Talking with objects and the future of IoT
The world is brimming with disruptive technology right now – particularly in the communication sector. Things like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the internet of things have transformed the way that we talk both to each other, and the objects all around us in our day-to-day lives.
Companies like Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, a leader in innovative communication services, believe that these new and exciting technologies have a lot to offer the business world of the future, for verticals all the way from healthcare to hospitality. To learn a little more about the nature of IoT and communicating with robots, we caught up with Xavier Martin, the Vice President of Market Development for the Communications Business division of ALE.
Alcatel-Lucent is exploring the Internet of Things from the perspective of something called “object driven communications.” I was interested to find out what this term means to ALE. “Essentially, it means enabling communications through objects. Today, there are more than 23 billion devices connected to the internet, and most experts agree that the number will reach around 75 billion by 2025.”
Xavier told me that there are more connected devices in the world today than people, and even if you just look at things from a fundamental mathematical perspective, it’s pretty clear that the future of communications won’t necessarily just be between people, but also between computers and devices too. Everything from fridges to cameras, and countless other items can now be digitally connected.
“The concept of object driven communications is opening new opportunities for us.”
“We used to limit conversations to connections between people, but if we can connect with devices too, then we have access to a range of new capabilities that we could never have accessed before.”
I asked Xavier how this concept of object driven communications connects with the communications sector on a deeper level. He told me that one thing we need to remember is that just because objects are connected to the internet doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re intelligent enough to make decisions based on the information they collect.
“This is why the connected objects and devices in the world today need to be complemented by a platform that makes sure all of the right information is relayed to the right people at the right moments. Platforms like CPaaS solutions offer that.”
“Ultimately, connected objects are just a small part of the conversation. When the system needs to make a decision, it connects to the CPaaS platform to do so.”
Essentially, the object-driven communication pathway is a series of events. First, a sensor collects information and sends it through to a CPaaS platform; then the platform can assess that data and communicate it to a person, perhaps through an SMS message. The CPaaS system could also send information directly to another device. For instance, if a sensor learns that a guest’s room in a hotel isn’t warm enough, it could carry that data to the CPaaS system, which then tells the heating system to turn up a few notches.
In ALE’s perspective, the connected devices all over the world today are just the endpoints of the conversations we have with objects. The CPaaS system, on the other hand, acts as a digital hub that connects everything you can imagine, from people and objects to applications. For instance, in the healthcare sector, the CPaaS technology can integrate with on-site hospital equipment to help with managing critical real-time communications to doctors and nurses.
In the same environment, the CPaaS platform can provide video services so that doctors can check up on their patients when they go home or remind patients to take their medications. When a communications platform is integrated at the core of the IoT environment, it unlocks the real power of conversations between people and objects. Achieving the same kind of productivity with an on-premise service would require a tremendous amount of investment, and it wouldn’t allow for communications outside of the business environment.
Both IoT and AI are trending topics in the communications environment right now. I was interested to find out what could be accomplished with IoT when artificial intelligence enters the fold. Xavier told me that AI has multiple applications within the object-driven communications landscape.
“For example, in a facial recognition camera, the software in that camera can be trained to recognise a person by sending frames to a piece of software. If the frames match, the software sends information to the CPaaS platform asking it to conduct a specific action.”With artificial intelligence, the technology can also continue to learn daily, becoming more efficient as time goes on. “Another example is in the case of a chemical attack; a sensor could pick up on the presence of chemicals in the atmosphere and compare that to previous algorithms for signs of danger, then take the appropriate measures through the CPaaS system.”
There’s clearly a lot of opportunity in the IoT world. I asked Xavier how he would recommend that businesses approach these technologies in the right way.
“I think that these technologies can be used in one of two ways. The first option is to use them as a way of guiding companies through their first steps in digital transformation. The second option is to make sure that companies have the technology to keep people safe and assets protected.”
Xavier thinks that companies need to start by deciding which categories they’re in, then think about how they can connect the objects in their infrastructure to deliver benefits. “There’s no need for anything extremely complex. You can simply connect mobiles to your CPaaS system, or radio-frequency devices. My advice is to take baby steps and focus on the value you can get from your existing connected objects.”