CCMENA 2018: Spotlight on AI and Big Data

Part 4 in a series of reflections in the lead-up to
Critical Communications Middle East and North Africa 2018

Few technical topics generate more interest than artificial intelligence (AI) and big data. The reason is simple: advancements in computing power, network capabilities and neural network programming set the stage for radical transformation of public safety operations. As a simple example, screening millions of hours of video is not humanly feasible. But a machine trained to look for patterns might suss out dangers that escape human eyes. Not surprisingly, the Critical Communications MENA 2018 program tackles the promise and challenge of AI and data analytics with several compelling presentations and panel discussions. 

To be sure, foundational concepts of artificial intelligence have been around for at least two decades. But significant progress in AI technology is being made thanks to the ramp in computing power and data storage capabilities. These advancements are vital enablers for machine learning, a process that demands large data sets to train neural networks. Consequently, as computing power grows and the ability to handle large data sets improve, the prospect of effective AI solutions becomes a reality. For large and dynamic datasets, the cloud becomes an ideal environment to host AI and big data applications. Linking these tools with end users operating in a mission-critical environment requires reliable, high-speed mobile broadband data networks. As these mission-critical LTE networks become a reality, valuable new AI-enabled tools will spur improvements in the delivery of public safety services to the public.

While AI in the service of mission-critical operations holds tremendous progress, the way forward is freighted with challenges. Most AI functionality will reside in the cloud, with end-user devices limited by data storage capacity and poor compute processing elasticity. This fundamental need for computing power and storage means agencies that tap AI solutions will need to ensure adequate fiber and wireless network deployments get built. Beyond access to the cloud, AI-driven applications call for different software development approaches. Finding developers ready to leverage the power of AI and big data may be a tall order for many software development organizations serving the mission-critical community. Finally, AI and big data create difficult public policy issues. Establishing governance processes that match local community requirements is a significant hurdle that must be overcome before the technology benefits are realized.

Fortunately, progress is being made towards building valuable AI and big data solutions aimed at public safety agencies. Critical Communications MENA provides several opportunities for attendees to hear some of the latest thinking around AI and big data. As a case in point, the Tuesday panel session "The future architecture for AI Public Safety" provides a deep-dive into the potential for AI to improve daily operations of a public safety organization. Faisal Nazir from Motorola Solutions will look at how a mission-critical platform for analytics can change agency workflows for more effective operations. A panel discussion on "Elevating big data with AI to more advanced analytics" will then serve up a variety of viewpoints on the impact of big data analytics and AI. One of these viewpoints will look at how telecom networks have employed big data analysis to enhance network efficiency and customer experience. Jishnu Dasgupta from Nokia will reflect on what that experience can teach mission-critical agencies as they plan for a data-enabled future. 

In this tumultuous modern era, the challenge of protecting the public from threats to life and property only continues to grow. Agencies charged with the responsibility to deliver on this mission always want to perform better, and advances in AI-enabled data analytics promise valuable tools that take their performance to the next level. Officials attending Critical Communications MENA can look forward to engaging sessions exploring the reality of that promise.