Data Analytics and AI

The age of sentient tools “looms on the horizon”

The latest buzzword terminology picking up speed is “sentient tools”. This week, Frost & Sullivan analysts said sentient tools will have deep implications for both businesses and society.

Frost & Sullivan finds, “The quantum technological leaps in artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), smart cities, cloud intelligence, robotics and intelligent mobility have set the stage for sentient tools to explode onto the global market. These tools are aware of and can learn from their surroundings and users, and mark the next step in the evolution of computational systems.”

Frost & Sullivan defines sentient tools as, “Social machines that can communicate and interact with their environment instead of simply being performers of rote tasks” and predicts that they will bring about a sea change in labor-intensive industries. The sectors predicted to be most affected by this “disruptive technology” include travel/mobility, transport, defense, manufacturing, medical, construction, agriculture, customer service, finance, information and communication, and smart cities.

The ‘post-autonomous car’

An early example is a car. A car that is simply semi-autonomous or autonomous and can drive by itself is not in and of itself a sentient tool.

Frost & Sullivan explains, “What makes the autonomous car a sentient tool is that it understands and knows the driver and the passengers in the car on a personal basis, recognizing them as individuals. With this knowledge, the ‘post-autonomous car’ can communicate with each person in ways appropriate to the situation and the individual. For example, the car could sense if the driver or passengers are ill and could remind them of or suggest routes that would pass by a hospital.”

Sentient tools

Source: Cisco

A Frost & Sullivan paper notes while sentient tools have been molded by advances in computational, sensing and communications technologies over the last 50 years, the incredible progress made in economies, culture and technologies is not complex enough to raise the “awareness” of sentient tools to match human consciousness.

“Therefore, they cannot mimic or replace human interaction and will be designed to complement human labor by tackling heavy computing and physical tasks.”

The future you want

In addition, as sentient tools is a rapidly developing field, organizations have not yet fully explored the ecosystems and possible partnerships.

Frost & Sullivan warns, “Economies that are not prepared for the age of sentient tools risk a spurt in unemployment rates in the short term and a wider economic gap in the long term. Unskilled laborers and corporate employees performing support roles that involve routine and repetitive tasks are most at risk of being replaced by sentient tools-enabled automation.”

Futurist Brian David Johnson, who authored the report, says, “The coming age of sentient tools looms on the horizon over a decade into our future.  This coming age will bring about tremendous opportunities and equally as massive threats and destabilization. Recognizing that the confluence of these technologies is taking place is the first step. Next individuals and organizations need to imagine both the future they want and the futures they want to avoid.  Simple steps and preparation taken today and have tremendous effect over the next ten years.”

The era of exponential change

TM Forum’s Aaron Boasman recently wrote about how companies can position themselves to succeed and lead in a fluid and fast-moving environment of exponential change – including shifts such as the rise of sentient tools.

Nik Willetts, Deputy CEO, TM Forum discusses this further in the video below:



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Prior to joining the Forum, she wrote for a range of technology clients. Sarah is most interested in the stories and people behind the technology.

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