What do you think of when you hear the term “technology gold rush”?
We have had several technology gold rushes in the past few decades. Beyond the accompanying hype, these rushes are typically characterized by: 1) enormous opportunity, 2) no boundaries, and 3) limited rules. As in the original gold rush, it’s a Wild West atmosphere where you can quickly make your claim, leave your mark, and own your property.
Big corporations are often born in gold rushes, who go on to face new corporations in the next rush. While some companies are able to evolve and leverage their capabilities for disruptive innovation, others are pushed aside as new players enter the market and shoot to the top.
How often do technology gold rushes occur? Such massive market openings actually occur fairly regularly, at least once or twice per decade, but are often hard to spot while they’re happening. It can take years for the surrounding variables to mature, and then, when the environment is right, they grow massively and hit maturity.
Technology gold rushes seldom occur in isolation. In fact, for the biggest opportunities, there is always at least a second market opening at the same time. For example, between 1995-2005, internet adoption was a huge phenomenon and gave rise to companies such as Google and a completely new way of shopping — ecommerce. The revolution was the ease of finding and buying otherwise unavailable items that drove sales of enterprise and consumer hardware, software, and services. The gold rushes of widely available internet access and the desire to buy conveniently online (e-commerce) magnified each other.
Between 2005-2015 (consider that Facebook was founded in 2004) the ubiquity of smartphones gave rise to social media. Without smartphones, and the ability to express oneself anywhere anytime, social media would have had a significantly slower ramp, and may not have scaled as massively as it did. Being able to instantly see your friends’ reactions to photos you upload in real time accelerated that gold rush.
IoT and AI
IoT and AI is the current technology gold rush. They require each other at the same time they create their own wave of growth which amplifies other markets. The combination of IoT and AI is far more disruptive than anything we have seen since IBM’s personal computer.
IoT provides an unprecedented opportunity to access control and gather huge amounts of data. Greater control and greater data also increases the investment in the control and analysis of that data. AI provides the intelligence needed to make sense of all the data, and delegate that control (when and where it can be delegated) accordingly. IoT and AI would be significantly less effective without the other, and only reach their full potentials when used hand-in-hand.
IoT enables previously dreamed of smart home, smart enterprise, and smart city use cases to become a reality. Because of that, IoT will connect devices with each other in ways which were previously unimaginable. Moving beyond hospitals, gas stations, power grids, factory floors, etc., some of the more interesting IoT use cases today include a 5000 sensor jet engine with AI, IoT based pest control, and predictive maintenance of industrial equipment — the huge market size IoT already encompasses today further drives access and opportunities of already existing markets and verticals.
The result is the opening up of unimaginable amounts of data streams. This data is unimaginably high (the jet engine produces 10 gb per second), complex in its nature and completely raw in its format, which means humans can no longer follow this data to make decisions. AI is needed to assist people in making decisions with this new influx of data and the enormous amounts of information that come with it.
Artificial General Intelligence
AGI has a challenge: if the “GI” in AGI wants to learn, it needs to get access to a very broad spectrum of information. A good example is voice recognition. By end of the 1990s, voice recognition reached a near-perfect level for pre-defined industries (e.g., medical, legal) in a set number of languages, simply because they used very specific, limited vocabularies which were easy to process with the voice recognition software. This can be compared to very specific uses of AI today, like x.ai’s automatic appointment scheduling. It’s specific enough to be programmed, and to continue to learn and be optimized. But that kind of AI would be the same as if voice recognition worked only for specific legal words spoken in dictation.
Since we began talking to our smartphones, for instance in the form of Siri, voice recognition has become much more accurate for general use and has even begun adapting (if slower than we would like) to local accents thanks to the global use of the same technology.
AGI needs a broad spectrum of information to be effective and IoT provides it with that information. They not only complement each other, but they actually “need” each other to fulfill their real potentials.
The big corporations of tomorrow?
We haven’t even started the current tide of growth and innovation of IoT and AI. Many companies have grown and become successful through their core capabilities in these fields, but are yet to reach their full potential.
Today, we have semi-intelligent AI agents powered by NLP (Natural Language Processing) and speech recognition which come in the form of chatbots and voice activated assistants. We also have the beginning of a deep-rooted implementation of various IoT networks with connected devices, new types of sensors and next-generation telecom infrastructure. This raises the question of which companies will take off next, and what’s needed to achieve the promise of IoT and AI?
I believe this next gold rush growth will come from companies that focus on bringing IoT and AI together. The winners will be the companies who focus on creating real-world usable solutions out of the core intelligence technology and the IoT ecosystem by bringing them together in a way that creates ease of use and increases productivity for the average user. These are the companies that will change the world as we know it — independent of the industries and verticals they operate in at the start.