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Artificial Intelligence (AI) may invoke images of robots for many. In reality, though, AI simply means that a computer can take data input, add what it knows, draw conclusions, and execute instruction sets based on those conclusions. With the evolution of computers from room-sized behemoths to a credit-card-sized device, we’ve seen an inverse evolution in the scope of computing capability. The increase in power coupled with the size reduction has created opportunities to apply automation and connectivity to a wide array of products.

One of the earliest examples of true AI was IBM’s Deep Blue, the famous computer that defeated chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov in 1997, and the concept of chess is an excellent example of how AI “learns” and produces results. Scientists programmed Deep Blue to know how each piece may move, and what constitutes a win. Deep Blue played many games and “learned” the outcome of moves made by the opponent. Of course, the number of outcomes a computer can store is limited only by the hardware installed, and the computer has the advantage of unlimited recall of stored data. Humans have –well, various limitations on recall.

Building on the learning ability that we can program into computers, we now have thermostats that can learn our habits as well as being programmed to come on or off at a certain time. Building on a complex system of “If this exists, do that,” the thermostat understands, “Occupant adjusted temperature to 70 degrees every day for two weeks at five o’clock. I will adjust the temperature to 70 degrees at five o’clock.” We have cars that alert us if certain shifts in body position indicate to it (based on having been programmed to sense these shifts) that we are getting drowsy. Other programs allow vehicles to execute all aspects of driving, including avoiding stalled vehicles and obeying traffic signals. The computer checks its database of information and processes the information provided by its sensors, then executes the instructions provided in its programming. Understanding this can put to rest most of the fears of robots taking over the world.

It’s a matter of “When”, not “If”

Today AI can take control of many ambient functions besides temperature, like adjusting lighting and window coverings, turning on audio or display systems. All of this can be coordinated to activate communications services, dim the lights, lower window shades, and adjust the temperature when an occupant walks into a conference room. Room control manufacturers, such as Crestron, have already started integrating their systems with Alexa. From Crestron’s website “Crestron + Alexa let you start meetings and control your conference room by simply telling Alexa what you want to do. You can simply say “Alexa, start my meeting.” From launching a web conference to pulling up presentation materials on-screen, the power of Crestron and Amazon Alexa will help ensure meetings are timely and productive.” The real beauty in all of this? At some point soon, you will never have to look for a remote again.

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