As the relentless march of technological innovation continues to reshape the fabric of our societies, 2024 marks a pivotal moment in the evolution of artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and the transformative landscape of smart cities. The pursuit of efficiency, connectivity, and sustainability is propelling us into an era where machines seamlessly integrate into our daily lives, cities become sentient entities, and the very essence of urban living undergoes a paradigm shift.
As we head into the New Year, this article serves as a crystal ball, offering a glimpse into the profound changes we foresee awaiting us in 2024:
#1: AI Regulation at Home and Abroad
At the tail end of 2023, the European Union announced its AI Act, the first official regulation on artificial intelligence. And while it holds many important components, the effectiveness of the Act itself remains uncertain. The delicate balance of continued innovation and harm prevention could make certain aspects of AI regulation as a whole challenging, and we may need more time to better understand and measure the ways in which the technology is being regulated. While the EU’s move certainly positions it as a global standard-setter, there will likely be plenty of questions that the government must answer before the laws are enforced, which could prove tedious given their need for coordination among 27 nations, plus potential budget constraints.
Globally, businesses across various sectors – including education, healthcare, banking, etc. – will be impacted by the new regulatory action and how other countries around the globe follow in (or stray from) the EU’s footsteps. Already, for example, recent U.S. executive orders shine the brightest light on AI national security over other concerns, whereas the topic is not such a primary frontrunner in the EU’s Act. The AI Act’s influence on U.S. regulation remains uncertain but could prompt discussions on adopting similar measures –– or prompt for more discussion.
On this front, 2024 will likely usher in enforcement challenges, potential legal battles, and concerns about regulatory prowess which could raise doubts about the AI Act’s effectiveness. The outcome will significantly shape the future of AI regulation worldwide and its impact on innovation, business practices, and global economic dynamics.
Regulation and innovation – maintaining the delicate balance
In terms of innovation, the EU AI Act could pose significant challenges for European start-ups competing with established American organizations and those from other foreign companies around the world. Regulation always comes with a price tag and has the potential to hinder new, younger innovative efforts. It is my hope that – in tandem with regulatory action – leaders also strive to develop a solution to address this concern.
President Biden’s recent Executive Order on AI is striking this balance by emphasizing the fostering of innovation while preventing anti-competitive practices. The order successfully acknowledges the potential of AI to revolutionize industries and improve quality of life while underscoring the critical point that all of this must be accomplished through continued conversations around rules and procedures. It will be interesting to see what formal AI regulations the U.S. passes – after all, the whole world is watching.
#2: AI is Becoming the Everyman’s Tool
The adoption of AI – driven by open-source frameworks and cloud resources – is making the technology accessible to everyone, a trend that is likely to increase in 2024 and beyond. Gone will be the days of AI’s exclusivity to desk-bound, white-collar workers; we will see new use cases bubbling up across industries like pharma, manufacturing, retail, supply chain, education, and more. The expanding application of AI – from virtual assistants to personalized content recommendations – will vastly improve our daily lives both on the job and off, dramatically increasing efficiencies and allowing individuals to focus on more strategic and enjoyable components of work and daily life.
In the entertainment industry, for example, we may see AI creating hyper-personalized experiences for viewers. Imagine: augmented reality content tailored to individual preferences. This use of the technology will radically transform how people consume entertainment and engage with brands as they walk through stores or down city streets. In the healthcare space, I believe we will see advancements with AI-driven diagnosis and treatment recommendations, enabling doctors to provide more accurate and timely care. AI-powered creative tools will also revolutionize art and design, making it easier for individuals to express their creativity, whether through generative music, AI-assisted painting, or interactive storytelling.
The only downside to this increase in AI usage is that businesses that don’t actively incorporate the technology into their workflows will find themselves severely lagging behind their competitors. AI is officially a strategic necessity for efficiency, speed, and competitiveness; embracing this transformation is essential to staying ahead in an AI-driven world.
#3: Smarter Cities for More Sustainable Outcomes
As smart city development continues worldwide, we’re seeing an increased emphasis placed on the prioritization of sustainability. We can expect to see more innovative solutions aimed at reducing energy consumption, waste, and carbon emissions. For example, consider smart waste management solutions for optimized routes, or AI-powered street lights that have the power to adjust their brightness and conserve otherwise wasted energy based on real-time data analysis.
It seems like we have been dreaming of and discussing self-driving cars for years, but 2024 could be the year we see true examples of the technology being put to work, such as self-driving electric shuttles or autonomous delivery robots. These could soon become a common sight on busy city streets, all in an effort to reduce congestion and pollution for greener communities overall. AR and VR may even be integrated into urban planning and design, melding technology and sustainability at the onset of city development.
#4: Welcoming IoT With Open Arms
As we head into 2024, IoT devices will become even more integrated into our daily lives. Smart homes will not only automate tasks, but they may also even proactively suggest actions to residents, like energy-saving measures or security enhancements. Meanwhile, the healthcare sector will benefit from IoT devices that work to continuously monitor patient health, acting as a critical force multiplier for strapped staff by sending real-time data to medical professionals. We’re even seeing the integration of new technologies into the agriculture space, where AI and IoT work harmoniously for more sustainable and efficient practices, reducing resource usage and increasing crop yields.
In this exploration of the not-so-distant future, it will be interesting to see just what awaits us in the realm of AI, IoT, and smart city development. Will algorithms evolve to comprehend human emotions? How will the Internet of Things redefine the way we interact with our environment? And what strides will smart cities make in their quest to become more sustainable, efficient, and responsive to the needs of their citizens? I’m looking forward to being a part of the ride and seeing what 2024 has in store.