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Technology Predictions 2022: SRR for intelligent autonomous systems

Graphic representation of various factors involved in the evolution of autonomous intelligent system in a factory environment. Image credit: Tao Zhang et al, Springer Link

SRR stands for Safety, Reliability and Resilence. These three characteristics are becoming crucial as we are deploying more and more autonomous intelligent systems. For a large part of the public autonomous system is associated to a self-driving car, and, indeed, that is an example of an autonomous system. However, there are several other (many more actually) kinds of autonomous systems.

Subway trains, as an example, are starting to become autonomous, drones are becoming autonomous and so on. What about autonomous intelligent systems? Well, we can say that all autonomous systems have (must have) a certain degree of intelligence, to analyse their surrounding and take decisions (action) based on their goal and the context, finding a way to pursue it. There are different levels of autonomy, and therefore of intelligence. In the examples given it is obvious that subway trains operate in a much more controlled environment than drones, hence their level of intelligence can be lower.

Factories are operated by a growing number of robots and these are becoming more and more autonomous and … intelligent. Their intelligence is used by the individual robot to become aware of the context and carry out the required activities and it is also exploited globally (more and more) contributing to the overall factory intelligence (RPA: Robotic Process Automation). This extension from local autonomy and intelligence to global orchestrated autonomy and emerging global intelligence is nicely represented in the figure where the arrow of evolution, roadmap, starts from smart devices moving on to robots and production logistics, raising further to encompass the fusion (seamless cooperation) of humans and machines resulting  in a production that is both centralised and decentralised, makes use of crowdsourcing of resources, delivers mass customisation embedding services in products.

As we move towards a landscape of autonomous intelligent systems and rely more and more on them it is obvious that safety, reliability and resilience are crucial characteristics we expect from them. If in the past the focus of research has been on achieving autonomy (and creating intelligence to support it), today and in the coming here the focus is going to be on SRR. This is what is foreseen in the 2022 Technology Predictions published by the IEEE Computer Society.

The whole area is very complex since it results from the interplay of technology, regulation, societal issues, ethical issues and, of course, economic considerations. Standards and frameworks are in the working and we can expect results in the next few years.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the New Initiative Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He is a member of the IEEE in 2050 Ad Hoc Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.