amplified intelligence

The Failure of The Connected Home

There is a war going on in the connected home space. Google is trying to own your home by providing the connection layer (through Fibre) and the energy and security layer (through Nest), while Apple is butting in with Homekit built directly into IOS software. Unsurprisingly, utilities are trying to get in the game too, with acquisitions and partnerships of their own (e.g. British Gas purchasing AlertMe). The telecomms companies are also making sure they aren't left out; with Comcast partnering to sell energy to consumers and other telcos adding security and energy to their internet/cable offerings. But these partnerships, acquisitions and experiments miss the point...more on that shortly.

What is the connected home you ask? The simplest definition is the connection of devices and tools in an automated way to save labor and effort in the homeOverly simplified as it is this definition highlights two fundamental problems that the companies above are facing

  1. Adoption is low and slow: because there is a push to sell customers stuff without providing clarity on the benefits to the customer. It's hard to convince a customer that savings of $25/year on your energy can justify a $100 expense on a device. It's even more difficult to sell most people on the need for a connected smoke detector when they hardly notice their current one until the battery runs down and it starts to make that dreadful how-can-I-break-this-device sentiment inducing noise. Save less than you spent on the energy saving device does not make for a compelling marketing message..
  2. Interoperability: there are competing devices and standards, there is no Operating System (OS) for this space as of yet. The players are trying to solve this either through the Thread consortium approach or through a home hub device approach. The focus so far has been on making it easier for the provider and not the customers; my mother in law does not care about your standard because, guess what, she's not buying a standard or platform. This feels very much like the betamax vs VHS battle (if you're my age you'll remember) or Blue Ray vs HD DVD battles. Like a few other analysts, I think there won't be one winner here. There will be a few standards and platforms that cater to specific use cases.  

The two issues above are anchored by the same core keylog; what my mother in law (and the average consumer) cares about is that her home and any technology in it maintains her sense of self esteem while she stays reassured of her well being and safety, without stripping her of her sense of control. The promise of the connected home currently makes consumers feel like they are not empowered in their own home and it's to the benefit of the device seller.

Providers need to stop selling automation and cater to the feelings. 

Consumers buy the why not the what...

Amplified Intelligence: New Buzzword or The Death Of Your Job?

Work has always been about solving problems. How to increase revenue, how to reduce expenses, how to efficiently deliver products to the customer etc. The tools with which we’ve solved problems have changed over the years. Assembly lines and heavy machines were the tools in the industrial age. In the post industrial era we started to rely more on computers and our brains as the tools for solving these basic business problems. These became our tools.
We are in the midst of a transition. The tools are becoming more intelligent with robots, artificial intelligence and cognitive computers.

Unfortunately the noise is all about how these tools will be taking over from you and I. The articles are coming at us furiously. Wired reports we might get some jobs after AI has taken all the manual ones, Fast Company suggests you and need to plan for the future robotic workforce, my car rental checkout guy (ever so grumpily) this past weekend kept going on about hating machines/how Skynet might kill him and just yesterday Volvo’S announced that their ROAR robots will take over garbage collection and handling. Researchers at Oxford University even came up with a probability metric to help you determine how likely you are to lose your job to a machine. Note: Clergy, CEOs, athletes, economists and hairdressers are safe, the rest of us are not

But as always this isn’t that cut and dry. 

Most of us (at all levels of employment) will end up with Amplified Intelligence not Artificial Intelligence replacing us. Amplified Intelligence is being pushed by Deloitte as they try to carve out a space in the noise of consulting expertise (wisely).  Think of it as what happened when

  • we moved from a man in an apron beating metal (the blacksmith),
  • to a foundry with a floor manager and
  • then to engineers inputting correct heat settings on a furnace;

the output (pure metal) did not change, the tools just got better

In the era of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning you and I just happen to be the blacksmith (without the apron of course). AI and Machine Learning will be  force multipliers for how you and I do our work. They already are in many sectors. I’ve heard it said that the future of work won’t be based on how much data is out there, it will be based on how you use that data. But you already knew this...

What you don’t know is that even the most junior analyst in your company will now be able to draw deep and game changing insights from the application of quantum levels of cognitive computing power to the analysis of all the data/information available to your organization (structured, unstructured, related and dark). Ponder that…your 15 years of experience in a particular sector will matter less than it does now in a future where artificial intelligence is used to amplify every organizations capabilities.

An unintended but unsurprising consequence here will be that the best talent will become even better at what they do once their talent is amplified. Every one has a pretty good camera phone that amplifies our ability to take good pictures but not all of us will be able to take award-winning-gasp-inducing pictures. Same will be the case in organizations. Hold on to those super talented employees who are about to become superheroes...

Hierarchy and power in the typical corporation, for the most part, as always been based onhow the ‘manager’ cognitively knew more about a problem than the new ‘analyst’ and could instruct the analyst on how to solve the identified problem. When that is no longer the case, since the knowledge is computed, captured, stored and freely available to all within the organization, your value to your organization

  • will have to come from your understanding of your customers,
  • your ability to harness all the resources to achieve the desired outcome for the customer and
  • (probably) your intuition about the best way to deliver customer results.

It’s pretty ironic; in a world where intelligence is artificial/amplified your value as an employee within an organization or as a product/service provider will depend on how much more human and much more intuitive you are than competitors since we’ll all have similar levels of amplification.

Cognitively compute that...