The impact on healthcare will be similarly huge. “Healthcare will be personalized and people will be advised in detail as to how to look after themselves,” Davies adds. “AI doctors will be able to diagnose, prescribe, and treat common conditions without consulting a human physician. Already, AI is monitoring glucose levels and suggesting doses of medication to diabetic patients with insulin pumps, and AI tests for other types of illnesses that are coming online. Also, in the very near future, AI will be common in health centers to improve the diagnosis of MRIs, mammograms, x-rays, (and) cancers.”
Whit Andrews, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, says automation is changing industries by allowing organizations to increase the scale of what they can accomplish. The technology also extends humans’ ability beyond their traditional limitations. “When you are effectively automating your processes, you’re now capable of doing more with fewer people, more with less resources, and it may open up new opportunities for you that previously have not existed,” Andrews says. “(When) you talk about any kind of artificial intelligence or robotic technology, what’s fun is you can do something in a tireless way. You have the same level of ability to do an evaluation the thousandth time as you do the first time.”
The industries that are addressing automation and AI most ardently are often the ones with the greatest amount of data, Andrews suggests, and this list includes financial services, as well as manufacturing, retail, healthcare, and higher education. Chris Roberts, associate director at Cambridge Consultants, says AI and autonomy in agritech is also an exciting realm right now.
“For me, the most exciting thing is that a lot of individual technologies are coming together to enable more tasks to be automated across many different industries,” Roberts says. “It’s one of the secrets of robotics—although robots have been in use for decades, most robots are actually pretty dumb. It’s only in the last few years as they’ve been combined with tech like machine vision and artificial intelligence that they’ve been able to access a whole new set of semi-structured tasks, where the objects they’re handling or the effects they need to achieve vary from time to time. In agritech, for example, farming has been automated for centuries, and while you get to combine harvesters for row crops, every whole apple you eat has still been picked by hand. Right now we’re seeing that starting to change.”
In agriculture, drones can help monitor large crop fields relatively cheaply, and robots with computer vision can help diagnose crop diseases or even pick crops like berries that traditionally needed a human’s touch. Cambridge Consultants has been working on projects in autonomy in agritech and fruit and vegetable handling, for instance, by designing Mamut, an autonomous robot that captures data about crop fields and individual plants, as well as an actuator that can replicate a human’s grip on a piece of fruit, thereby opening the door for robots to pick delicate produce without crushing or damaging it.