The potential use cases of tinyML are almost unlimited. Developers are already working with tinyML to explore all sorts of new ideas: responsive traffic lights that change signalling to reduce congestion, industrial machines that can predict when they’ll need service, sensors that can monitor crops for the presence of damaging insects, store shelves that can request restocking when inventory gets low, healthcare monitors that track vitals while maintaining privacy. The list goes on.
TinyML can make endpoint devices more consistent and reliable, since there’s less need to rely on busy, crowded internet connections to send data back and forth to the cloud. Reducing or even eliminating interactions with the cloud has major benefits including reduced energy use, significantly reduced latency in processing data and security benefits, since data that doesn’t travel is far less exposed to attack.
It’s worth nothing that these tinyML models, which perform inference on the microcontroller, aren’t intended to replace the more sophisticated inference that currently happens in the cloud. What they do instead is bring specific capabilities down from the cloud to the endpoint device. That way, developers can save cloud interactions for if and when they’re needed.
TinyML also gives developers a powerful new set of tools for solving problems. ML makes it possible to detect complex events that rule-based systems struggle to identify, so endpoint AI devices can start contributing in new ways. Also, since ML makes it possible to control devices with words or gestures, instead of buttons or a smartphone, endpoint devices can be built more rugged and deployable in more challenging operating environments.
Industry players have been quick to recognize the value of tinyML and have moved rapidly to create a supportive ecosystem. Developers at every level, from enthusiastic hobbyists to experienced professionals, can now access tools that make it easy to get started and more quickly sparked innovations for the future.
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