Consumer Technology enables SCALE and RAPID INNOVATION

Consumers enable SCALE and RAPID INNOVATION in Technology. As I walked around the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), I could see how the technology will “bubble up” into business and into enterprises quickly. Initially, technology came from business to consumers – think PCs. The sheer size of consumer market, hunger for new functionality, and its willingness to put up with beta releases makes the consumer world the ideal proving ground for the less fault tolerant enterprise world. Companies that span both world can leverage the consumer world for its SCALE and RAPID INNOVATION and bubble those innovations into the enterprise world for higher profits.

Drones are an example of bubbling up. While they started in the military, they are now a big segment of the consumer market. Drones or autonomous flying vehicles have been improving including automated stabilization, 4K cameras, enhanced flying times, etc. Many of them have dozens of computers on board and some rather impressive programming to make them simple to use. First it was movies, then multi-million dollar homes and now you see mid-market homes with drone footage. It has become a toy for teenagers, too.

Due to the wide-spread usage of drones in the consumer market, they are vastly improved and far less expensive. One of the leader’s in the industry (Drone Market Map)( https://www.droneii.com/top20-drone-company-ranking-q3-2016)), DJI’s basic drone is just under $500, flys for ~25 mins, includes GPS tracking, tracks subjects based photo recognition using a 1080 camera for photos and stills. Lots of knock offs are even cheaper.  “Toy Drones” are just $50! Five years ago, the DJI basic drone would have been a top of the line $5K drone, if even available.

Part of the attractiveness of the consumer world is scale. The other factor is that the consumer world is filled with willing beta testers and relatively low liability costs. The consumer world is an agile one where cycles occur very quickly. A typical enterprise development cycle is 18 months. In the same time in the consumer world, you’d see a major hardware, firmware, and at least 30+ releases of software.

The demand for new and the tolerance for risk is high in the consumer market. Recent releases of drones from reputable consumer companies come with lots of complaints on the internal boards of them not flying well, not following waypoints, and simply flying away. In the business world, failure to perform would be a breach of contract and might result in loss of property or life. In the consumer world, the drone manufacturer can just send a firmware update, a letter, a coupon, award you status on their web site as hero or pioneer, or at worst – replace the drone. It’s a trivial price enabling those dipping into the consumer world to advance faster than those in the business world.

While scale makes the money, it is the willing beta tester that enables advancement. Haven’t you signed up to be a beta or an alpha tester. I know I am for many of IBM’s early release programs. We have marvelous internal site called “Technology Adoption Program” where individuals submit their software inventions. Many have become key enablers of IBM’s business. They grew up fast by being adopted and depended on by IBM’s business.

What else might bubble up? Virtual Reality has real possibilities for training. Augmented Reality with heads up displays and glasses will be welcomed the field. Giving schematics, UV and Infrared vision, and more to workers. What will make it become easily affordable and useful – another Pokemon Go that plays with glasses pushing it onto millions of users’ foreheads.

3D printing is coming of age, but I can see point where 25% of households have plastics printer and your hardware store has a metal one. No inventory of 500K parts – just print it. Lots more like LED lights, Home Automation, Sports Fitness, etc. will bubble up.

Finally, Artificial Intelligence (AI) may be the biggest winner from the bubble up effect of the consumer. The key to AI is having huge knowledge base or corpus and lots of training. Where better than the consumer market with a potential of 7 billion users – the population of the world – to train your AI. Whether it is Siri, Alexa, Cortana, Watson, or Google, these companies’ AI programs will benefit from the consumer training it. You get a voice interface and they get you to train their AI.

What do you think will be the next big bubble up technology from the consumer world to the enterprise world?

 

 

Our 2 fears of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

We have two (2) overarching fears of AI. AI domination is the most irrational fear where AI becomes smarter than organic intelligence and wipes out or subjugate the organic life forms. This plays out in number of number of science fiction works like “Transformers”, “Terminator” and “I, Robot”. In “I, Robot”, the AI unit is claiming to do it in service of humanity. I’d argue AI domination is the least likely scenario of doom and maybe in dealing with our second fear, we can solve our AI domination fear, too.

The second fear is that of misuse of AI. I’d argue that is the same argument has been used against every technological advancement. The train, automobile, nuclear fission, vaccines, DNA, and more have all been cited for ending the world. I suspect someone said the same thing against the lever, wheel, fire, and bow. Each has changed the world. Each has required a new level of responsibility. We’ve banded together as humans to moderate the evil and enhance the positive in the past. Ignoring it or banning it has never worked.

Amazon, DeepMind/Google, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft are working together in the “Partnership on AI” to deal with this second fear as described by the Harvard Business Review article “What will it take for us to trust AI” by Guru Banavar. It is a positive direction to see these forces coming together to create a baseline set of rules, values, and ethics upon which to base AI. I’m confident others will weigh in from all walks of life, but the discussion and actions needs to begin now. I don’t expect this to be the final or only voice, but a start in the right direction.

I hope the rules are as simple and immovable as Issac Asimov’s envisioning of the  3 laws of robotics on which the imagined, futuristic positronic brains power AI robots. Unfortunately, I doubt the rules will be that simple. Instead they will probably rival international tax law for complexity, but we can hope for simplicity.

The only other option is to stop AI. I don’t think it is going to work. The data is there and collecting at almost unfathomable rate. EMC reports stored data growing from 4.4ZB in 2013 to 44ZB in 2020. That is 10^21 (21 zeros) bytes of data. AI is simply necessary to process it. So unless we are going to back-out the computerized world we live in, we need to control AI rather than let it control us. We have the option to decide our fate. If we don’t then others will move forward in the shadows. Openness, transparency, and belief in all of human kind have always produced the best results.

In the process of building the foundation of AI, maybe we can leave out worst of human kind – lust for power, greed, avarice, superiority. Maybe the pitfalls in humans can simply NOT be inserted in AI. It will reflect our best and not become the worst of human kind – a xenophobic dictator.

Putting the AI genie back in the bottle will not work. So I think the Partnership on AI is a good first step.