William Gibson once famously said,"The
future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed." After recently visiting GITEX Technology Week
2016, I came away feeling that Gibson is absolutely correct. Here the ‘future’ was palpable and
concentrated in GITEX like no other place I had visited in the recent
objective of my Dubai visit was to exchange ideas related to smart buildings,
venues and cities with our customers.
However, it was hard not to feel part of something bigger – nearly 150,000
tech leaders, investors, entrepreneurs, government officials, amongst many
other first timers, had come to the region’s largest technology conference to
re-imagine the future of reality.
This was my
first visit and I had initially no idea what to expect. After 2 days of
wandering around the Dubai World Trade Center, there was an overwhelming sense
of excitement. The conference buzz
around smart cities, artificial intelligence/augmented reality (AI/AR) and
drones really brought the future to life.
In the huge
exhibition space of a Middle-East based telecommunication service provider, I noticed
a crowd gathered around one particular area.
I could see the attraction was a human sized robot that appeared to be
moving. “Nothing new in that,” I thought
as I got closer. However, as I approached to within one meter, the robot slowly
turned towards me, looked me up and down and then it said, "Hello, Ispran Kandasamy." Taken aback, I smiled and responded
nonchalantly with a "Hello." It then
continued with, "You have a lovely smile Ispran
– can I call you Ispran?" From there, the robot proceeded to have a
perfectly normal conversation before bidding me farewell with a politely extended robotic hand. I stood there for
about 30 seconds, with my mouth wide open, trying to understand what had just
hindsight, this could all be explained. The robot knew my name by either reading my exhibition badge using
Optical Character Recognition or scanning the badge barcode. Image processing software helped it recognize
my smile and the hand shake resulted from robot pneumatics combined with image
processing. The "normal" conversation was
the output of simple Artificial Intelligence routines.
these technologies are all well-established in their own right, but it’s the
speed of technology convergence within the robot that is mind-boggling. As my
colleague said to me afterwards, if this exists now just imagine how much more
advanced they will be within a few years.
to the domain of the robot, we’re experiencing rapid convergence in buildings
as the Internet of Things phenomenon drives different devices and applications
within the building. If you add to this the growing expectation that people
should always be able to connect wherever they are in any building environment,
then convergence is critical for success. Drawing a parallel to the robot, the "magic" is in how the software and hardware combine and the enabler is a common
wired and wireless physical infrastructure. The question is no longer whether a
building is smart or not – it is a question of how smart your building is – and "dumb" buildings, like dumb robots will not survive long in the landscape of
the future. However, I do have one regret about my "robotic" experience – I
forgot to ask its name.