CARY – There’s a lot of buzz around artificial intelligence (AI) at the moment, specifically as it relates to the Internet of Things (IoT) and its growing role to organize and analyze big data.

It’s arguably one of the biggest breakthroughs of modern time. But is the combination already outperforming humans?

That was the big question when Internet of Things users group RIoT put on its 28th RIoT event, in partnership with SAS, on Tuesday night in Cary.

Around 200 packed into the SAS Executive Briefing Center to catch a lineup of industry leaders tackle the topic of AI and machine learning, and the hotbed question of the day.


“In certain areas, definitely,” responded Phillip Simulis, CEO of Virginia-based Simtelligent, who was among the speakers, to the big question.

But more to the point, why wouldn’t we want it to, he suggested, when you consider the sheer volume of data that is being generated these days. One example: Medical data is expected to double every 73 days by 2020, he said.

“[With AI], you are doing searches at a much faster rate than humans could possibly do. It’s proving insights in seconds, when it would normally take days or weeks to understand,” said Simulis, whose company offers search-enabled AI-driven analytics to streamline operations, saving money and time.

But at what costs to humans?

“To me, it’s always a concern. We don’t want to replace people. But that’s not what this does. This helps them do their job better — make better, quicker decisions.

“The biggest takeaway,” he added, “is understanding that we have the ability today to search our data. Some companies are utilizing this, like Walmart, for sure. But for a lot of companies, it’s brand new to them.”

Nothing to fear, says industry insider

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Joy King, VP of Product Management and Marketing at Vertica, talks about predictive analytics powered by machine learning.

Presenter Joy King also put a positive spin on it.

As VP of Product Management and Marketing at Vertica, an analytic database management software company, she sees first-hand the massive influx of data with IoT, as sensors spread across every industry.

“Smart ‘compute’ finally has the data it needs to learn,” she told the crowd enthusiastically.

Computers can now take care of the busy work, she argued, while we “put our minds to the next great human challenge.”

“I see no risk here. I only see opportunity,” she said, pointing to the use of personalized analytics in the areas of medicine and human genomics.

“The next great bridge is unknown, but what could we do with this information? Let’s imagine,” she said.

Tom Snyder, executive director of RIoT, is also game.

“My personal view is, we’re going to use these AI tools to inform and augment our decision making in ways that enable us to do things better than we can do ourselves,” he explained.

“The result is going to be positive. Does that mean we’ve seen our last computer hack? Of course not. But the benefits far outweigh any of the fear and risk people have.”

A long way to go with AGI

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Juthika Khagharia, SAS’s principal solutions architect, talks AI and IoT.

Meanwhile, Juthika Khagharia, SAS’s principal solutions architect, argued that there is a tremendous need for the use of analytics algorithms and methodologies, along with embedded AI, to process IoT data and deliver value.

“Success in IoT applications require an analytics-centric culture,” she said.

“We still have a long way to go in terms of AI,” she added, referring, in particular, to artificial general intelligence (AGI), which explores possible paths toward building human-level intelligence.

“We are a long way from there. It’s hard to tell in the moment [if we will ever get there].”