AI-Diocracy: “Algorithms, They’re What Buildings Crave"
There is a buzzword in the industry (if you can call an acronym a word) and anyone in the building’s/IoT space has seen it used in marketing within the past year and that is AI (artificial intelligence). AI on its own is a very exciting concept and I know that its future presence in buildings is not only unavoidable but ultimately needed to realize a fully “smart” building infrastructure. My concern with this does not lie in the actual technology but with the way it is being presented within this space and it leads me to concerns around how we are marketing a very vast and overarching concept to fit within a company’s product line. AI is a great technology but our efforts to monetize it cause its definition to become vaguer and vaguer.
This brings me to the title of this blog post, when trying to get a better understanding of different products that are utilizing AI in their marketing, I am constantly seeing a word used to explain how AI is working within their offering and that word is “Algorithms”. The Oxford definition of the word is: “a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.”
This definition is dangerously close in the breadth of scope to the word “Analytics”: “the systematic computational analysis of data or statistics”
Analytics like AI had its time in the sun as a “Buzz Word” and like AI, in general, it is a very good thing because it loosely translates to analyzing data sets (what could be bad about that right?) but it does not describe what specific effects I will see from the implementation of a product and is often used to advertise the results of “energy savings” in many cases. This leaves me to “trust” the individual selling the product as it does not divulge any process that I could track to verify proper operation or even align with my expectations once in place.
This is the direction I see AI taking and I feel it is important to create an environment of product transparency. When I see “we use complex algorithms to help operate your buildings more efficiently and save you energy", I would like to hear what those algorithms are being programmed to accomplish. If a property I oversee is going to have software in place, I expect that I can have a pathway to understanding what it is doing beyond an explanation that basically says they are using math to try and determine more efficiencies. This becomes even more important while attempting to realize the real goal (as I see it) which is a fully autonomous building or in other words, a computer will operate my system with little to no human interaction. If commands are being sent to critical systems, I had better have a full understanding of the logic that is in place to properly condition my spaces and operate complex equipment pieces.
Artificial Intelligence is changing the world for the better, but we can slow that
adoption even more effectively than accelerating it through poor, dishonest, and incomplete explanations before adoption. If managed properly, we can grow in understanding together which in my mind allows for a much faster realization of this future. The alternate (and unfortunately the direction things are headed now) will lead to disappointed, jaded consumers that continue to react with skepticism every time they are approached with “the next big thing”.