SCIENCE FICTION has long warned us that one day the machines will rise up and take control, but that day may come sooner than anyone thinks, according to a panel discussion at IP Expo this week.
A panel of experts was split over the value of humans in the age of the Internet of Things (IoT). Some said that the IoT is about providing data for people to analyse, while others suggested that it should be independent and outside human control.
Harvey Lewis, director at Deloitte MCS, was in the former camp. "When you realise that the IoT is about supporting human decision making, and is a measure of human behaviour, that's the 'Aha!' moment," he said.
"The IoT is really about human augmentation. The information that the IoT collects isn't really useful unless it's put into the hands of a person who is then able to take decisions and act on it.
"We're used to thinking of the IoT as machine-to-machine, and we need to start thinking about it as machine-to-human."
This statement did not sit well with James Hatch, director of BAE Systems Applied Intelligence.
"I don't agree. The information will be put to people for the next few years, but after that you can just take people out of the loop. As automation improves you should get to the stage where things just work," he said.
"We're already pretty much there with electricity. But the IoT will get to a place where all the stuff around us does what it needs to do without us getting involved."
So perhaps Graham Stringer MP was right when he recently asked an expert committee whether the events depicted in The Terminator are about to come true.
Alicia Asin Perez, CEO and co-founder of platform provider Libelium, suggested that the biggest issue with the IoT is interoperability.
"Everyone is underestimating interoperability. Everyone is focusing on what to do in order to transform data into information, but the creation of these networks themselves is not trivial," she said.
"We see new technologies coming out every year. We're now seeing low power sensors and systems. Meanwhile, many companies are promoting the ultimate cloud platform.
"One thing that's clear is that it's not going to be a market dominated by one player, so interoperability is one of the barriers we need to focus on."
Nigel Abbott, director of sales engineering EMEA at GitHub, argued earlier at the conference that companies should automate certain activities to allow humans to focus on creativity. µ
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