It’s easy to forget how the ordinary devices we use everyday have completely changed how world functions. Now, the question is: How do we better capitalize on all these new opportunities?
The smartphone changed everything. This 5-inch plastic rectangle that we carry in our pockets and purses has enough computing power to launch a space mission. It’s always on and always connected.
The smartphone knows more about us than we realize. It keeps track of our steps, sleeping rhythms, driving patterns and shopping preferences. It knows what we look like and how much we pull on the bathroom scale. It can open our doors and operate indoor webcams. It knows the kind of music we like and the names and faces of the people that we hang out with. It even has our fingerprints and credit card numbers. And the most amazing part is that we are totally cool with this.
The level of trust that we impart upon this 5-inch device today would be absolutely unthinkable just a few years ago. We tolerate this constant snooping and data gathering because the level of experience that our phones deliver in return is nothing short of transformative.
If we can appreciate the unthinkable level of transformation that we experience in our mundane day-to-day activities, we can only marvel at the level of impact that the same technology can have on healthcare, education, transportation, manufacturing, finance and other industries.
Where an individual can save a few bucks in fuel costs by picking the most efficient route to a shopping mall, a transportation company can save millions by making a similar optimization for the thousands of trucks that it has on the road. Thanks to the economies of scale, it’s now possible to equip any physical object—trucks, televisions, air conditioning units, MRI machines, drones and more—with its own personal smartphone, a powerful computer that is always on and always connected.
We are only beginning to explore the range of opportunities in this new reality. There is only one thing that we know for sure: We will need a smarter and bigger cloud to truly capitalize on all these newfound opportunities.
The benefits that are delivered to us in return for data collected via mobile devices are enabled by an array of intelligent services running in the cloud. These services use sophisticated algorithms to turn zettabytes of data into insights, predictions and recommendations. Data gathered from billions of users and tens of billions of devices is processed and aggregated to transform our collective experience and improve business processes in every branch of the economy.
Exponential growth in the volume of data that is accumulated in our data centers prompted several major breakthroughs in machine learning and led to a true AI renaissance. Machines now beat humans in image recognition and natural language processing. At the same time, it is obvious that we are only scratching the surface of what’s possible. Humans are still very much involved in cleaning up the data and handcrafting cognitive algorithms. Many industries experience acute shortage of data scientists and bidding wars break out periodically for the top AI talent.
It is clear now that before we can make the next major breakthrough, we need to make a leap from learning to meta-learning. We need to teach computers how to think about thinking and automate the machine learning process as much as possible. It is a task that here at Progress we are taking very seriously.
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