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The Convergence of AI, Robotics and Blockchain

· Strategy,AI,Robotics,Blockchain

I was fortunate this past week to attend the SelectLA Summit which focused on FDI attraction to Los Angeles. Stephen Cheung (@wtclaStephen) of the World Trade Center LA and his team did a great job of bringing together great speakers and content.

One panel discussion that stood out to me was on Industry 4.0. (Industry 3.0 was the addition of computing power to manufacturing processes. Industry 4.0 brings in artificial intelligence, robotics, sensors, the internet of things and advanced data analytics.) This discussion works well in the Los Angeles area as it has the largest concentration of advanced manufacturing in the US, led by the Elon Musk’s companies (TESLA, SpaceX, Hyperloop and the Boring Company). LA was once the headquarters for much of the aircraft industry. Although it has since moved to other regions, many advanced manufacturing companies grew out of the manufacturing experience of the aerospace industry. Silicon Beach continues to spin out companies in gaming, FinTech and social media. Not to be overlooked, LA also has unique marketing expertise, particularly for consumer products, drawing on the strength of the entertainment industry. All in all, LA is well situated to support and foster the growth of these next generation companies.

The discussion started out in a predictable way talking about robotics (Amazon) and the big data revolution behind Industry 4.0. The panel had a two-time entrepreneur in artificial intelligence, Michael Greenberg of Retina A.I., and an expert on blockchain technology, Heidi Pease of #LABlockchainLabs. With their input, the discussion then turned to how AI, robotics and blockchain intertwine. Many of the AI and blockchain applications have been discussed in the press – logistics, financial transactions and warehouse management. But as the applications expand, new problems can be addressed. For example, using the two technologies in food chain management would have enabled companies to instantaneously identify the origin of the recent E. coli in lettuce outbreak. Another innovation is the use of blockchain to ensure data security. Greenberg pointed out how blockchain could secure the data chain to prevent malware from being implanted in the navigation software.

This discussion shows how new technologies can intersect and provide novel solutions. My many years in government have ingrained in me the importance of compliance with regulations. The combination of the three elements (artificial intelligence, robotics and blockchain) can provide interesting ways to assure that companies are meeting (and not cheating on) regulations without imposing huge costs. Take the case of construction permitting – data from construction, especially as 3D printing becomes the norm, can be fed into a database with complete documentation. The construction company can’t cheat on material compliance or on the costs. Similarly, manufacturers can collect the data used to construct a product, follow the shipment of the good and document the delivery to the customer. Questions about breakage or product defects will be much easier to analyze. The same can be applied to health care or logistics.

Industry 4.0 – collecting and analyzing data collected by IOT – is already resulting in great productivity gains. We can collect, and more importantly, make sense of the torrent of data generated by sensors. The applications are just beginning. However, privacy and data security advocates rightly point out that in their current form, Industry 4.0 solutions are vulnerable to hacks and leaks of private data. Adding blockchain technologies will allow data transmission and storage, with a secured incorruptible ledger as a record.


Concerns about data privacy and security have slowed some companies from fully deploying IOT processes and data analytics. These solutions give companies a much deeper view into their processes. Early adapters have faced the usual glitches facing any early adapter, but Industry 4.0 is clearly a game changer. Integrating block chain technologies into the processes will be an important step in securing data. But if you have had concerns about data privacy and security, don’t rush in yet -- integrating blockchain will take time, perhaps a few years.

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