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The Digital Era Has Arrived and Schools Need to Be Aware

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Prof. Gabriel Mario Rodrigues

September 26th, 2017 |  Author: Gabriel Mario Rodrigues –

Chairman of the Board of Directors of ABMES – The Brazilian Association of Owners of Private Higher Education Institutions

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution began this century: it”s the digital revolution. At this stage, technologies ranging from genetic sequencing to nanotechnology, from renewable energies to artificial intelligence, will change businesses and people’s lives at an unprecedented pace and breadth.” Exame Magazine

Everyone should already know about IBM’s “Watson,” an artificial intelligence platform that years ago defeated humans in competition on TV and then, as a scientific adviser, enlightened physicians about Oncology.

Now Rob High, IBM’s director in charge of Watson, during an event, showed him humanized, joining him to “Nao,” a robot from Aldebaran Robotics. The merger of Watson and Nao gave rise to a robot that, in addition to talking and answering questions, also gestures and dances.

Like any modern artificial intelligence system, the robot’s brain is nothing more than a super-specialized software, which will broaden its learning as they talk to it. This is how Watson will adapt and further improve its performance.

A great technological breakthrough, the robot can be used in a variety of areas, such as in hotels, sitting at the reception desk and enhancing the guest experience. But surely this is only the beginning: artificial intelligence began to take the form of humanoids, who will soon be willing to do everything for us and will always have the best response.

Can you imagine the meaning of this in Education?

This is the fourth article I write after reading Thomas Friedman’s “Thank You for Being Late,” a book which explains the major transformations that are occurring exponentially in technology, economics, and the environment. See what he tells us about sensors, already anticipating that the time of hunches has been left behind. For him, one of the astonishing consequences of the acceleration of technology was the sensor placed in fire hydrants, making them “intelligent”, considering that it transmits the water pressure through a wireless network, directly to the office of the company that provides such service.

What’s more amazing is that this technology can line up with trash-cans that are loaded with sensors that inform – even over a wireless network – when they are full and need to be emptied, thereby optimizing garbage collection services. This makes the city cleaner and more effective by spending less money. Is it not amazing that today the garbage men are now technology workers?

These are two examples, not directly related to each other, but that are important in showing what computers can now do when dealing with sensors.

And many other examples are all around us. Police send signals to cars measuring their speed and through sound waves in the direction of buildings can locate the source of a shot. A light sensor on the computer measures the environment’s light on your desktop and then adjusts the brightness of your screen according to that information.

Fitbit is a combination of sensors that measure the number of steps you take, the distance you’ve traveled, the calories you burn, and how vigorously your limbs move.

Worthy of mention was his interview with Bill Ruh, chief digital officer for General Electric – GE – in California, which installed sensors everywhere and is allowing the possibility of the “industrial internet,” also known as the “internet of things “.

To get an idea of ​​the gigantism of the company’s performance, just check the numbers of GE, which includes data of more than 150 thousand medical equipments, 36 thousand jet engines, 21 500 locomotives, 23 thousand wind turbines, 3,900 gas turbines and 20,700 parts of gas and gas equipments, all reporting their behavior, every minute, wirelessly, to GE.

By filling a trash container to its optimum capacity or adjusting the pressure of a hydrant before a costly overflow, we are saving time, money, energy and lives and, in general, making humanity more efficient than we ever imagined.

The era of hunches also came to an end for milk producers. Joseph Sirosh, corporate vice president of data for the Microsoft Cloud and Business Division, told Friedman, jokingly, as he described the conversation about “the connected cow “.

Milk producers in Japan have sought out digital service’s giant Fujitsu with the question of how they could improve the likelihood of making cows breed more successfully. It occurs that cows enter heat in a period of receptivity and sexual fertility in which they can be inseminated artificially in a time window of only twelve to eighteen hours, every 21 days, and often this occurs at night.

For a small farmer with a large herd, monitoring all his cows can be very difficult and knowing the ideal time to inseminate each one of them would be ideal. That’s why Fujitsu provided the cows with pedometers connected to the farm by radio signal. A company survey found that a large increase in the number of steps per hour represented a 95% indication of the occurrence of heat and when this was detected the system sent an alert to the farmers’ cell phones to inseminate at exactly the right times.

All the data generated by the sensors provided yet another insight because it was found that within that temporal window, the ideal would be to perform the insemination in the first four hours, with a 70% probability of obtaining a cow and not a calf, thus allowing the farmer to determine the proportion of cows and bulls according to his needs.

If a cow with a sensor transforms a dairy farmer into a “genius”, a locomotive equipped with sensors is no longer a dumb train but becomes an IT system on wheels. It can suddenly detect and transmit the quality of the rails at every thirty meters. It can “see” a slope and determine how much energy it will need to advance every kilometer of land, using less fuel.

From the few examples above, the world today seems to be faster than ever. It’s Moore’s Law, as Friedman shows, which says that the power of computers doubles every two years. An extraordinary release of energy that is reshaping everything, from the way of calling a cab to the destiny of nations.

As we think more and more about robots, computers, sensors, garbage-men and cows, we hope that we humans will have the wisdom to share all these advances for the benefit of humanity’s well-being and quality of life. And the education sector should keep up with everything that comes along.