As sensing tech, artificial intelligence and data science advance, they will facilitate the development of distributed networks of intelligent systems designed to enhance many aspects of human life.
Over the next decade, technological innovation will enable the Internet of Things (IoT) to enter a new phase, where artificial intelligence, ubiquitous sensing and data science will improve, creating the capacity to transform everything in our world, from the way we experience physical reality to the way we collaborate.
This is the Internet of Actions (IoA), a long-term vision of a digital future in which technology and humans become partners. It will give life to an increasingly mixed-reality world in which algorithms will inextricably be connected to the human decision process.
In this vision, collective intelligence (CI), the shared knowledge that emerges from human collaboration enhanced by technology, will generate new possibilities, creating business, social and civic value.
The Internet of Information is a global network that connects computer systems across the world. It was originally created to enable people from diverse locations to connect and share information with their device through the internet.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of devices and smart objects, such as sensors, wearables and smartphones. Through the internet, these devices are able to communicate information between each other.
The Internet of Actions (IoA) is a long-term vision of a digital future in which technology and humans become partners, giving life to an increasingly mixed-reality world in which the algorithms will be connected to the human decision process.
At the core of collective intelligence (CI) is the theory that human and machine intelligence can be combined to generate innovative solutions to complex, systemic issues of the contemporary world, from the climate emergency to the Covid-19 pandemic.
CI harnesses cutting-edge technology to connect a large number of people across multiple locations with a communal purpose, such as scientific research, or collective decision-making in modern democracies.
The scale and speed at which current network technology enables us to work together is unprecedented. According to the Centre for Collective Intelligence Design, a strategic research department of UK-based innovation foundation Nesta, the enablers of CI include rising internet connection speeds and penetration alongside emerging centralised systems and decentralised services. This combination is allowing us to reach groundbreaking levels of collaboration between peers and humans and machines.
An early and successful example of CI is to be found in Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia hosted by non-for-profit organisation Wikimedia and compiled by a global community of volunteer editors. CI has demonstrated its incredible power through the coronavirus crisis to not only achieve solutions, but also predict the evolution of emerging and unexpected global threats.
Blue Dot, for example, is a private global disease risk monitoring platform that combines natural language processing and machine-learning tools to process billions of data points from global news reports, animal and plant disease networks and airline data. The automated information is then checked by epidemiologists, who detect potential oddities that could lead to global health threats. The Toronto-based start-up predicted and communicated to its clients the emergence of coronavirus a month ahead of official notifications by the World Health Organization.
Artificial intelligence and data science, combined with advancements made in psychology and neuroscience research, will transform the way we perceive and experience reality.
Enabled by the proliferation of sophisticated augmentation technologies, human experiences and sensorial capabilities will be greatly enhanced in the era of the Internet of Actions. Visual and auditory senses will be augmented, while the digital reproduction of touch and smell will enable us 'to feel' products and services remotely.
In entertainment and marketing, this powerful combination of artificial intelligence, sensing devices and virtual and augmented realities will enable brands to create multisensorial experiences beyond screen-based devices, engaging all human senses and creating deep and long-lasting emotional connections with their audience.
In education and communication, the intuitive processes of moving our bodies and interaction with objects will be used to create new ways of learning and collaborating in which gestures, haptics and gaze will be used to control technology. For children, virtual environment interaction software will allow them to learn the basic concepts of programming, using dance moves as code inputs rather than keyboard combinations. The devices will then 'read' choreography and understand and process it as a code.
In the next decade, these technologies will also provide an incredible amount of data around human sensing and motion, informing a new, more sophisticated generation of sensorial technology which will become an invisible part of our everyday life.
The combination of machine-learning algorithms, wearable biometric devices and data science and analytics will enable us to accurately codify, understand and predict what people want.
The Internet of Actions will get to know us via the inputs we generate through our online presence and behaviour. It will also process that information, detect patterns and correlations, test hypotheses and draw conclusions.
Ultimately, it will execute and provide us with the services and products we need and desire. These dynamics will take the form of a predictive economy, based on emotions, experiences, knowledge and extended trust between humans and machines. According to Todd Richmond, director of USC’s Mixed Reality Lab, human-machine trust will be fundamental to activate the internet revolution.
"One key challenge centres around trust. While humans have increasingly placed fairly blind faith in technologies such as search algorithms, online commerce and GPS/navigation, those have been viewed as tools to be used rather than partners that are part of our team," he explained in a Forbes article.
Companies will need to focus on researching and developing the relationship between humans and technology. This will become increasingly important as vital decision making is delegated to technology, such as self-driving cars. In the Internet of Actions, technology will increasingly attempt to emulate us to develop humane interactions and outputs.
In the predictive economy, technology will enable us to explore new processes for understanding and anticipating consumer preferences, enabling extreme precision in the products and services we consume.
The predictive economy is paving the way for businesses to design better products and services based on neuroscience. Neuroaesthetics is an emerging field dedicated to understanding the neural processes that are triggered when exposed to creative and artistic outputs.
The discipline uses neuroimaging techniques, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and Magnetoencephalography (MEG) to track, read and understand the neuronal behaviour in the brain during aesthetic experiences. During this process, data around people's reactions to specific designs and moods are captured, generating a broad understanding of our unconscious preferences, which anticipate tastes with extreme accuracy.
The ability to predict behaviours will also transform the way we consume, leading us to a future of equal distribution, accessibility and zero-waste consumption.
Falling Fruit, for example, is a crowdsourced interactive global map for urban food harvesting. The app enables foragers to connect with over half a million fruit trees, edible plants, water dwells and dumpsters available for harvesting free food. In the future, these elements will be embedded within smart devices that will notify adjacent smartphones and users on the availability of resources, greatly reducing waste and hyper-localising the food chain.