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Plasma Technology
Making everything Smarter – what?

11 Sep 2018   Author: Frazer Anderson

"Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?" —T.S. Eliot.

Part 1

Knowledge is merely having clarity of facts and truths; wisdom is the practical ability to make consistently good decisions. Where does “Smart” fit in?

Smart … then pick one: technology / devices / environment / home / Industry or pretty much everything really.

Along with Big Data, the Internet of Things (IoT), and Artificial Intelligence (AI), Smart is one of the hottest topics in the tech world. Is this leading to a positive symbiosis which will transform our lives? Or is Judgment Day around the corner?

The jury is out on this one, but at least we should try to understand what Smart means, and by understanding, ensure we really do benefit.

Smart tends to be used as a big umbrella term which is difficult to define. While some “smart” technology really does have the ability to learn and adapt, that is certainly not true of all technology which is generally thought of as “smart”.

IoT : the use of network sensors in physical devices to allow for remote monitoring and control.

The term “Internet of Things” was first coined by Kevin Ashton in 1999, but the concept can be traced further back. Nikola Tesla is quoted as saying in 1926:  "When wireless is perfectly applied the whole earth will be converted into a huge brain, which in fact it is, all things being particles of a real and rhythmic whole ......... and the instruments through which we shall be able to do this will be amazingly simple compared with our present telephone. A man will be able to carry one in his vest pocket."

Obviously he was unaware of the size of the latest Samsung Galaxy S9+, or he had bigger pockets than I have.

The number of smart devices just in the home environment is forecast to reach 1.2 bn globally by the end of 2018.

Whatever the future, there will be an enormous quantity of connected devices generating staggering amounts of data. IDC estimates the total amount of digital data created worldwide will be 180 zettabytes by 2025.

The term Big Data (likely first coined by John Mashey in 1990’s) is used to refer to working with data sets that are so big and complex that traditional data-processing tools are inadequate to deal with them.

Artificial Intelligence is a technology that empowers connected devices to learn, evolve and improve upon their own learning by reiterating and consistently updating the stored information.

What is clear is that, over the next decade, our world is likely to experience several fundamental transformations powered by “smart” technologies and the emergence of the smart environment. This will touch every business, every life on the planet.

Across the Oxford Instruments Group, we are active in seeking ways in which to both support the development of key “smart” technologies, and to integrate the benefits of these technologies into our products. 

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