Father of IoT predicts rapid advances in driverless cars by 2020
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Kevin Ashton coined the term 'Internet of Things' in 1999 (Image: Kevin Ashton)

Father of IoT predicts rapid advances in driverless cars by 2020

Kevin Ashton outlines advances IoT could see in next four years

The man who coined the term Internet of Things reckons that the industry will see rapid advances in sensor controlled autonomous systems, such as driverless cars within the next four years.

In an interview published by UK government-backed organisation IoTUK, Kevin Ashton said that by 2020 there would be a lot of changes to IoT, but in such a short time, many of them will be linear steps from where we are today.

“We’ll see some fairly rapid advances in sensor controlled autonomous systems, particularly in things like self-driving cars, self-flying drones, and so on,” he said.

“Some of the most interesting applications at the moment include self-driving cars (and other vehicles, like buses, trucks, and vehicles for industrial use), tools for managing our consumption of resources like electricity and water, and systems that manage product life-cycles, all the way from manufacturing and distribution to field-service and disposal,” said the IoT guru.

He added that camera and video systems would have very sophisticated image recognition “possibly to the point where they can take pictures themselves”.

Ashton added that a lot more services and apps like Uber that deliver greater efficiency and value would be able to take full advantage of internet connected sensors in smartphones. He also foresaw a lot more contactless and biometric systems for payment, transit, border control as well as aa growing trend towards virtual reality headsets in video games, other entertainment, and possibly education and training.

But he warned that innovation would be limited by “vested interests, ego, and bias”.

“Few organisations are even remotely meritocratic: they pretend to be, but promotion and power is really distributed based on prejudice and privilege. That includes governments, educational institutions, and banks, as well as corporations. This is why, almost everywhere you look, you see a fairly homogenous group of middle-aged white men in charge of everything, despite the fact we have a diverse society,” he said.

“We need to abandon privilege and embrace equality to speed up innovation in general, not just in the Internet of Things. Meritocracy, where the best people and the best ideas win, no matter what their race, gender, sexuality, age, or background, is the fastest path to innovation.”

Ricky Cooper, vice president EMEA & APAC of Digital Realty, told Internet of Business that a robust technology infrastructure will need to underpin the cars of the future if they are to succeed.

“The large amount of data that will be produced will need to be processed, managed, and stored. It is up to the automotive, software, and data centre industries to work together and create “digital centre” ecosystems so the services of connected car services are delivered, from speed alerts to in-car entertainment,” he said.

Jonathan Hewett, head of strategy at Octo Telematics, told Internet of Business that progress toward self-driving cars is already well underway.

“We already have many of the features in existing car models, such as parallel parking and lane change assistance, rear cameras, sensors, automatic braking and most recently, Tesla’s ‘autopilot’ feature,” he said.

These are all early stages in the evolution of the self-driving car which will be on our streets before too long. The challenge for the telematics industry is to find comprehensive, forward-looking solutions to the thorniest issues such as decision-based ethics, privacy, regulation and security.

Valerie Riffaud-Cangelosi, new markets development manager at Epson, told Internet of Business that over the next four years IoT will also help to drive greater and more thoughtful interactions between humans and machines.

“When the intelligence generated by IoT systems and networks is integrated with wearables that support augmented reality, that same technology has the potential to create a workforce of ‘smart humans’. It will enable them to solve problems, simplify jobs and use real-time information on the go.