Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Saturday, June 12, 2021

Smart Cities Fend off AI Winter 

With all the breakthroughs in AI in recent years, it’s hard to fathom why an AI Winter would happen. But it’s actually a matter of debate at the moment, with many sounding like the Starks of Winterfell in their certainty that winter is indeed coming.

For example, noted AI Scientist Filip Piekniewski believes another winter is not only inevitable but already in its early stages. His rationale includes a decline in social media content about deep learning and AI, as well as the tragic accident involving an AI-controlled self-driving car that killed a pedestrian in Arizona last year. These and other metrics can be analyzed at his blog.

How Smart Cities are Holding Off Winter

Regardless of public opinion about AI, it’s winning a series of key battles that are solving real-world problems exemplified most notably in smart cities embracing cutting-edge applications of the technology.

Take the city of Messina, Italy, one of the first to fully embrace AI-driven elements of smart tech. Magnetic sensors have been placed all over the city that inform citizens how many parking spaces are open and where they are. Taxis are connected to a grid to inform people of their location and availability. The cabs even have sensors that detect potholes automatically so drivers can avoid them and the city knows where to fix them.

Another practical application that Messina and other locations are using is AI cameras and surveillance software. They are not only good for home use (your living room camera can recognize family members and not set off an alarm), but also for city-wide surveillance. These devices allow police and other city officials to view any segment of video and apply filters to find precisely what they are looking for. Example: a witness claims a red truck was seen fleeing the scene of a crime. Officials can review the footage from an hour before or an hour after the incident, from a particular pre-determined radius, and traveling at a certain amount of speed. AI could cut down all those hours of footage from all the various cameras in the area to just a few minutes of video that fit their parameters to significantly reduce investigation times.

What the Future Holds

Messina has adopted many more uses of AI that have positive, noted impacts on the people who live and visit there, and more cities are following suit. And thanks to advances in other areas of technology, AI is poised for a bright future.

As the 5G rollout makes progress, devices will connect with each other and to a centralized location faster than ever in urban areas. Rural areas in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world are increasingly gaining access to high-speed Internet. And in both rural and urban areas, connected devices that make up the Internet of Things (IoT) are continuing to experience incredible growth, with Cisco predicting that these types of machine-to-machine (M2M) connections will represent half of the 28.5 billion connected devices in 2022.

The advances and improvements in AI and deep learning, combined with the growth in connection speed and connected devices, all but ensure that more cities will follow the path Messina and other cities have laid out. As more and more cities embrace AI to improve efficiency (smart parking meters, AI-powered streetlights and improvements to overall citizen safety), we look to be a long way from AI Winter.

Marty Puranik is founder and CEO of Atlantic.Net, a secure hosting solutions provider with data centers in in New York, London, Toronto, San Francisco, Dallas, Ashburn, VA, and Orlando.

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