This is real and it’s happening right now.
If you’re in the technology business like me, you’re hopefully having a lot of fun. As a part of my job, I get to help entrepreneurs and technologists accomplish their dreams of building and releasing great technology into the world.
Technology is so integrated into our lives nowadays that most of us don’t even see our phones as technology anymore. It’s just a familiar tool that we take for granted and expect to be available when we need one of the dozen apps we use the most.
But think about how much has gone into getting to this point. The incredibly powerful device sitting in your hand is the result of technology that stands on the shoulders of gigantic progress. One hundred years ago folks would have thought it impossible—or sorcery—to speak face-to-face with someone over long distances. Or know what the weather is like right now in Rio. Or plan your driving route around current traffic conditions.
The exciting thing is that you really cannot halt progress. More technology is coming down the pipeline that will continue to make our lives easier (or more complicated, but that’s another story).
There’s been a lot of talk about Internet of Things, or IoT, which has taken our connectivity to information to the next level. With things like cameras in your home or sensors in your car, we are seeing this technology explode.
When you broaden your thinking about these sensors and devices, you realize they could be anywhere: monitoring the strength of a bridge, or the seismic activity at a mine. They may be remote, like the middle of the ocean or a desert, without a simple plug to the internet.
Recently I was talking with a company called Kepler and they are solving this remote problem by deploying numerous nano-satellites into Earth’s low orbit and connecting the ground devices or sensors to the internet using common cellphone 3G and LTE technology. Satellites aren’t new, but what is awesome is the more satellites that are in space, the more capability they have for service delivery, and the more sensors we can have to improve our lives.
Finally, we will have a fully connected earth—no excuses.
Mainstream image recognition
Amazon, likely the most innovative company on the planet (full disclosure: I’m the cofounder of an AWS partner in Canada), is following up the Echo’s Alexa with a companion technology called Rekognition. It recognizes images and tells you what’s in those images. For example, matching faces to names, or if there’s a cat in the picture and what it’s playing with.
This technology has been around for a while, in many shapes and forms. However, what makes Rekognition revolutionary is that Amazon Web Services have offered it as a service to any developer who wants to build an application against it. So, it’s a platform open to the world, and it’s backed by Amazon’s scale which means you can use it for 10 images or 10 billion images.
Rekognition is already being used on CSPAN’s site, for example, where you can now search for any footage of US politicians back to when they started recording video. This entire archive of footage was scanned in less than three hours and has every politician’s face labeled for your search. The same service is also available for celebrities, so restaurant owners (for example) can install a camera programmed to “Rekognize” any celebrities who walk in.
This technology is available to any programmer or company which means that all of us will be soon identifiable wherever we go.
Walk into a store and staff will be able to call you by name, know who you are and what you like, whether you’ve shopped there before, and more. While this is great for retailers and customer experience, many people will feel an invasion of privacy.
This is real and it’s happening right now.
All of those machines and IoT devices out there produce information logs about what they’re monitoring or how they’re behaving. These logs are essential to understand what is going on—but it’s impossible for a human to analyse such a huge amount of streaming data.
Take a jet engine, for example. You’re at 36,000 feet and cruising along, trusting that the engine is being monitored and maintained to the highest standard.
Imagine the complexity of a jet engine and the huge amounts of data logs those engines spit out. What if we could monitor them in real time, in-flight, and relay that data to the Cloud for analysis and back to the pilot for current information?
Today those logs are recorded and analyzed after the fact, which helps with maintenance but with real-time monitoring, any need for repairs or maintenance would be raised much earlier than the regular service calls, making flight exponentially safer.
A company called Bit Stew has created technology to analyze industrial logs in real time. They’ve done such a great job that GE recently acquired them as part of GE Digital. This amazing technology platform can take in many forms of industrial logs for myriad devices and without much effort, it converts into useful real time information.
It allows you to do things at scale you couldn’t before, like deploy millions of smart devices on the power grid to make sure people are getting power to their homes. Or in the case of emergencies, being able to predict where and when things will fail.
All three of these emerging technologies capture and process vast amounts of data. Underlying this Big Data processing is artificial intelligence, which makes more sense of the data than a human could—especially in real time. We’re on the cusp of a massive wave of AI or machine learning pushing technology into these contexts.