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By Dr. Y. Bala Murali Krishna

Can we afford waging yet another ‘“Kalinga War’” (2612-261 BC) that killed and maimed about two lakh soldiers forcing emperor Ashoka to embrace Buddhism after annexing the Mauryan Empire?

Can we build yet another Taj Mahal or Egyptian Pyramids by deploying thousands of our labourers and spending tons of money in a short time without modern construction techniques?

Can we assess the quantum of our natural resources for their fruitful management without using remote sensing technology as against traditional methods of physical survey that take enormous time and energy,?

Answer to all these questions is an emphatic ‘“No’” in this modern era of knowledge economy marked with the application of ‘'Intelligent Technologies’'.

What are Intelligent Technologies?

Before the emergence of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), the factory siren had to be physically blown by a worker to indicate shift change or to sound an alert on possible dangers in case of fire. Now that routine task is automated with the introduction of what is known as ‘'Programmable Logical Controls (PLC)’ or sensors, which are intelligent devices.

The technology is said to be intelligent if it performs specific tiresome and tedious tasks replacing human labour. It collates and computes information on the basis of the voluminous data generated so that it helps us make timely and, appropriate decisions.

Intelligent Technologies are behind biosensors that enable customers to open a bank locker, check identities in a sensitive establishment, measure sugar levels in the body or ensure safety of human lives like in atomic power and steel melting plants

Intelligent Technologies of a very high order are required for the development of surgical robots.

There is no evolution of civilization without human intelligence that continues to shape the man and machine interface for a safe, secure and prosperous new world promoting peace and universal brotherhood.

Also known as Smart and Cognitive Technologies, intelligent technologies developed through application of artificial intelligence are an outcome of shaping human intelligence to the present and future needs of the society in the industrialized era.

When did this mega-trend emerge?

The world of Intelligent Technologies is a newly emerged field encompassing the theories and applications of artificial intelligence, statistical pattern recognition, learning theory, data warehousing, data mining, knowledge discovery, grid computing, and autonomous agents and multi-agent systems in the context of today’s as well as future IT such as Electronic Commerce, Business Intelligence, Social Intelligence, Web Intelligence, Knowledge Grid and Knowledge Community, among others.

Massive data sets have driven research, applications, and tool development in business, science, government and academia. The continued collection of data in all these areas ensures that the fundamental problem that the intelligent technology addresses, namely how one understands and uses one’s data , will continue to be of critical importance across a large swath of organisations. We are experiencing a large demand for more powerful, intelligent computing paradigms for large scale data handling, exploration and management.

This is typically an interdisciplinary field. In order to solve real world problems enabling techniques are developed not only from artificial intelligence community but also from other related communities such as computer sciences, statistics and cognitive science. Furthermore, this stream of technology also facilitates human and social intelligence development and understanding.

This mega trend began with the evolution of the ICT as it did with both the hardware and software products world over. There is no activity in one’s life these days without the application of the ICT.

Why are such technologies important for India?

In order to leapfrog from the world of drudgery and manual labour, adoption of intelligent technologies are an integral part of India as they provide search engines for the country’s overall growth and development.

Smart technologies, besides ensuring fast phase of development, keep the country abreast of other developed nations such as the USA, France, UK and Russia.

The country can become self-reliant in the manufacture of high-cost equipment / devices such as military hardware, and save exchequer worth millions of dollars. This was demonstrated through the development of critical technology after the imposition of US sanctions in the wake of the Pokhran nuclear tests.

Efforts are underway through ‘'reverse engineering’' to crack the intelligent technology behind the ‘“Cryogenic Engine’” bought from Russia at a huge cost for application in space science.

Where can one find the best examples of this megatrend today?

Defence:India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is engaged in developing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Lakshya and Rustom series like the US Drones), Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (like Maya by NIO/ NSTL) and Automatic Land-based Vehicles (Daksha series).

Besides developing various missiles series that could be fired from the three platforms (air, water and land), the country is engaged in protecting its skies and cities, leave alone the borders, by providing ‘missile defence shields’ using the intelligent technologies.

Construction:A roadmap has been laid in different countries for switching over to the construction of intelligent buildings / townships to meet the ever-changing demands of the customers and environment protection needs the world over.

A beehive of megastructures sprouting in big cities in India including cyber-cities with features like microelectronics and miniature power units, communication and networking technologies (broadband and networking), smart materials like bioimplants and context awareness agents and ontologies, are the best examples.

Policing:With the growing incidence of terrorism, the police have been switching over to deployment of smart gadgets in the vulnerable areas to provide back up for the civil force protecting the life and property of the people. They could be seen at the government offices, sensitive cities and even airports fitted with various devices such as surveillance cameras.

Healthcare:Use of robots for remote controlled precision surgeries and telemedicine to benefit the rural masses are revolutionizing the field of healthcare and medicine in India and abroad.

Automobiles & MRT:The megatrend has extended to automobiles and even mass rapid transport systems like the railways the world over with engineers developing the world’s first ‘self-driven car’ now running at the Google headquarters California.

Automobiles & MRT:The megatrend has extended to automobiles and even mass rapid transport systems like the railways the world over with engineers developing the world’s first ‘self-driven car’ now running at the Google headquarters California.

Who will benefit the most?

Both the industry and the people are the beneficiaries.

From an ordinary farmer to a common man, all are beneficiaries of the e-commerce introduced by banks with a commitment of ‘service at the doorstep’.

Aviation industry could benefit the most by introducing Intelligent Control and Health Management technology for aircraft propulsion systems, hitherto much more developed in the laboratory than in practice, with a renewed emphasis on reducing engine life cycle costs, improving fuel efficiency, increasing durability and life through innovative software and algorithms in place of advanced sensors

Gas Hydrates:Global efforts are underway to achieve ‘hydrogen economy’ through exploitation of Gas Hydrates using intelligent technologies. Abundantly found in the Earth’s crust, mostly in the bottom of the sea, they are considered a source of natural gas containing 100% methane (CH4) gas, with estimates worldwide ranging from 10,000 to 40,000 trillion cubic meters (TCM).

How will this megatrend impact the future of work?

Futurists have rightly predicted that over two billion jobs (roughly 50 per cent of all jobs on the planet) will disappear by 2030, sounding a wakeup call. This is more likely in five industries – power, automobile, education, 3D printers and robots.

In these five industries alone there will be hundreds of millions of jobs disappearing. But many other sectors will also be affected.

The megatrend would, in fact, bring about a sea-change in the future work force with the companies possessing the intelligent technologies recruiting the intelligent workforce in engineering, medicine, defence, construction and other sectors in place of mere freshers.

Research by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) says that technology and the changing nature of work is one of the five trends that are influencing employment levels and shaping how work is done and jobs are created. The other aspects are skill and geographic mismatches, untapped talent and disparity in income growth.


(Dr. Y.Bala Murali Krishna is a senior journalist reporting on science and technology, media, medicine and photography among other issues.)

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