Contrary to popular belief, automation is not a new trend or future technology. If you look at our past technology, you will find all sorts of examples of automation, or technology that can perform a task without the need for human intervention. Since then, our drive to create more efficient devices and processes has only increased. Today, automation is something almost all of us interact with on a daily basis – whether it’s a coffee maker on a daily timer, an automatic bill pay online or your home’s thermostat. And it’s only getting smarter as our devices become more capable of learning.
Automation’s Already in Action and Only Getting Smarter
There are already examples of automation in our everyday routines and homes that you might not even think about. For example, our phones have helped us to automate many tasks – whether you want to start cooking your dinner before you arrive home using your smart oven, or using it to switch your house lights on if it gets dark and no one’s home. All it takes is a one-time prompt to set up a recurring automated action.
What’s truly interesting about the future of automation, however, is how much our devices will learn about our habits and just how smart they really can become.
Take, for example, the standard thermostat, which even in its most primitive form is an example of automation. When the temperature drops below or goes above a pre-determined temperature, the heat or cooling switches on. The next generation of automated thermostats don’t just react to the temperature in the air, but can predict exactly when you might turn on the air conditioning or turn up the heat based on your habits. These devices know that you come home from work every day at 6:30 pm after you’ve worked out, so you tend to turn up the air conditioning until 7:30 pm. Instead of waiting for you to manually adjust the temperature, the smart thermostat will simply do it for you.
Another example: smart refrigerators. These smart fridges know exactly what’s in your refrigerator, when it will expire, and how much is left and will reorder it from the store when you run out. It learns your consumption habits and helps you manage exactly what’s in your fridge.
Outside of the home, autonomous cars could have great potential for getting you wherever you need to be without having to touch the brakes. Although they’ve been in development for quite some time, driverless cars are still pretty limited in scope because only four states currently allow for driverless operation of vehicles. Imagine getting into a driverless car and being chauffeured to work without a prompt – the car might even know you like to stop at a coffee shop on Fridays.
Concerns of Automation
Clearly, these new technologies solve many problems, but they also present some new challenges too.
One of the major concerns of automation is robots replacing employees, resulting in a decline in the job market. Whether it’s increased drone deliveries, robotic restaurant servers, or automated call-center assistants, there is a risk of needing fewer employees.
As always, there’s the concern that the more information we pump into our technology and the more we let it learn our habits, the more we open ourselves up to people trying to hack or be destructive. For example, driverless vehicles may be less likely to crash, but nefarious hackers could remotely disable them, send them to the wrong destination or even cause accidents. Of course, the same people who are working to connect our world and make our lives easier are also striving to make them safer and less vulnerable to outside interference – but risk still exists.
Overall, we can’t hold back the progress of technology, and automation is just one piece of that puzzle. Although it will take time, automation will help us accomplish more in less time and save brainpower on completing the menial tasks that we associate with modern life.
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