CES2022: Four tech innovations that promise to transform industry
As its name suggests, the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, running from January 5 – 7, is focused on direct-to-consumer technology, but the show’s key themes this year – electrification, connectivity, automation, and AI – also delivered technologies that promise to transform whole swathes of industry too.
During CES several firms gave press conferences during the event’s media days on the 3rd and 4th January as well as during the show itself, announcing first-of-their-kind products. Here is a round up of the top four.
1) Smart Agriculture: John Deere’s fully autonomous tractor
“If you visit a farm you will see as much technology in the field as you will in Silicon Valley – from robotics to sensors to AI and Big Data the farm is a high-tech operation,” declared Jahmy Hindman, chief technology officer of 185-year-old agricultural equipment manufacturer John Deere during the firm’s Tuesday CES media briefing.
Hindman was at CES to unveil the world’s first autonomous tractor – one that John Deere now claims are ready for large-scale production and will be available to farmers later this year.
The firm claims that the breakthrough will help the industry with labour shortages and increased demand for crops, providing farmers with tools that “Do more for less and still allow the farmer to return for dinner at the end of the day.”
To use the autonomous tractor, farmers only need to transport the machine to a field and configure it for autonomous operation.
Using an app on their mobile device, users can swipe from left to right to start the machine, leaving them to focus on other tasks, while monitoring the machine’s status.
Deere’s operating system provides access to live video, images, data, and metrics, allowing farmers to adjust speed, depth, and other functions.
Willy Pell, the head of John Deere’s AI Lab, added that achieving high degrees of safety and productivity were “the core challenges of this project.”
He added: “While a farm has fewer variables than the open road, building a production worthy vision system requires a world class machine learning research team and many hard-fought innovations,” he added.
According to Pell the system is capable of constant improvement through finding relevant data and training new models with it.
“In addition to the 50 million images we have collected from farms all over the US, we are also constantly feeding it new images and the training process rewards it for making correct decisions and penalises it for making incorrect ones,” he explained.
Even for obscure events such as a billboard blowing into a field and obstructing the vehicle’s path, Deere has built an anomaly detection system that recognises standard objects so that when it sees something it does not recognise, the machine automatically stops.
2) Smart Research: Advanced Symbolics’ Ask Polly AI
Canadian research company Advanced Symbolics (ASI) chose CES’ media day this year to launch the next version of its AI research tracker, Polly, which is designed to understand how people’s online behaviours and connections predict their real-world actions.
Developed by the University of Ottawa with a clear ‘tech-for-good’ mission, one of its first applications was to help the Public Health Agency of Canada reduce national suicide rates by using the AI to identify online trends and find patterns of suicide-related behaviours.
Polly has since been used for pandemic tracing, vaccine hesitancy and even modelling of how the virus has moved through Canada.
While many of Polly’s government agency and public health clients are sensitive to privacy issues, ASI’s chief executive Erin Kelly emphasises that individuals are not tracked as the AI relies on population-level data which drills down into demographics, psychographics, and conversational modelling.
And while statisticians and mathematicians could only really use the first incarnation of Polly, Kelly claims that the updated version, Ask Polly, will be released as a generally available (GA) product, which people can access through the internet.
“Right now, the AI still takes 3.5minutes to process but we hope to speed that up by fall of 2022 when it will be available for GA,” Kelly added.
Playing to the crowd of press gathered at CES and online, Kelly also highlighted several professional use cases for the tool: from market research (including research for EV car manufacturers) to journalists wanting to check out the truth of an issue.
““Polly is not biased – she will present you with what people are actually saying which is ideal for journalists embarking on a story who want to see what people are actually saying about any given topic in an unfiltered, unbiased way,” she said.
Despite the AI’s tech-for-good stance, Polly is best known in her native Canada for correctly predicting the outcome of the Canadian Federal Elections in 2019, predicting a Liberal Party minority government calling the result within a couple of seats at a very narrow majority.
Most traditional pollsters refused to call the result maintaining it was too close a call.
Again, rather than targeting individual users directly – something that Facebook and Cambridge Analytica were called out on during the 2016 US election – Kelly said that ASI creates an anonymous, representative picture of what is on voters’ minds based on the information that they have shared publicly. On its website, ASI states that it does not access any private communications.
“We don’t do any work for political parties out of principle,” Kelly added “but we could definitely tell you where the other parties were going right or wrong and what they would have needed to do to get better results.”
3) Smart Construction: Doosan Bobcat’s electric loaders
As Doosan Bobcat acknowledged during the manufacturing firm’s press conference at CES, construction equipment has not changed much in over eighty years: it’s noisy and polluting, guzzling diesel fuel and hydraulic oil.
Which is why the South Korean firm claims that its new, all-electric track loader will “power the future of work” providing construction firms the opportunity to become more sustainable as well as more productive.
According to the company’s president and chief executive Scott Park, the compact loader uses only one quart of eco friendly coolant compared to fifty-seven gallons of diesel and features no hydraulics at all – making it the first machine of its kind.
“It also required fifty percent fewer parts than its diesel equivalent and is ten time quieter – making it ideal in sensitive urban environments,” he added.
Bobcat collaborated with aerospace and defence motion control system company Moog to design the machine’s control capabilities and the drive. Moog has previously supplied the tech for the closing roof in Wimbledon as well as for the International Space Centre and to commercial jets.
Bobcat has also entered a partnership with US rental company Sunbelt Rentals who have committed to taking the loaders and excavators into their national fleet.
4) Smart Deliveries: Ottonomy’s curbside Ottobots
Born during the midst of the pandemic in 2020, Ottonomy’s mission has always been to find ways of using autonomous technologies to help solve the problems that the world faces right now, rather than soon, according to its founder and chief executive Ritukar Vijay.
At CES on Wednesday it launched a fleet of fully autonomous delivery robots, called Ottobots, for the restaurant and retail industries, which – it claims – can operate in both indoor and outdoor environments.
The Ottobots create a digital map of the serviceable area and localize within that map. Its live location gets updated on the map while they are navigating autonomously to deliver the orders.
According to Vijay, Ottonomy’s proprietary contextual mobility navigation software enables Ottobot to navigate through crowded and unpredictable environments.
The Ottobots’ main two points of focus this year will involve off-road contained environments such as airports or last-mile curbside deliveries (from the supermarket to the carpark, for instance).
To this end, the firm claims to have supplied the world’s first fully autonomous delivery robot at an airport, delivering retail and food items at CVG Airport in Cincinnati.
Ottobot has also partnered with Los Angeles based Crave, for last-mile food delivery for its restaurant customers.
Last month, meanwhile, fast restaurant firm Presto, announced that their partner restaurant guests will be able to order using Presto’s technology and have the food delivered via Ottonomy’s robots.
Quick service restaurant delivery is something the firm hopes to scale up on this year and the robot’s API can be integrated either with the ordering apps or the Point-of-Sale system.
To support its effort to roll out Ottobots across North America over the next 18 months, Ottonomy has formed a strategic partnership with ARO, a global leader in robotic management, operations, and support.
At CES Vijay also announced that Ottonomy has opened an office in New York to experiment on deliveries involving less clement weather conditions and revealed that its technology is currently being evaluated for multiple use cases by US retail giant Walmart.
In terms of on road and sidewalk deliveries Vijay added that the firm wants to wait for the right regulations to take form, which he predicted would be “fine tuned in the next couple of years.”
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