The next year promises even better technological advancements. Read the complete interview to understand how AI, combined with IoT, will transform businesses in the future.
As an AI ML Company, we appreciate insights from other professionals in the field. In our quest to find other industry leaders and thinkers, we interviewed Mr. Anoop Balachandran – An AIoT expert working with several ventures to accelerate their automation journey, on his opinions of automation, AI, and IoT.
Our AI/ML Vertical Head, Anil Rana, conducted the interview. So, let's dive in.
Anil: Hello Anoop! It is a pleasure to get a chance to interview you. To start, can you give our viewers an introduction of yourself, what you do professionally, and your personal interests?
Anoop: Hello, it’s a pleasure to connect with you. I’m Anoop Balachandran - my friends & colleagues call me ABC - & I am the consulting & solutions head for Bosch Digital, caring for the North America region. I’m also on the advisory board for a few product companies that keep me abreast of the changing realities of different industries & geographies.
What I do professionally – Well, in simple terms, I help organizations achieve digital transformation by envisioning, designing & deploying AIoT solutions at the enterprise scale.
On the personal front, I love traveling & am a total foodie, which is a great combo when it comes to exploring new places. I also enjoy spending time on social causes, especially sustainable development, and children’s education.
Anil: Can you talk a bit more about your experience working as a digital transformation leader?
Anoop: Well, first of all, I’m lucky to be part of an organization that on one hand, consciously wants to instill intelligence into all its products & on the other, strives to make its manufacturing & logistics operations as much digital & sustainable as meaningful. Combine this to the fact that external businesses approach us to either solve complex technical problems or to scale new-age technologies into large business ecosystems. All this puts me bang in the middle of the most challenging business challenges - whether it is to orchestrate an intelligent “Product-As-A-Service” ecosystem or operationalize an autonomous factory site.
Secondly, the companies I’m an advisor to bring very different contexts and challenges, as their ecosystems are different from that of my own organization. And these are at varying degrees of digital maturity from total newbies to companies building some of the most advanced IoT devices in their respective Industries.
So, I guess you could say my experience is in having seen digital transformation through to its intended outcome at scale across multiple contexts.
Anil: The Internet of Things is a technology that recently came into the mainstream. Why do you think it took so long?
Anoop: Honestly, I don’t believe that the Internet of Things is anywhere near mainstream yet. In fact, some of the projects that I’m involved in will completely reshape the way we interact with “things” in our everyday life - from blenders to integrated smart homes and from simple power drills to autonomous oil rigs. You’ll see all of this in the next 5-10 years when IoT will be truly mainstream.
Now that’s a nice segue into the second part of your question… & to understand why it takes so long to truly implement IoT. We need to understand the 2 basic impacts IoT can have on traditional product mindset. One, we’re instilling intelligence into a historically dumb machine - which if you look at the big picture of its operating environment, is incredibly complex. Second, we’re disrupting the traditionally long design-to-launch cycle of products and even providing product upgrades over the air - much like how Musk has revolutionized a niche within the automotive industry. Doing both in parallel and in a sustainable manner takes time. However, we are reaching an inflection point in many industries & hence I’m very positive about the adoption of IoT we can see in this decade.
Anil: What is the scope of IoT in organizations? How far do you think this technology can take us?
Anoop: Let me take the second question first - AIoT (AI + IoT) can take us as far as creating a society of “things” with identities & capabilities very close to that of humans and existing collaboratively with humans. But it’s not practical for individual organizations to pursue a Spielberg-ish future.
So, here’s what I keep telling organizations I’m an advisor to: First, decide the vision for the business/operations function with clear outcomes to be achieved in a desirable period of time. After building out the context, consider different technology solutions as a tool to achieve the objective. The trick is to match the technology intervention to the outcome rather than the other way around to end up with over-engineered solutions.
Now, if you think of the first question in this light, organizations can leverage IoT to build products of the future, to orchestrate seamless customer experience, to make manufacturing & logistics processes more efficient & sustainable, to build out a digital enterprise backbone, etc. - as long as it contributes to a larger vision.
Anil: Is there a far-fetched application of IoT that will become a reality soon? If so, what is it?
Anoop: Many, in fact. As I was saying, you’ll see numerous great IoT products getting mainstream in the next few years. Personally, I’m working with sensor companies who will stop selling sensors & start selling insights-as-a-service, with appliance manufacturers who will make our home appliances personalized & interactive to each one of us, with airports & malls that will provide personalized guidance & offers to customers, with healthcare wearable manufacturers who are aiming to provide individualized health & nutrition eco-systems & with all sorts of companies aiming to be sustainable & climate-friendly While I’m not at liberty to divulge the details, there will be the clear impact of autonomous AIoT systems in the areas of automotive, healthcare, O&G, logistics, industrial manufacturing, smart cities/buildings, Product-As-A-Service, etc.
Anil: What, according to you, is the best application of Artificial Intelligence that you are currently utilizing in your organization?
Anoop: Well, there are numerous applications across sustainability, manufacturing, logistics traceability, etc., but my personal favorite is on the product space, specifically autonomous driving. The centralized vs distributed intelligence that enables autonomous driving & V2X interactions is honestly a very good template to be reused for multifarious industries.
However, I always believe that AI should be handled with care, especially when it comes to relinquishing control to machines. See, IoT is practically the first time we are relinquishing control of the intelligence behind operating the physical world to machines. So, it makes sense to think things through before we jump in.
Anil: Artificial Intelligence and IoT combination have several benefits. What do you think is one aspect that needs improvement in technology?
Anoop: Actually, I’ll go a step further and say that AI & IoT are complimentary tools in realizing a full-blown Outcome-As-A-Service ecosystem. You’ll notice I tend to use AIoT a lot in my conversations for precisely this reason - intelligence is the core of cyber-physical systems.
One aspect that needs improvement is the ability to realize distributed autonomous systems through high-end localized computing. Numerous companies like chip manufacturers and algo designers are working together with leading universities to get us to a point of orchestrating this Intelligence of Things mesh. However, all of this is too heterogeneous due to the lack of any standards. If in time, we can build a set of standards or at least protocols to seamlessly integrate multiple standards, the dream of distributed autonomous systems can finally be realized.
Anil: How can digital acceleration help businesses in improving their ROI?
Anoop: I don’t know how to answer this question; To me, it’s like asking how to swat flies with a sword - the answer is you shouldn’t
Digital acceleration can help businesses achieve sustainable processes, achieve unparalleled efficiencies, enhance customer experience multi-fold & unlock new streams of revenue. In such a scenario, the focus should be on the long-term Value Of Investment (VOI) rather than ROI.
Of course, you can always kick off small-scale projects using digital technologies like predictive maintenance or energy-saving initiatives, for which we have standard templates to ensure desired outcomes at short ROI timeframes.
Anil: According to you, what percentage of a company’s budget should go to innovation?
Anoop: That really depends on the industry, product category, growth plans, digital maturity, etc.
What I can say, though, is that in today’s age, innovation should not be restricted to a designated budget or group of people in a particular team. Future-oriented companies should be looking at co-innovation with varied players across the industry, incubation with universities & startups and even competition for achieving scale.
Anil: Finally, do you have any books or podcast recommendations for our viewers?
Anoop: Well, if you’re looking for technology futurists, Gerd Leonhard or Harold Sinnott have some interesting content. Personally, I’m more inclined to the thoughts of Malcolm Gladwell, Yuval Harari, Rolf Dobelli, Simon Sinek, etc., as I believe that if you need digital transformation to be effective, you need to understand people more than the technology itself.
Anil: Where can people go to find out more about you online?
Anoop: You can find my LinkedIn profile here- https://www.linkedin.com/in/anoopbalachandran/
Our Final Thoughts
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