It’s easy to see a rainbow when it’s in the distance, but more difficult to discern when you are in its midst. Though it’s still early days, we’re now in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution. Klaus Schwab, the founder of theWorld Economic Forum, says the impending “transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before.”
Digital technologies now surround us, with many people having multiple devices for business and personal use. When combined with the Internet of Things and its assortment of embedded sensors and connected devices in the home, the enterprise and the world at large, we will have created a digital intelligence network that transcends all that has gone before. Some have referred to this as a “third wave” of computing, where technology gains the ability to sense, predict and respond to our needs and is being integrated into our natural behaviors.
Regardless of definition, we are witnessing an explosion of digital technologies and intelligence. Digital progress is advancing across multiple technologies and seemingly speeding up at an exponential rate. The next stop on the road to the fourth revolution is ambient computing or ambient intelligence, where we continuously interface to the always-on, interconnected world of things. The Internet, then, becomes an Internet of experience, a place where we will dialog with ambient intelligence, or digital intelligence everywhere.
Ambient is generally defined as “surrounding on all sides.” Ambient intelligence is born of digital interconnectedness to produce information and services that enhance our lives. This is enabled by the dynamic combination of mobile computing platforms, the cloud and big data, neural networks and deep learning using graphics processing units (GPUs) to produce artificial intelligence (AI).
An example travel scenario set 10-15 years into the future outlined in Information Week describes arriving in San Francisco. Upon exiting the plane, a traveler will get a message that says, “Welcome to San Francisco. Please go to the curb after picking up your bag.” When at the curb, a self-driving car will meet them and, once inside, advise that the destination is the Marriott hotel.
A recent story notes that computing is on its way to becoming a sea of background data processing that bears little or no relation to the familiar world of PCs and servers. “We will talk, and the world will answer.” We have more than a hint of this with current implementations of Siri, Cortana and Echo. Using natural language processing and AI, these devices understand what we are asking and supply us with useful information.