Flying Taxis? The future looks smart with the Internet of Things

The Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are the latest buzzwords in IT, but their potential impact on our life and our careers is huge. The rise of ‘smart’ infrastructure in our homes, workplaces, and cities is undeniable, but what do these buzz words actually mean and what difference will they make to the future of IT careers?

Dallas-Fort Worth is high on Uber’s list to host flying ride-share vehicles within the next ten years. The exact form of these flying taxis is yet unknown but, while they are expected to be piloted initially, eventually they will become driverless.

Dallas-Fort Worth is already airplane-friendly with a strong history of aviation and is one of the biggest urban centers in the U.S. According to Dallas Mayor Michael S. Rawlings, the area is experiencing “tremendous growth, so it’s going to need innovative transportation answers”. This includes exploring high-speed rail and, apparently, flying taxis. Uber has already struck a deal with a local real estate in Dallas to provide space for infrastructure that will be required to jump on a flying taxi when you need it.

The consideration of DFW for the trial shows the opportunities for our area to become a truly ‘smart city’. But what exactly does this have to do with the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning?

Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things focuses on the connection of appliances to the internet and each other. And we’re not talking about devices you’d expect to be connected to the internet such as computers, phones, and tablets. Instead, refrigerators, thermostats, locks, security systems, door bells, power outlets, garage doors, even toys! IoT heralds the rise of the smart environments, homes, cars, cities and what we wear; where the infrastructure of the world around us is itself programmable.  

The IoT industry is experiencing unstoppable growth, with revenues expected to reach trillions of dollars over the next five years. Currently there around 7 billion IoT devices globally and this is tipped to quadruple (at least) in the same time period. Cisco predicts that the global average of IoT devices per person will reach 3.4 per person by 2020.

Freeware like IFTTT provides a way for individuals to program certain actions on their smartphone or computer, to create a reaction within their home or vice versa. But the next step is for the IoT to be able to learn and implement these processes themselves at appropriate times and situations. This is where Artificial Intelligence comes in.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

While IoT is the technology and infrastructure, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is what makes it work intuitively. AI is when machines can mimic rational and intelligent human behavior and make decisions based on past experiences.

Individual IoT devices can be programmed with a fixed set of commands, but AI ensures the technology can adapt to the environment, situations, voice commands and more to make rational decisions.  It is the idea that we can leave machines to carry out tasks for themselves.

Forget ‘OK Google’, Siri, and humanoid robots, the current trend in AI is making the IoT work easily for the consumer. Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit are all examples of Artificial Intelligence systems being used to control the IoT.

Machine Learning (ML)

For AI and the IoT to work smoothly, machines and devices need to be able to learn more than they were initially, explicitly programmed to do. Machine Learning (ML) is a current method used by developers to create AI. Instead of just providing devices, computers or programs with all the information they need to work, with ML the technology is instead programmed to learn ‘on-the-job’.

ML is technology that you probably use every day without realizing it. When we search on internet browsers and use our smartphones, the devices and software are learning our regular actions and personal preferences in order to improve our experience and provide services tailored to our individual needs. This is how Facebook, Netflix, Amazon and many others are able to provide recommendations for other products based on previous purchases and your obvious habits.

Flying taxis?

Uber’s plans for airspace ridesharing shows the innovative ways the IoT can be used. We are becoming accustomed to ordering food, goods, and services through apps and the internet, and ordering a private aircraft is just the next step. Already these technologies use ML to predict what we want based on our prior choices and habits.

As innovation occurs and AI gets to the point where a human pilot or driver is no longer necessary in a vehicle, a major change in consumer behavior and a significant reduction in costs will occur. But how can you take advantage of these changes without having your job supplanted by technology?

Taking advantage of the IoT revolution

While IoT application currently seems never-ending, the real struggle is finding talent that can design, build, and supervise the application of AI and ML. It’s not so much a matter of having all the skills necessary; instead, it is more about the willingness to undertake lifelong learning to keep up with a rapidly changing industry.

Problem-solving, flexibility, teamwork are all necessary skills for successful implementation of IoT innovations. In order to be adaptable to any technology and situation, it is important to have knowledge of all operating systems on the market, including Linux, Windows and iOS. The IoT utilizes a variety of different connections, mobile devices, appliances, and data transfer systems, so you need to have a broad foundation of knowledge.

If you want to take your IT career further, a willingness to learn a range of competing technology will ensure you have the flexibility employers are demanding. There is no doubt that technology we use today will be obsolete within a few years. The rapid development of improved systems means that potential candidates must display a willingness to keep up with these advancements and complete new certifications as they become available.

For up-to-date information to be available to all devices, appliances, and infrastructure, the IoT relies heavily on cloud technology. The cloud is increasingly becoming the preferred method of resource and data sharing, a trend that will only continue to be developed. Networking skills and an understanding of Cisco’s infrastructure technology are essential to ensuring the IoT works smoothly across environments.

Cloud, network, device and physical security are all important considerations when personal data and important infrastructure are concerned, as they are with the IoT. Over the next year, a growth in demand of 194% is expected for candidates with network security skills.
Flying cars, thinking appliances, and automated infrastructure are no longer simply fuel for futuristic science fiction. A connected future is here, and we’ll need the right skills if we don’t want to be left behind.