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Katie King looks at what the advance of artificial intelligence is likely to mean for the HVAC industry

It seems like the topic of artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere at the moment, and for good reason. AI is already revolutionising many industries, improving speed, efficiency and accuracy.

However, there is no denying that there are widespread fears that machines could eventually replace humans by taking jobs in the workplace.

According to research from Oxford University and Deloitte, approximately 35% of jobs in the UK are at high risk of being taken by machines over the next two decades.

So let’s take a look at the likelihood of robots coming after jobs in the air conditioning industry.

Jobs that are at a higher risk of automation generally involve large amounts of data processing and interpretation

Katie King Katie King Keynote speaker on AI and social media @TEDx

What exactly is AI?

The answer is in the name: artificial intelligence.

Put simply, AI is the result of training computers and technology to process and recognise patterns within large amounts of data to accomplish specific tasks; it is intelligence taught to and demonstrated by machines, as opposed to the natural intelligence of humans and animals.

With machines learning to carry out certain processes and developing particular human capabilities, it is beginning to make business sense to employ machines to deliver certain functions rather than humans.

There are various reasons why this is becoming the case. Technically, machines are able to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and, unlike humans, are not entitled to breaks or protected by The Working Time Regulations.

Of course there is an initial investment and maintenance costs involved in the deployment of AI, but machines do not require a salary or paid holiday; in some cases, a human employee may cost more in the long-run than a machine.

Then there’s the improved accuracy, speed and efficiency of machines that outcompete humans, and with the rapid developments we are seeing, it is likely that AI is only going to become faster and smarter.

What makes a job role more susceptible to automation?

At present, the roles that AI can play within the workplace are generally limited to those that are repetitive, simple to automate and involve mass data processing and interpretation; the implementation of AI is based on making processes more efficient and accurate.

Therefore, jobs requiring human interactions, decision-making, creative ideas and improvisation are unlikely to be completely replaced by AI, and are more likely to merely be aided by technology.

How likely are HVAC jobs to become automated?

Based on the above, it is relatively unlikely that jobs in this field will become completely automated.

Perhaps it is more likely that some of the design elements could be computerised and enhanced by AI, however there are particular processes and job functions that HVAC engineers carry out that would be difficult for machines to replicate.

Engineers are often required to think on their feet, make fast decisions, and provide quick solutions and fixes, all of which currently cannot be adequately performed by AI.

There is no denying that AI is advancing at a rapid pace, with what seems like new developments reported daily.

It is true that as algorithms become more sophisticated and robots’ abilities to complete more complex tasks progress, there will be new opportunities for humans to be replaced with more physically and financially efficient machines.

However, for the time being, jobs that are at a higher risk of automation generally involve large amounts of data processing and interpretation, therefore making roles requiring human thinking and interactions, such as air conditioning, heating and ventilation engineers, safer.

Katie King, MBA is founder of social media experts Zoodikers @zoodikers and @AIinFM; Director of Transformation @DigitalLeadersA; and a keynote speaker on AI and social media @TEDx.