Rapid advances in mobile connectivity and artificial intelligence are bringing about a step change in automation that is transforming both individual organisations and entire industries.
The widespread usage of smartphones and the expanding Internet of Things are enabling computer scientists to capture and analyse vast amounts of information that can be used to train machines. Software can sift through these massive data samples, drawing on the extraordinary computational power now available in the cloud, and gradually identify patterns and develop new algorithms that can be used to make everything from household appliances to industrial equipment smarter and more self-sufficient.
For example, automakers are using wireless connectivity to capture and analyse enormous amounts of data about how human drivers handle cars when confronted with specific road layouts, weather conditions, traffic and accidents. The data collected by connected cars might show the majority of people drive significantly below the speed limit in wet weather on rural roads. Once it has detected that pattern, a self-driving car system would mimic this behaviour, slowing down as soon as its sensors detect wet tarmac. By learning from such examples, the computer is essentially writing its own software.
With the advent of 5G services in 2020, the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence will develop faster still, potentially delivering widespread socio-economic benefits in Europe and beyond.
But a number of cultural and political barriers could hold back the digital transformation of Europe. Policymakers and citizens alike fret about computers taking over people’s jobs and fuelling even greater inequality between the digital haves and have-nots. Equally, there are legitimate concerns about what all this real world data mining means for personal privacy and security.
With digital technologies evolving so fast, now is the time for policymakers, academics, business leaders and other stakeholders to come together to determine how to harness this highly potent technology for the greater good.