I tend to believe that technology has the potential to play a significant role in solving some of the world’s major problems. Of course, this will also require significant responsibility from the companies leading those charges and the waters will need to be navigated wisely. But I truly believe that technological advances have the potential to play a role in bringing developing parts of the world from poverty to prosperity.
The reality, however, is that to get to the next billion consumers, technology companies can not do what they are doing today. Rather, they will need to chart new courses and be aggressive with research and development in search of solving problems and creating technology that the next billion consumers will find valuable. We may not be able to identify all the areas of interest to the next billion, but careful regional research combined with fresh vision will reveal how best to bring new technologies to the next billion consumers.
Another area is smart devices. Although we may believe our personal devices are smart, perhaps because one is called a smartphone, the reality is that they are not. The truth is that many of these devices will continue to gain quite a bit more processing power, but the fact is they are still not actually smart. When I talk about smart devices getting smarter, what I am really talking about is artificial intelligence.
For example, what if my smart car knew my calendar and could recommend location based options for lunch or commerce in between my meetings? Or what if my smart car knew I was hitting traffic on my way to a meeting and may be 10 minutes late, and could then email my team beforehand letting them know I’m running a little behind? Or what if while traveling to New York, my phone (knowing my music preferences) could let me know which of my favorite bands or artists are playing while I’m there and offer me a chance to buy tickets?
This level of additional intelligence where our devices can interact with us without us initiating action is one of the areas that I think we will see tremendous innovation in the coming years. In the future, artificial intelligence becomes the new user interface.
Apple has taken the first leap in this area with Siri, which is a bold move forward in truly making the iPhone smart. This is because what Apple has built with Siri is fundamentally artificial intelligence. This brings an entirely new way for us to interact with our devices, but more importantly for our devices to interact with us.
For most, if not all, of this industry’s history, we have been proactively interacting with electronics. We set them up, we install the software we want, we customize and personalize them. What the coming era of smart devices and artificial intelligence will bring is the next evolution of computing where our devices can also interact with us by learning key things about us and then providing more specific value. It is only when our smart devices can begin to interact with us that our personal computing devices truly become personal.
Besides personal computing, I see a ton of potential for smarter devices in the areas of security, health and tele-health, home automation, automobiles and transportation, and commerce and banking to name a few. The innovation around artificial intelligence and smarter devices will open up possibilities for the technology industry that are completely unimagined. It could even lead to new parallel industries which could create new jobs around the world. While PCs have driven the first major wave of personal computing, I believe new types of “smart” devices with artificial intelligence driving them will be at the heart of bringing enhanced innovation to the next generation of digital devices, and will be at the center of our greatest years ahead of us.
Ben Bajarin is the director of consumer-technology analysis and research at Creative Strategies Inc., a technology industry analysis and market intelligence firm in Silicon Valley.