Bill Hoffman, president of the Industrial Internet Consortium, has worked with artificial intelligence (AI) for decades. He's been with the IIC since its inception, and he worked with IIC executive director Richard Soley at various AI firms for years before that. Hoffman recently sat down with Network World's Jon Gold for a chat about IoT and the role of automation and AI.\nNWW: Is this what you guys expected to be working on 20-30 years ago?\nBF: For us it\u2019s fascinating to see, three decades later, that the term AI actually has a good connotation. It\u2019s funny, but a lot of the systems that we were involved with, which were primarily renamed \u201cdecision support systems\u201d \u2013 for liability reasons, they didn\u2019t want to call them \u201cexpert\u201d systems \u2013 a lot of those are still functioning today. So it never really went away, it just went somewhat underground, and people said \u201cOK, that works.\u201d\nNWW: What\u2019s an example of a decision-support system?\nBH: Basically, it walks somebody through an \u201cif\/than\u201d \u2013 if the temperature gauge is at 120, and the vacuum gauge is at 45, then you know you have a situation that requires some type of intervention. It\u2019s like a rules-based expert system. Now what we have \u2026 since we can effectively and cheaply store big data, with the software that we\u2019re able to use, predictive analytics comes to mind as a good example, it\u2019s classic AI \u2013 you\u2019re looking for patterns, and you\u2019re applying it across large data sets, and you\u2019re using that to extrapolate some type of future event.\nSame thing we did 30 years ago, but we didn\u2019t have disk [space] that was cheap, and we didn\u2019t have the ability to collect all this big data, because we didn\u2019t have the sensors that we have today.\nNWW: It\u2019s about the price point on sensors, right? These things were available back in the day, they just weren\u2019t economical.\nBH: Price point, availability, wired or wireless, then the fact that you can hook them up to the Ethernet \u2013 IPv6 provides almost no degradation of performance \u2013 so you can put a lot of stuff on it, which we also couldn\u2019t do 30 years ago. We were all running Novell local area nets at the time! Who remembers Novell? So I think the technology has become much more robust and available, such that we\u2019re able to use the big data and apply predictive analytics, and use these things in industrial systems that we couldn\u2019t have even dreamed of 20 years ago.\nAnd when we say \u201cindustrial\u201d [Internet of Things], the \u201cIndustrial Internet\u201d is really an \u201cindustry\u201d Internet, not just manufacturing per se. \u201cIndustrial Internet\u201d was actually a term of art GE had coined, back in, I believe, 2013, and they didn\u2019t trademark it intentionally, because they wanted it to remain a term of art. So when Richard [Soley] and I sat around the table with the five founders [of the Industrial Internet Consortium], we had hours of discussion about what to call this new entity we were going to create. There was a lot of discussion about whether the word \u201cindustrial\u201d had a manufacturing-only connotation. And we decided that we would roll with it because we decided it was the best we had at the time.\nNWW: Predictive maintenance is definitely the use case I hear the most about \u2013 what else is out there for AI and IoT? What should we be looking for going forward?\nBH: Precision agriculture is one \u2013 farmers can have soil sensors deployed, and then fly a drone across their fields to pick up sensor data. It\u2019s pretty fascinating \u2013 they can optimize both the fertilizer as well as the moisture content, and they have past experience, which is the big data, so they know what to expect and they can factor in the weather patterns and optimize the harvests.\nAbout 34% of IIC members are involved in testbed projects, and we expect that each of these projects will generate potentially dozens of use cases, and each of those use cases is potentially a new product or service. They\u2019re all looking for the next big thing, and the testbeds give these guys the opportunity to see what works, what doesn\u2019t work and the opportunity to get into the ecosystem earlier.