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Back in 2017, Gartner reported less than 10% of enterprise Internet of Things (IoT) projects involved an artificial intelligence (AI) component. At the same time, they also predicted that this percentage would leap to over 80% by 2022. Today, industries are so frequently using these technologies in tandem that some people are asking a somewhat contrarian question, “Can you have IoT without AI?”

At a time when technology is growing at a rate of knots, AI is being used to reshape business processes across industries. Companies are actively implementing it in critical areas like finance, operations and customer service.

AI enables businesses to make giant strides in capacity and efficiency. It can take on dense and monotonous tasks to shift your workforce's focus on innovation and growth. It also provides customers with faster, more convenient services. Additionally, it helps businesses gain capabilities that are entirely new and completely beyond human reach.

Hidden among the many ways AI is being used are physical devices which can collect and deliver essential data that drives AI capabilities. These connected devices are part of the Internet of Things and are known as IoT devices. They range from sensors to cameras to drones.  

IoT devices can independently collect valuable data, disperse/communicate that data to/among other connected devices, and deliver it to users for analysis. For instance, a wearable IoT device could send you data on your body temperature and heart rate so you easily monitor and manage your health. An IoT sensor on a vehicle can collect your mileage data and track your route. Since these devices are connected to the internet, data is readily available through apps and dashboards for user access and analysis.

AI + IoT

When powered with AI, IoT devices become smarter and more independent. These devices are imbued with the ability and intelligence to use the received data and make suitable suggestions or undertake commensurate actions.

As companies and individuals realize the value of near-instant responses, there is a rise in the need and urgency for new-age capabilities. These responses could be as subtle as a thermostat adjusting by 1 degree as a room crowds, or as dramatic as a smart vehicle braking when it detects an object on the road.

According to Forbes, this Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT) and the ability to implement Intelligent Automation are so impactful that they’re driving an entirely new phase of disruption in business and tech.

AIoT applications across industries

Here are some of the most powerful ways businesses, governments and organizations are implementing AIoT technology today:

Traffic

Sensors and devices are being used to manage traffic in connected 'smart cities.'

  • In some cases, they can assess traffic volume and direct devices like traffic lights to adjust for better flow immediately.
  • AI can then learn which times of day are busier and create traffic patterns to improve flow at those times.
  • Additionally, the AI can learn to detect traffic violations, accidents and emergency vehicles.

Environment

Smart technology can be used throughout city infrastructure to monitor and improve air quality, energy efficiency and water consumption.

  • IoT devices connected with AI can gather data and learn how the city operates and measures these categories.
  • AI can then suggest what will improve these measurements, alert utilities to unusual spikes in usage, and use intelligence to manage things like streetlights automatically.
  • Sometimes, AI is even capable of determining where air quality is lowest in a city and predicting upcoming surges in pollution.

According to McKinsey, “in many parts of the developing world, the biggest source of water waste is leakage from pipes. Deploying sensors and analytics can cut those losses by up to 25 percent.”

Office

AIoT has many uses in office buildings. One such common use is to manage temperature and energy consumption.

  • Sensors and AI can automatically adjust temperature as needed. Also, AI can learn patterns within the building to make predictive adjustments.
  • It can do the same with energy to automatically reduce the usage when the building is empty and manage energy consumption throughout the day.
  • AI and IoT can be helpful in office settings with cameras and facial recognition technology.
  • A few companies are already using this as their security measure for building access, while a few others use it for time and attendance tracking.

Production

IoT and AI have been advantageous for production. Manufacturers have, therefore, eagerly adopted and deployed these technologies with great success.

  • Sensors can monitor the condition of production equipment and other assets, detect future maintenance needs, and suggest or perform predictive maintenance according to equipment data.
  • Digital twins can be used to monitor, understand and manage the factory environment. They can even simulate production to help with process optimization.
  • Collaborative robots can assist on factory floors and in inventory processes.
  • IoT sensors with AI can go beyond tracking items through your supply chain to learning patterns and recognizing deviations and irregularities (ex: rising temperature, falling humidity levels) to help with quality control.

Transportation

These technologies can be used in both commercial and private vehicles.

  • IoT and AI can collect past and current data to make determinations about routing at the moment.
  • AI can learn from this data to create better routes moving forward.
  • Since AIoT can track vehicle performance and suggest maintenance like it does with production equipment, it can be useful for fleet management.
  • Furthermore, sensors can flag irregularities in vehicle operations that may indicate poor driver safety practices. Some car insurance companies use these devices as incentives, offering discounts to safe drivers.

Retail

The use cases for AIoT in retail are numerous, spanning from distribution centers directly to the stores themselves.

  • In the stores, cameras and other devices can monitor customer reactions and behavior. AI can even determine demographics and preferences.
  • With this data, AI can send individuals customized offers while they’re in the store. For instance, a retail business might design its connected store so that customers in their shoe section receive shoe-specific discount codes on their phones then and there.

Along the supply chain, retailers can use this technology to understand conditions, locations and anomalies in a product’s journey. Having such data can help retailers identify issues such as conditions that might’ve damaged their merchandise.

Learn more: Using IoT in retail to improve customer experience

What is Azure IoT?

Azure IoT is Microsoft’s platform for developing IoT applications and managing your IoT network. Within it, there are various IoT solutions including Azure IoT Edge, Azure Digital Twins and Azure Maps. The platform can be customized to meet the needs of practically any industry. Microsoft is constantly innovating in this category and offering new capabilities.

Columbus can help you discover the right mix of Azure IoT products to bring your company goals to fruition. To explore Azure IoT’s capabilities, select your industry below. If you don’t see your industry, explore Azure IoT Central, and learn how you can customize the platform to fit your operations.

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