AI and IoT: Like peanut butter and chocolate?

Artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things are two hot trends that become even more powerful together.

AI and IoT: Like peanut butter and chocolate?
Thinkstock

If you had to take a guess, what would you name as the two most prominent trends in technology right now? Like most people, I feel pretty confident in choosing artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), not necessarily in that order.

But in a rare convergence, in turns out these two trends are even hotter together. In fact, the new hotness is the combination of AI and IoT, manifesting itself in a wide variety of form and implementations in locations around the world.

IBM’s Watson wants to bring ‘cognitive computing’ to IoT

At IBM, for example, the company opened a Watson Internet of Things headquarters in Munich, Germany, earlier this year. The lab pairs IBM with partners such as BMW, Bosch and Ricoh. The goal, per the company’s Watson IoT website, is to marry cognitive computing (the Watson AI platform) to vast arrays of IoT sensors. The company quotes an IDC report that claims IBM and Watson “can demonstrate the power of cognitive analytics in the IoT."

That’s just one example. According to Dataquest, the combination of AI and IoT is also transforming the retail experience. And Oracle veteran Tom Siebel’s new C3 IoT startup — which is all about IoT analytics — is one of the most talked about new companies in the field and valued at $1.4 billion.

Want an even more concrete sign of the convergence of AI and IoT? In Japan, the AI/IoT combination is so hot that Japanese tech giant Fujitsu is reportedly dumping its mobile phone business (and mobile is probably the moment’s third-hottest trend) to focus on the intersection of AI and IoT.

According to Nikkei Asian Review, Fujitsu is selling its mobile handset business, perhaps to Lenovo or Foxconn. And what is Fujitsu planning to do with the proceeds?

“Strengthen its information technology services unit, which already accounts for 70% of sales,” Nikkei said. “Specifically, it intends to focus on services incorporating cutting-edge technology, including AI and IoT.”

AI and IoT: A pairing that makes sense 

Beyond the hype they share, combining IoT and AI can make a lot of sense. After all, as IoT scales to millions and millions of devices generating overwhelming amounts of information, many observers believe that AI offers the best chance of quickly and accurately making sense of all that big data and putting it to work solving real-world problems. For example, a study reported in Science magazine in April shows that “self-taught AI is better than doctors at predicting heart attacks” because of the complexity of risk factors involved. 

That kind of synergy is the goal. The reality is a bit more complicated, of course. Both AI and IoT are still in the early stages of their development cycles, saddled with immature technology, limited tooling, and still-emerging use cases often struggling to demonstrate enough real business value to justify their investments and live up to their advance billing. 

That’s why another link between AI and IoT may be just as important in the short term. It seems AI can help design more efficient IoT networks, ensuring there’s enough capacity without overbuilding and enhancing security.

However way you slice it, though, a lot can happen when the tech industry’s two top trends work together.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Now read: Getting grounded in IoT