The differences between robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) will become less important as time passes. Soon, it will only be a sematic distinction: The more sophisticated tools will be driven by AI and machine learning. Mobility will be an as-needed feature.
The latest evidence that robotics is growing quickly was contained in a report released last week by Berg Insight. The company found that there was an installed base of 29.6 million service robots at the end of last year. The sector was dominated by floor cleaning robots, which accounted for 23.8 million robots. The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and lawn mower segments had 4 million and 1.6 million units, respectively. The number of service robots is expected to reach 264.3 million by 2026, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24 percent.
The commentary from Berg suggests that the growth won’t all be at the low level. While there certainly will be increase in robots capable of tasks such as mowing lawns and brainlessly vacuuming, the piece suggests that robots will also get smarter. That’s happening already, and seems likely to expand significantly. The post quotes Berg IoT Analyst Egil Edvardsen:
In a not too distant future, we can expect domestic robots of even higher sophistication and capability, such as assistive robots for supporting the elderly, for helping with additional household chores and for entertainment and education.”
Edvardsen didn’t mention telecommunications as an area that will be greatly affected by robotics, but it clearly is the case. At these higher levels of functionality, the distinction between artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics will fade. All advanced functioning devices will have AI elements. A subset will need to move a bit or have parts that move.
The growth of robotics will be synergistic with AI. A CB Insights report released last week suggests that we are the precipice of great change. Machines will be able to learn and adjust their behavior accordingly. Higher-level devices – robotic surgeons and even lawyers – will become common. In all, the report found, 10 million jobs will be in danger of changing. The great unknown now is whether the workers freed up by robots will be put to work in creative jobs, or whether even those jobs will be done by AI-driven robots:
Retraining employees is a recurring theme. But with AI software now beginning to automate even white-collar jobs, it remains to be seen how many new jobs will be created, what they will be, and whether those who lose positions due to automation will be able to fill these new roles.
The effect on Wall Street will be great as well. It should be noted that there are similarities to telecom in terms of the need for split-second decisions. Bloomberg Businessweek last month suggested that AI will reorder the industry:
Management consultant Opimas LLC predicts 90,000 people in asset management (or 30 percent of those workers) will be replaced by machines by 2025, along with 45,000 jobs in sales and trading, which would amount to a 15 percent reduction. The overall reduction in headcount will be about 230,000 people, or 18 percent, Opimas says. About four of every five Wall Street firms have already implemented, or plan to use, some form of AI, according to Greenwich Associates.
IT and telecommunications are not exempt from these changes. For instance, Colt will use AI for networking for network management and Ericsson is using automation as one way to try to fight through financial difficulties.
AI and robotics are deeply entwined. Increasingly, the differences will disappear. The reality is that a powerful new set of tools will mimic – and in many cases surpass – humans. Some will move and some won’t.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at [email protected] and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.