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Media (R)evolutions: Ambient intelligence

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

Tech gurus have been discussing the growing presence of the Internet of Things, the wiring together of all our devices, as well as predicting how it might create “ambient intelligence”.  Ambient intelligence refers to electronic environments that are sensitive and responsive to the presence of people.  Within these environments, systems could sense what the human inhabitant needs and deliver it without being requested to do.  Ambient intelligence is the amalgamation of neural networks, big data, IoT, wearables, and device user interfaces into services that can automate processes and make recommendations to improve the users’ quality of life. 
A house could adjust its temperature based on behavioral and physiological data that the owner’s car collected during the commute home. A smartwatch may be a key to an office door, automatically unlocking the room as the wearer approaches. An at-home security system might learn what constitutes ‘normal’ activity and then send an alert to the owner when their dog needs to be let outside. At a grander scaled, sensors can now closely monitor the environmental impact of our cities, collecting details about sewers, air quality, and trash. 
Smart World Infographic

The applications for poverty reduction and the improvement of living standards are also numerous. In some developing countries, the poorest neighborhoods or towns pay much more for their utilities than middle or upper income areas.  Water, gas, and electricity costs can vary due to the higher cost of delivering utility services to poorer areas as a result of infrastructure inefficiencies, problems such as leaks, and theft.  In developing countries, about 45 million cubic meters of water are lost daily through leakage in the distribution networks—enough to serve nearly 200 million people.  Sensors and connected systems, will provide authorities with more information to identify and fix these problems, allowing utilities to operate more profitably and to communicate with consumers about infrastructure needs. More efficiency will also allow for lower prices, which, in turn, will encourage those taking services for free to become paying customers.
Similarly, the population of some countries is aging. Approximately 2 billion people will be aged 60 and older by 2050, according to the World Health Organization. The quality of life for the elderly could be significantly improved if they were to wear a small, wearable device that detects their vital signs and sends an alert to the healthcare system when a certain threshold is reached or sense when a person has fallen down and can’t get up.
Illegal logging and deforestation could benefit from sensors within forests.  Invisible Tracck is a small device covertly placed in trees in protected forest areas of Brazil to help prevent illegal logging. The devices, which are smaller than a deck of cards, alert authorities when illegally harvested trees pass within range of a mobile network. Law enforcement officials at Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente can then locate the production sites and stop illegal activity. Between 2000 and 2005, the Amazonian forests in Brazil lost an average of 3.46 million hectares of primary forest each year, and illegal deforestation has gone undetected because satellite range and radio frequencies are often weak in remote areas.
Infrastructure can also be monitored for safety risks. Wireless bridge sensors can monitor all aspects of a bridge’s health, such as vibration, pressure, humidity, and temperature. Jindo Bridge in South Korea was one of the world’s first fully-automated smart bridges with over 600 wireless sensors continuously monitoring the bridge’s structural health. Likewise, accelerometers and real-time data analysis can monitor the structural health of buildings in earthquake prone regions. Sensors detect the degree of the building’s movement, the speed that seismic waves travel through the building, and how the frame of the building changes. Software then analyzes the data to determine the building’s structural health immediately.

The Internet of Things and the ambient intelligence it generates can solve many problems by getting the right information to the right place at the right time, whether it is detecting leaks in plumbing systems or monitoring illegal-logging in Brazil. Yes, it’s true that data flows can be impeded by a lack of network connectivity, technical standards, or intellectual property rights to share data. It’s also true that making ambient intelligence a reality will cost billions of dollars in investments.  However, the potential benefits are huge—both in terms of improved living standards and in cost savings through greater efficiency.

Growth in ambient technologies is expected to rise, with over 8 billion ambient intelligence related application downloads primarily focused on personal assistant, social, health or fitness, augmented reality, and local search or discovery applications expected in 2020.

Ambient Intelligence Is the Next Big Leap in Smartphone Applications

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Smart World infographic by Libelium
Ambient Intelligence Smartphone Applications infographic by ABI Research


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