The buzz of smart machines
Autonomous machines with the power to self-determine their actions are the stuff of nightmarish sci-fi. However, there is a significant buzz around smart machines, robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) at the moment. And with good reason – big progress has been made in recent years. Whilst you may wonder what this has to do with your multichannel business, smart machines and AI are making their way to a warehouse near you!
For some, the term ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicle’ (UAV) or ‘drone’ used to mean remotely-piloted military surveillance and attack aircraft. With the coming of cheap radio-controlled 4 rotor copters, and the intention of Amazon to ultimately test similarly designed unpiloted delivery drones, our ideas of what drones may be capable of has shifted.
However, a drone that delivers a parcel by flying from A to B by using GPS data and navigating obstacles without being a hazard is one thing. A truly autonomous machine with the ability to make decisions outside of the narrow confines of a very specific purpose is something else entirely, and it requires a ‘significant leap’.
Deployment of smart machines makes economic sense
One of the big reasons for the surge of interest is we are in the midst of the ‘significant leap’ and it has enabled smart machines to reach a pivotal stage of development. Smart machines can be thought of as an intermediate step on the road to AI. Driven by exponential rates in the increase of computing power, the current generation of smart machines is at the point where practical widespread deployment makes economic sense.
Quite simply the total cost of ownership means it is cheaper to invest in a smart machine than it is to pay a human worker. This is cause for concern among some. There is a widely held view that many job roles in some sectors will disappear within 10 to 20 years. Among them are:
- Robot factory workers to replace between 30-90 percent of human jobs
- Journalism machines to automate creation of news stories based on data and statistics
- Clinical functions such as patient diagnosis from analysing medical imaging
- Transport jobs such as taxi, PSV and truck and train drivers and pilots
- Catering and hospitality jobs such as waiters and bar staff
M2M and wholesale distribution
M2M technology is related, and it carries much less of a perceived threat to the jobs of human workers. It can be looked on as one of the simplest ways of applying smart machine technology. M2M is a feedback mechanism, providing the capability to monitor a machine. M2M is one strand behind the Internet of Things (IoT), where domestic and industrial appliances or systems can be connected to, monitored and controlled over the internet.
One B2B application of M2M is to monitor stock levels in warehouse SKU bins to automate re-ordering. Another is connected dispensing machines that enable vending of specialised consumable items to workers in industrial facilities, allowing identification of employee usage levels and enabling timely re-stocking of the machine.
Wireless networking technology with cellular services or the LAN means M2M monitored vending installation is simple. They support 24 hour availability for production environments operating shifts and offer a far more efficient solution than operating manned central stores.
The benefits of M2M for wholesale distribution from BlueBridge One
BlueBridge One is an expert in delivering the benefits of M2M technology. We are able to integrate M2M as part of a total NetSuite solution for our wholesale distribution customers. Whether it’s monitoring SKU levels in warehouse bins or in a production facility vending machines, we enable automated stock control processes to ensure you run your business more efficiently while providing improved levels of customer service.
The week commencing 14 September 2015 the BBC is running a series of broadcast and online reports to report the latest progress around AI and its economic and social implications. Click here to take a look at ‘Intelligent Machines: The jobs robots will steal first’ at bbc.co.uk which provides links to other elements of the series.