Robot Report: The Children of the Cloud Are Coming to Get You


Robots are about to see their heyday, operating through the cloud-served Internet of Things. Wait, is this the climax of their master plot to tear out the fabric of our civilization? In Nebraska, the nightmare is in the corn cloud.

  • The Robots are Our Cloud Saviors
  • The Nightmare is in the Cloud
  • The Internet of Autonomous Control Loops
  • Fast, Cheap, and Out-of-Control?
  • Hiding in Your Bunker or Ahead of the Robot Curve

The Robots are our Cloud Saviors

Many people expect artificially intelligent, big-data-driven robots to become much more prevalent over the next decade.

“By 2025, artificial intelligence will be built into the algorithmic architecture of countless functions of business and communication,” argues City University of New York entrepreneurial journalism director Jeff Jarvis. “If robot cars are not yet driving on their own, robotic and intelligent functions will be taking over more of the work of manufacturing and moving.”

The designers of these robots are building them with Internet of Things capabilities to improve how they operate. They connect with Wi-Fi, take advantage of big data analytics, integrate with open-source systems, and exhibit machine learning, said UC Berkeley Prof. Ken Goldberg. IoT sensors allow the machines to gauge temperature and sense vibrations, achieving better control of their actions so that they can perform the tasks for which they were created (such as surgery, home cleanup, and autonomous transportation).

The Nightmare is in the Cloud

It all sounds pleasant and helpful. But in Nebraska and elsewhere, some say that the nightmare has moved from the corn to the cloud.

As with any new technology, security is a central concern. The Internet of Things is particularly disconcerting to data protection advocates because the attack surface is broad and includes consumer products. For instance, if your coffeepot is connected to the Internet of Things, you don’t want a hacker to be able to get in through your coffeepot and use that access to steal account information from your PC. You also don’t want someone to mess around with your steering wheel – in fact, all it takes is a 14-year-old with $15.

Security is such an unproven element that it has made it difficult for the Internet of Things industry to build momentum, said Prof. L.A. Grieco of Italy’s Politecnico di Bari, who is one researcher bringing the security discussion to the forefront so that the Internet of Things can be responsibly applied to robotics and other fields.

The Internet of Autonomous Control Loops

Many people with labor careers think of robots primarily as a threat to jobs, since these sometimes anthropomorphic “beings” are becoming more prominent in the manufacturing sector. However, applications are much wider than the Industrial Internet.

“We see IoT creating autonomous control loops where components that aren’t considered traditional robots are automated,” explains M2Mi engineering director Sarah Cooper, “delivering close-looped intelligence on the floor, generally through a connection with the Internet.”

In other words, the Internet of Things will have Midas-like powers that allow it to turn anything into a robot.

The sensors on these robots, built into closed autonomous loops, will gather information about the machine and its surroundings in real-time. Fog computing, which brings cloud to the ground by building it seamlessly into household and industrial objects, will allow robots to adjust their activities with knowledge about other characters within the Internet of Things and the space in which they operate.

Sophisticated robots will take advantage of sensors that are distributed within the environment in a similar manner to the servers of the cloud. These machines and any computers that control them remotely have three specific needs to function coherently that are still not completely met:

  • More robust interoperability
  • Better distribution of control mechanisms
  • Improved data safeguards

“As IoT matures, we see the industry adding more robotic and AI functions to traditional industrial and consumer robots,” says Cooper. That maturation process will allow the machines to move beyond automation to utilize predictive modeling, machine learning environments, and intricate solutions to immediate issues that arise, she notes, adding, “The autonomous nature of these systems and their often critical function in the larger system make them of particular concern when it comes to security.”

Fast, Cheap, and Out-of-Control?

The 1997 Errol Morris documentary Fast, Cheap & Out of Control focused in part on robotics designer Rodney Brooks. Brooks, a professor with the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab, actually coined the title to the film with his paper “Fast, Cheap and Out of Control: A Robot Invasion of the Solar System.”

The reason that security is of great concern is because the Internet of Things will allow hackers to take the reins of robots that are moving around in the world, as with the self-driving car. These fast and cheap cloud devices could easily get out of control.

The Internet of Things is so broadly distributed that patching can become difficult, according to Minnesota Innovation Lab fellow James Ryan: “The ‘patch and pray’ mentality that we see inside many organizations won’t work here,” he says.

Hiding in Your Bunker or Ahead of the Robot Curve

It’s no secret that security is paramount when exploring the Internet of Things. However, exploring IoT while it is still emergent will give frontrunners a competitive advantage.

Get out of your bunker and ahead of the curve with a cloud host that knows what it’s doing – as proven by standards, certifications, and guaranteed, PassMark-rated performance.

NOTE: This is Part 1 of a two part article…to read Part 2, please click HERE.

By Kent Roberts

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