& cplSiteName &

It's Not Skynet; It's Ambient Intelligence

Mari Silbey

There's another buzz-phrase circling the tech sector. With stage one of the Internet of Things underway, the tech glitterati are looking to the next big thing -- how connected devices can do more for us by connecting not just with the Internet, but with each other, and in a multitude of ways.

A number of companies are calling that ambient intelligence. It's a combination of the idea that the whole (of IoT) is bigger than the sum of its parts and that the next-generation of network intelligence won't just be hosted in a data center, but all around us.

The concept of ambient intelligence surfaced recently in comments from Amazon Web Services Inc. GM Sarah Cooper. Cooper was speaking on a panel at CES about her thoughts on what should happen next in a world of connected devices. High on that list? Cooper said she wants "to see more of this ambient intelligence layer, where the additive value of a couple of devices working together gives me more benefit than any one device."

The philosophy has been around for several years, but developments in connectivity and artificial intelligence are bringing ambient intelligence closer to reality. Consider Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s smart home initiatives. The cable company is building a system that will recommend actions (turning a thermostat up or turning the lights off) based on what it knows about group and individual behavioral patterns. The company is starting with connected devices in the home, but plans to extend its reach into wearable technologies, connected cars and more. Comcast is building ambient intelligence. (See Comcast Unlocks xFi-Powered Smart Home.)

Comcast showed off connected devices working together at CES.
Comcast showed off connected devices working together at CES.

ZigBee Alliance President and CEO Tobin Richardson agreed with AWS' Cooper on the CES panel that it's time to make data and devices do more.

"I'm going to double down on domain intelligence, or ambient intelligence," said Richardson. "I think that's something I'd really like to see is the artificial intelligence take advantage of all the data that's out there. There's enough right now to be doing some really interesting things... And I think we're just on the crux of that right now, where we've hit a saturation point where there should be enough data to pull something together there as well as the artificial intelligence behind that."

The problem, however, as Cooper also outlined, is that there has to be a more effective way to recognize financial returns from ambient intelligence applications. She noted that, "I think we haven't seen [the growth of ambient intelligence] because of this ecosystem problem of how do we then distribute that additive value, how can we distribute that back to the vendors?"

This, in some ways, is the same issue that the telecom sector is grappling with as it explores how best to charge for connectivity in low-end sensor devices. Until recently, there hasn't been a business model in place to support these types of connections, but that's slowly starting to change. (See Don't Put a SIM Card in a Rodent Trap and Senet Virtualizes Worldwide IoT Network.)

Business models for ambient intelligence will also have to evolve. That includes not just the connectivity piece, but also who gets paid for the computing power and the algorithms used, and how the balance of power is negotiated among hardware, software and services companies. And that's without even mentioning security.

There's work to be done, but big industry forces are all moving in the same direction. If you tie today's major tech-conference themes together -- IoT, edge computing, AI, automation, even 5G -- they all point toward the same idea of ambient intelligence. The name may or may not stay the same, but the concept continues to gain traction.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

(2)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/18/2018 | 2:06:34 PM
Re: a.k.a.
This seems to suggest the kind of optopus- or beehive sans queen intelligence whereas neural network has a centralized trunk
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/18/2018 | 1:46:51 PM
How does this differ from neural networks?
More Blogs from MariNation
The shot clock has started. Tick, tick, tick... boom!
As if the telecom industry would ever let that happen.
We go to CES so you don't have to.
Twelve days to go...
Featured Video
From The Founder
Light Reading founder Steve Saunders grills Cisco's Roland Acra on how he's bringing automation to life inside the data center.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
March 20-22, 2018, Denver Marriott Tech Center
March 22, 2018, Denver, Colorado | Denver Marriott Tech Center
March 28, 2018, Kansas City Convention Center
April 4, 2018, The Westin Dallas Downtown, Dallas
April 9, 2018, Las Vegas Convention Center
May 14-16, 2018, Austin Convention Center
May 14, 2018, Brazos Hall, Austin, Texas
September 24-26, 2018, Westin Westminster, Denver
October 9, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
October 23, 2018, Georgia World Congress Centre, Atlanta, GA
November 8, 2018, The Montcalm by Marble Arch, London
November 15, 2018, The Westin Times Square, New York
December 4-6, 2018, Lisbon, Portugal
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
Has Europe Switched to a Fiber Diet? Not Yet...
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, 2/15/2018
Net Neutrality: States' Rights vs. the FCC
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 2/13/2018
IBM, Microsoft Duke It Out Over Chief Diversity Hire
Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms, 2/15/2018
Will China React to Latest US Huawei, ZTE Slapdown?
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, 2/16/2018
5G: The Density Question
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 2/15/2018
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

A CSP's digital transformation involves so much more than technology. Crucial – and often most challenging – is the cultural transformation that goes along with it. As Sigma's Chief Technology Officer, Catherine Michel has extensive experience with technology as she leads the company's entire product portfolio and strategy. But she's also no stranger to merging technology and culture, having taken a company — Tribold — from inception to acquisition (by Sigma in 2013), and she continues to advise service providers on how to drive their own transformations. This impressive female leader and vocal advocate for other women in the industry will join Women in Comms for a live radio show to discuss all things digital transformation, including the cultural transformation that goes along with it.

Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed