The founders of innovative companies developing solutions based on artificial intelligence stressed the importance of mobile operators, with Ran Krauss, CEO of Airobotics, most blunt in his assessment. “There’s no other way to get this done without partnering up with mobile operators,” he said.

Krauss, who was joined by executives from Teralytics and MOV.AI, was speaking in the Creating an Artificially Intelligent Future keynote.

Based in Israel, Airobotics has developed a pilotless drone solution, which is self-deployed and works using AI algorithms. The company has already made inroads into what Krauss calls the ‘industrial internet’ space, targeting sectors such as above-ground mining, oil and gas, and seaports. By using drones in remote and dangerous areas, for the purposes of security, inspection, survey and mapping, Krauss said costs could be brought down significantly with an automated solution.

The Airobotics CEO, however, is increasingly looking at drone use-cases for cities, and it’s here where he wants much more cooperation with mobile operators. Aside from delivery of retail packages and medical supplies, Krauss flagged the possibility of helping first-responder emergency services. A drone can quickly be dispatched to a major fire, say, and then beam back a video to emergency services not yet arrived on the scene.

Drones, he suggested, were a much more immediate AI use case than autonomous cars, and that there was a ‘big wave’ coming the way of mobile operators – one they should prepare for. “You guys had better get in the game,” he said.

“We all know how relevant and important mobile operators will be for autonomous cars, but that’s still far away. This will happen sooner,” argued Krauss, although he acknowledged that there were still regulatory wrinkles to iron out with civil aviation authorities to allocate designated drone airways.

“We hope to be flying in our first city by the end of this year, and mobile operators will need to provide infrastructure for this operation to be running,” he added. “This could be data transfer, actually controlling the aircrafts, or transmitting back to the civil aviation authority.”

Georg Polzer, chairman of Switzerland-based Teralytics, is looking to use information from mobile networks to understand more about the movement of people. By feeding that information into “trained” AI systems, Teralytics aims to design better and more cost-efficient transport systems that meet the needs of all citizens, not just the minority. This is because the data samples, which are anonymised, are large enough to represent all demographics.

Polzer called this an “inclusive dataset”.

“The data we get from mobile network operators will create equal access, as well as save on journey times,” he said. “It can also save lives. We can help rescue organisations, in times of disaster, with information so that shelter and food can be provided at the right place and at the right time.”

Limor Schweitzer, CEO of MOV.AI, a company focused on robot automation, welcomed the prospect of 5G. “Low latency is essential, especially if a robot needs to make a decision many times per second regarding interaction with the environment,” he said.”5G will allow us to do things much more efficiently.”