Bill Gates last month’s suggestion to tax for robots that get human jobs, impressed several people and shocked some. Right or wrong, this proposal comes at a time when robots and artificial intelligence (AI) are destined to increase automation and productivity of business processes in both industrial and consumer applications. Robots have already proved to be more efficient than humans in several laborious tasks in warehouses, farms, battlefields and other settings. Moreover, they can perform tasks that are hardly possible by humans, such as executing safety missions after large scale flood or earthquake incidents.
Robots are seen as the most representative example of this wave of smart objects which promise to push human and business productivity to the next level, while at the same time changing the ways we work and live. Smart machines, intelligent workbenches, cognitive drones, smart wearables are only few examples of smart objects which will not only be deployed in plants, offices, buildings and our homes, but also in a wide range of other outdoor settings. In principle, a smart object is a machine that is able to perceive the surrounding environment and accordingly reason over it as a means of completing some task. Therefore, smart objects are characterized by some autonomy, which enables them to take decisions about their task without a need to interact with some centralized IT system (e.g., a computing cloud). In several cases, smart objects come with internet-connectivity, which gives rise to their classification as internet-connected objects and their deployment in internet-of-things (IoT) applications. Likewise, smart objects feature in most cases some advanced data analytics capabilities (e.g. ability to discover and interpret complex patterns based on machine or deep learning) which also classifies them as AI devices.
Smart objects introduce a paradigm shift in the applications and processes where they are deployed. This is the reason why their deployment faces technological, regulatory and socio-economic barriers. In particular:
Smart objects are our gateway to the era of elevated productivity. Technology professionals must soon get prepared for building and deploying them, while businesses must start embracing them in their strategies.
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