The shift to the digital physical world is becoming more appealing and accessible to not only businesses, but also to the consumer market. Sensors are becoming incredibly low-cost and therefore ubiquitous. All sensors are networked and are increasing in processing capabilities. Today, you can control your home thermostat from anywhere in the world. You can use your phone to check the security of your home while on vacation. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
However, exciting as this may sound, this intelligence brings with it significant concerns and challenges. We will have to address the information security and privacy concerns that emerge as we enter the digital physical world in 2020. The observational interpretation of language by an Internet of sensors has to take into account the willing consent of those being observed. As the knowledge gained by interacting with and observing people is monetized, 2020 will also see the development and deployment of new technologies focused on ensuring privacy. These are issues that, as a society, will must and will address. However, concerns like these will not slow the pace of change.
As with most of the technological advancements we have seen, the benefits of a digital physical world will far outweigh the disadvantages. It is simply up to us to design solutions that both preserve privacy and also deliver the security and personalization we want and need.
About the Author
Dr. Mahesh Saptharishi has over 17 years of experience developing intelligent video analytics technology as well as software and camera hardware specifically for the security industry. As Chief Technology Officer, Dr. Saptharishi is responsible for driving innovation in Avigilon’s product and intellectual property portfolios, identifying strategic technology capabilities, and exploring new business opportunities.
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