The early days of AI focused mainly on its potential in industrial and large commercial applications, a recognition that not every business had sufficient data to crunch or the financial means to secure the necessary computing power. Advertisers and credit card companies used AI; the farmer who grew your lunch did not.
Now, with affordable computing power at the ready and awash in data from software that tracks every conceivable business process, from outside sellers and from a kaleidoscope of sensors, cameras and other sources, companies of every size recognize data as straw waiting to be spun into gold. And there’s a lot of straw: Gartner predicts that just in the IoT space, the number of connected things will rise from an estimated 14.2 billion in 2019 to 25 billion by 2021.
The trends prominent at the recently concluded CES 2020 showcased data’s booming influence and echo patterns we’re seeing daily in the business and innovation communities:
AI opens new ways to monetize data directly and indirectly
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are powering impressive advances in areas as diverse as healthcare diagnostics, agriculture management, logistics, predictive modeling in epidemiology and land use planning. Higher resolution screens and faster processors enhance gamers’ experience, driving more demand to eSports. And business intelligence has never been as robust and useful.
Artificial intelligence can improve customer experience
Utilizing data from thousands of users, AI can predict when machines ranging from your vacuum cleaner to industrial robots need preventive maintenance, saving both inconvenience and business disruption. Likewise, AI will increasingly personalize customer experience, enabling companies to serve more relevant sales information to website visitors, chatbots to answer questions more accurately and, combined with other technologies such as augmented reality, to visualize how new room decor or clothing would look.
New types---and combinations---of data are driving innovation
Image data, acoustic data, and data from a dense array of environmental sensors have enabled innovations ranging from enhanced military aerial reconnaissance---microdrones that behave as a swarm---and JIT parts replacement to industrial monitoring and enhanced threat perception through chemical detection and object recognition. Farmers now use sophisticated tools to determine which areas of crops need nutrients and pesticides.
Emerging needs are fueling hunger for more data
Muscular new processes, materials, services and uses of products utilize more sources of data for consumer, commercial and industrial applications. For example, investment managers rely on dozens of sources of information to inform their buying decisions and recommendations to clients. With AI, those data can be harmonized, making comparisons of options easier and illuminating opportunities that might have been hard for even the most experienced executive to spot. Likewise, tools that streamline the packing and unloading of delivery trucks integrate data about customer orders, the weight and size of packages, route information, the configuration of the delivery truck and how packages shift as the truck empties.
These realities are converging into what Steve Koenig, vice president of research at CES organizer Consumer Technology Association calls the “new IoT,” an Intelligence of Things. “This new IoT bears testimony that artificial intelligence is permeating every facet of our commerce and our culture.”
What will our work and personal lives be like once we fully tap AI’s power? Let’s take a cue from Ken Olsen, a founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, who in the early days of computing said, “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.” AI’s transformative potential is far larger than we can imagine.