What is the Future of IoT & Autonomous Machines? Tom Ryden of MassRobotics Shares his Thoughts

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Image credit: MassTLC

MassTLC had the opportunity to speak with Tom Ryden, Executive Director of MassRobotics, about the future of IoT and autonomous machines. Here’s what he had to say about this fast moving sector.

What do you think will be the biggest innovations in IoT and autonomous machines the next 10 years? The biggest innovations will be in the area of artificial intelligent (AI.)  Through improvements in AI, connected devices, whether they be in your home, getting you to and from work, or in work itself, will become more smarter and more autonomous.  I believe AI advancements will fundamentally reshape the way we interact with those devices.

Where do you think there are areas of opportunity for Massachusetts companies to lead? The amount of data that connected devices will gather is going to grow astronomically.  The ability to collect, store, process and make intelligent decisions based on this huge volume of data is an area that I think Massachusetts companies are posed to lead.

What are the biggest challenges now and in the foreseeable future for developing and deploying smart connected devices? I don’t see technical advancements as the challenge. Rather, aside from regulations, one of the biggest challenges is addressing the fears of what autonomy will bring.  Whether it is fears over robots taking peoples jobs or robots making decisions that impact people’s lives, there will be concerns about deploying this technology.

How do you see the use of data influencing future innovations or sector growth? Robots in many respects are data gathering devices.  As I mentioned above, handling and making sense of this data is important and will help direct further innovations.

What legislative policies are having the biggest impact on IoT and other connected devices like self-driving cars, etc. and why? The lack of clear regulations over the use of drones in our airspace and autonomous vehicles our roadways is retarding the growth of robotics in the state and the country.

What are you most excited about that you’re working on now? I am excited about creating a center that will support robotics start-ups by providing co-working and prototyping space so that together with established companies they can gather, share and grow their companies.

What factors made MA such a hotbed for robotics, what are the big opportunities, and what does the state/region need to lead in the next generation of smart connected machines (including autonomous vehicles)? Massachusetts is a hotbed of robotics because of the rich amount of research being done at the large number of robotics labs in the state and due to the work commercializing this new technology by pioneering local companies such as iRobot.  I think Massachusetts companies have the opportunity to lead in three main areas – self driving cars, commercial drones and manufacturing/logistics robots.  The state needs to continue to encourage the growth of the robotics emerging cluster through supporting innovations centers, encouraging the sharing of information and helping put in place regulations that allow the development and test of these autonomous devices.