By Daniel Newman, principal analyst at Futurum Research and author of Futureproof
I’ve long said digital transformation is a journey, not a destination. Every journey has a catalyst for forward motion—the fuel in the tank, if you will. What drives IT transformation was on obvious display at this years’ Consumer Electronics Show (CES): as companies debuted advancements in everything from smart homes to smart cars to smart cities, it was abundantly clear artificial intelligence (AI) is leading the charge. Let’s examine a few ways AI is pushing digital transformation forward into the next phase.
AI at CES
As one of the largest tech conferences in the world, CES never disappoints when it comes to showcasing what’s new in tech. Here are the top AI advancements from this years’ gathering in Las Vegas:
Better Personal Assistants
Conversational AI has a ton of benefits (and, let’s be real—it also has it’s challenges), but none is quite as far-reaching as its impact on user experience (UX). Just think, when was the last time you used your fingers to search, call, listen to music, or perform any number of other mainstream digital tasks? For many of us, that time was long ago because now, we simply ask Alexa or Siri or Google Home.
According to VentureBeat, CES tech analyst Steve Koenig reported the number of smart speakers sold—fueled by the success of Amazon’s Alexa-enabled Echo—could reach a whopping 43.6 million this year after growing 279 percent last year. And no, that’s not a typo. That’s real data.
Yes, that’s impressive, but the point here is not just that there will be more personal assistants, but that they’ll be better personal assistants. There are a couple reasons for this: the first is that, as competition in the marketplace builds and device capabilities grow, consumers will win. The second (and most important) is that Alexa and her competition control more than just speakers on counters. As the market widens, more products can and will be controlled by virtual assistants. Dell’s Realizing 2030 report findings call out insights into how the implementation of AI will impact our daily lives.
Smarter Car Components
Notice I didn’t say fully autonomous or self-driving cars? The focus at this years’ CES was largely on smarter car components—i.e., those equipped with AI. Once again—and this isn’t a coincidence—the results all speak to UX (or, in this case, the driver experience). The chipmaker Nvidia, for example, showcased automobile AI assistants that can allow automakers to incorporate features like facial recognition and even a virtual assistant that knows if you’re looking in the opposite direction if someone is about to walk in front of your vehicle. This short video, part of the Realize2030 research, provides baseline context.
Big data and AI are changing how we approach infrastructure and connectedness in our daily lives. Because of this, smart cities are already a thing, and they’re about to get smarter. AT&T, for example, made a splash at this years’ CES by announcing a new structure monitoring solution that can alert officials when bridges (large or small) become a safety hazard, examining variables like temperature, the size of cracks, movement, and more.
Other solutions have evolved that monitor changes in river water level and speed, cutting down warning times in the event a flood is imminent and potentially saving lives.
CES showed us that AI is pushing digital transformation forward. That’s good information—but it’s not necessarily new information. We know AI is on a fast-track as we enter into 2018. That’s not just how we feel in the industry, either—it’s an observation that follows the data. A recent report from Forrester, for example, shows a whopping 70 percent of organizations are committed to moving from AI as a theory to AI as an application, implementing the tech over the course of the next 12 months.
Besides better personal assistants, smart car components, smart cities, and other specific applications, let’s look at the bigger picture: AI isn’t just changing specific products; it’s changing the entire digital transformation conversation. Think, for example, of its impact on 5G, a network that can handle billions of connected devices and has implications from everything from supply chain management to remote robotic surgery. AI plus 5G means these sensor-connected devices and applications won’t just be more connected and blazing fast, but they’ll have more capabilities, too. In fact, I expect smart products to be the base model, not the high-end model, very soon—and that’s just the beginning.
The bottom line? AI isn’t just a part of digital transformation, it’s becoming the key. If you haven’t already, you should pay attention to what your organization is doing (and could be doing more of) to stay out ahead of and leverage this trend—because it’s not going anywhere.
This post was sponsored by Dell, but the opinions are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dell Technologies’ positions or strategies.