Not a day goes by without a headline about artificial intelligence, or AI. Whether it’s another breakthrough in capability, a prediction about big economic changes, or even killer robots and impending doom – we are fascinated by what this technology may hold.
I am a technology optimist, and after decades of working with technology companies in Australia, Europe and the US, I can see huge potential in AI.
There are many types of work that AI might always struggle with, particularly where instinct, experience and inference matter most.
However, there is one area in which it can clearly make a huge difference – putting our overwhelming amounts of data to good use.
Data growth, AI and IoT
Look at almost any part of our economy – healthcare, transport, logistics, agriculture, education or engineering – and you’ll see that we measure, monitor, video and track more things than ever before. The boom in Internet of Things (IoT) means sensors and other low-power gadgets are being used in huge and increasing quantities. For instance, we can monitor the location, performance and the condition of drivers and cargo in every truck on our roads. Or monitor and manage precious natural resources like fresh drinking water.
This has created a tsunami of data and the volume will increase exponentially as technologies like 5G and cloud computing become commonplace. With more data than people know what to do with, AI’s enormous analytical capacity can deliver insights and help us make good decisions.
AI capability on a reliable network
But before AI can help, all this data needs to travel across a network from where it is collected to where it is analysed and acted on. And the larger, safer and more reliable and more capacity a network has, the better. Luckily, this is what Telstra is famous for. Our Narrowband-IoT network provides more than 3.5 million square kilometres of coverage for NBIoT sensors and devices. Our mobile network connects around 18 million phones, tables and other services. And our international subsea cable network stretches for more than 400,000 km, carrying about one-third of all internet traffic in the Asia Pacific region.
To make sure our networks can run smoothly, we constantly monitor its performance. This generates a huge amount of data – 151 terabytes each day, or at least a terabyte of data every 10 minutes! This volume of data will grow over time as more people and devices are connected.
Our Next Gen Operations Support System already parses, enriches and analyses this ocean of data to provide actionable intelligence and insight into the current health of the entire network. Our ambition is to create an even smarter network, one that can use AI to make decisions to avoid failures before they happen, self-heal in order to keep the network stable, and present people with the data visualisation and recommendations on the most complex and critical problems.
The challenge of our digital age is that we can see plenty of problems, and we are collecting an ocean of data about them, but human capacity alone cannot deliver the solution. In short, these are the perfect challenges for AI to help us solve.