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What is artificial intelligence and how is it used?

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Artificial intelligence (AI) is set to be a “defining future technology”, but what exactly is AI and how does it already affect our lives?

Definition of artificial intelligence

AI is the ability of a machine to display human-like capabilities such as reasoning, learning, planning and creativity.

AI enables technical systems to perceive their environment, deal with what they perceive, solve problems and act to achieve a specific goal. The computer receives data – already prepared or gathered through its own sensors such as a camera – processes it and responds.

AI systems are capable of adapting their behaviour to a certain degree by analysing the effects of previous actions and working autonomously.

Why is AI important?

Some AI technologies have been around for more than 50 years, but advances in computing power, the availability of enormous quantities of data and new algorithms have led to major AI breakthroughs in recent years.

Artificial intelligence is seen as central to the digital transformation of society and it has become an EU priority.

Future applications are expected to bring about enormous changes, but AI is already present in our everyday lives.

Types of AI 

  • Software: virtual assistants, image analysis software, search engines, speech and face recognition systems 
  • “Embodied” AI: robots, autonomous cars, drones, Internet of Things  

AI in everyday life

Below are some AI applications that you may not realise are AI-powered:

Online shopping and advertising

Artificial intelligence is widely used to provide personalised recommendations to people, based for example on their previous searches and purchases or other online behaviour. AI is hugely important in commerce: optimising products, planning inventory, logistics etc.

Web search

Search engines learn from the vast input of data, provided by their users to provide relevant search results.

Digital personal assistants

Smartphones use AI to provide services that are as relevant and personalised as possible. Virtual assistants answering questions, providing recommendations and helping organise daily routines have become ubiquitous.

Machine translations

Language translation software, either based on written or spoken text, relies on artificial intelligence to provide and improve translations. This also applies to functions such as automated subtitling.

Smart homes, cities and infrastructure

Smart thermostats learn from our behaviour to save energy, while developers of smart cities hope to regulate traffic to improve connectivity and reduce traffic jams.

Cars

While self-driving vehicles are not yet standard, cars already use AI-powered safety functions. The EU has for example helped to fund VI-DAS, automated sensors that detect possible dangerous situations and accidents.

Navigation is largely AI-powered.

Cybersecurity

AI systems can help recognise and fight cyberattacks and other cyber threats based on the continuous input of data, recognising patterns and backtracking the attacks.

Artificial intelligence against Covid-19

In the case of Covid-19, AI has been used in thermal imaging in airports and elsewhere. In medicine it can help recognise infection from computerised tomography lung scans. It has also been used to provide data to track the spread of the disease.

Fighting disinformation

Certain AI applications can detect fake news and disinformation by mining social media information, looking for words that are sensational or alarming and identifying which online sources are deemed authoritative.

Other examples of artificial intelligence use

AI is set to transform practically all aspects of life and the economy. Here are just a few examples:

Health

Researchers are studying how to use AI to analyse large quantities of health data and discover patterns that could lead to new discoveries in medicine and ways to improve individual diagnostics.

For example, researchers developed an AI program for answering emergency calls that promises to recognise a cardiac arrest during the call faster and more frequently than medical dispatchers. In another example, EU co-funded KConnect is developing multi-lingual text and search services that help people find the most relevant medical information available.

Transport

AI could improve the safety, speed and efficiency of rail traffic by minimising wheel friction, maximising speed and enabling autonomous driving.

Manufacturing

AI can help European manufacturers become more efficient and bring factories back to Europe by using robots in manufacturing, optimising sales paths, or by on-time predicting of maintenance and breakdowns in smart factories.

SatisFactory, an EU co-funded research project, uses collaborative and augmented-reality systems to increase work satisfaction in smart factories.

Food and farming

AI can be used in creating  a sustainable EU food system: it can ensure healthier food by minimising the use of fertilisers, pesticides and irrigation; help productivity and reduce the environmental impact. Robots could remove weeds, lowering the use of herbicides, for example.

Many farms across the EU already use AI to monitor the movement, temperature and feed consumption of their animals.

Public administration and services

Using a wide range of data and pattern recognition, AI could provide early warnings of natural disasters and allow for efficient preparation and mitigation of consequences.

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Science & Technology

Iran among five pioneers of nanotechnology

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Prioritizing nanotechnology in Iran has led to this country’s steady placement among the five pioneers of the nanotechnology field in recent years, and approximately 20 percent of all articles provided by Iranian researchers in 2020 are relative to this area of technology.

Iran has been introduced as the 4th leading country in the world in the field of nanotechnology, publishing 11,546 scientific articles in 2020.

The country held a 6 percent share of the world’s total nanotechnology articles, according to StatNano’s monthly evaluation accomplished in WoS databases.

There are 227 companies in Iran registered in the WoS databases, manufacturing 419 products, mainly in the fields of construction, textile, medicine, home appliances, automotive, and food.

According to the data, 31 Iranian universities and research centers published more than 50 nano-articles in the last year. 

In line with China’s trend in the past few years, this country is placed in the first stage with 78,000 nano-articles (more than 40 percent of all nano-articles in 2020), and the U.S. is at the next stage with 24,425 papers. These countries have published nearly half of the whole world’s nano-articles.

In the following, India with 9 percent, Iran with 6 percent, and South Korea and Germany with 5 percent are the other head publishers, respectively.

Almost 9 percent of the whole scientific publications of 2020, indexed in the Web of Science database, have been relevant to nanotechnology.

There have been 191,304 nano-articles indexed in WoS that had to have a 9 percent growth compared to last year. The mentioned articles are 8.8 percent of the whole produced papers in 2020.

Iran ranked 43rd among the 100 most vibrant clusters of science and technology (S&T) worldwide for the third consecutive year, according to the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2020 report.

The country experienced a three-level improvement compared to 2019.

Iran’s share of the world’s top scientific articles is 3 percent, Gholam Hossein Rahimi She’erbaf, the deputy science minister, has announced.

The country’s share in the whole publications worldwide is 2 percent, he noted, highlighting, for the first three consecutive years, Iran has been ranked first in terms of quantity and quality of articles among Islamic countries.

Sourena Sattari, vice president for science and technology has said that Iran is playing the leading role in the region in the fields of fintech, ICT, stem cell, aerospace, and is unrivaled in artificial intelligence.

From our partner Tehran Times

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Science & Technology

Free And Equal Internet Access As A Human Right

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Having internet access in a free and equal way is very important in contemporary world. Today, there are more than 4 billion people who are using internet all around the world. Internet has become a very important medium by which the right to freedom of speech and the right to reach information can be exercised. Internet has a central tool in commerce, education and culture.

Providing solutions to develop effective policies for both internet safety and equal Internet access must be the first priority of governments. The Internet offers individuals power to seek and impart information thus states and organizations like UN have important roles in promoting and protecting Internet safety. States and international organizations play a key role to ensure free and equal Internet access.

The concept of “network neutrality is significant while analyzing equal access to Internet and state policies regulating it. Network Neutrality (NN) can be defined as the rule meaning all electronic communications and platforms should be exercised in a non-discriminatory way regardless of their type, content or origin. The importance of NN has been evident in COVID-19 pandemic when millions of students in underdeveloped regions got victimized due to the lack of access to online education.

 Article 19/2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights notes the following:

“Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”

Internet access and network neutrality directly affect human rights. The lack of NN undermines human rights and causes basic human right violations like violating freedom of speech and freedom to reach information. There must be effective policies to pursue NN. Both nation-states and international organizations have important roles in making Internet free, safe and equally reachable for the people worldwide. States should take steps for promoting equal opportunities, including gender equality, in the design and implementation of information and technology. The governments should create and maintain, in law and in practice, a safe and enabling online environment in accordance with human rights.

It is known that, the whole world has a reliance on internet that makes it easy to fullfill basic civil tasks but this is also threatened by increasing personal and societal cyber security threats. In this regard, states must fulfill their commitment to develop effective policies to attain universal access to the Internet in a safe way.

 As final remarks, it can be said that, Internet access should be free and equal for everyone. Creating effective tools to attain universal access to the Internet cannot be done only by states themselves. Actors like UN and EU have a major role in this process as well.

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Science & Technology

Future Energy Systems Need Clear AI Boundaries

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Today, almost 60% of people worldwide have access to the Internet via an ever-increasing number of electronic devices. And as Internet usage grows, so does data generation.

Data keeps growing at unprecedented rates, increasingly exceeding the abilities of any human being to analyse it and discover its underlying structures.

Yet data is knowledge. This is where artificial intelligence (AI) comes in. Today’s high-speed computing systems can “learn” from experience and, thus, effectively replicate human decision-making.

Besides holding its own among global chess champions, AI aids in converting unstructured data into actionable knowledge. At the same time, it enables the creation of even more insightful AI – a win-win for all. However, this doesn’t happen without challenges along the way.

Commercial uses of AI have expanded steadily in recent years across finance, healthcare, education and other sectors. Now, with COVID-19 lockdowns and travel restrictions, many countries have turned to innovative technologies to halt the spread of the virus.

The pandemic, therefore, has further accelerated the global AI expansion trend.

Energy systems need AI, too.

Rapidly evolving smart technology is helping to make power generation and distribution more efficient and sustainable. AI and the Big Data that drives it have become an absolute necessity.  Beyond just facilitating and optimising, these are now the basic tools for fast, smart decision making.

With the accelerating shift to renewable power sources, AI can help to reduce operating costs and boost efficiency. Crucially, AI-driven “smart grids” can manage variable supply, helping to maximise the use of solar and wind power.

Read more in IRENA’s Innovation Toolbox.

Risks must be managed to maximise the benefits.

AI usage in the energy sector faces expertise-related and financial constraints.

Decision makers, lacking specialised knowledge, struggle to appreciate the wide-ranging benefits of smart system management. In this respect, energy leaders have proven more conservative than those in other sectors, such as healthcare.

Meanwhile, installing powerful AI tools without prior experience brings considerable risks. Data loss, poor customisation, system failures, unauthorised access – all these errors can bring enormous costs.

Yet like it or not, interconnected devices are on the rise.

What does this all mean for the average consumer?

Smart phones, smart meters and smart plugs, connected thermostats, boilers and smart charging stations have become familiar, everyday items. Together, such devices can form the modern “smart home”, ideally powered by rooftop solar panels.

AI can help all of us, the world’s energy consumers, become prosumers, producing and storing our own energy and interacting actively with the wider market. Our data-driven devices, in turn, will spawn more data, which helps to scale up renewables and maximise system efficiency.

But home data collection raises privacy concerns. Consumers must be clearly informed about how their data is used, and by whom. Data security must be guaranteed. Consumer privacy regulations must be defined and followed, with cybersecurity protocols in place to prevent data theft.

Is the future of AI applications in energy bright?

Indeed, the outlook is glowing, but only if policy makers and societies strike the right balance between innovation and risk to ensure a healthy, smart and sustainable future.

Much about AI remains to be learned. As its use inevitably expands in the energy sector, it cannot be allowed to work for the benefit of only a few. Clear strategies need to be put in place to manage the AI use for the good of all.

IRENA

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