Friday, 15 December 2017 12:05

AI no longer seen as artificial, blockchain boosting business: CES 2018

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Accenture's predictions for CES 2018 see blockchain changing business for the better, AI no longer so artificial, while 5G will set IoT alight

The expanding connectivity and uses of artificial intelligence (AI), the fueling of the internet of things by fifth-generation (5G) networks, and the growing consumer applications of blockchain technology will be key stories to watch at CES 2018, according to Accenture.

The company has identified five key themes based on its research and latest interactions with industry clients.

These are:

  1. Expanding Connectivity and Uses of Artificial Intelligence
  2. Chicken or the Egg – 5G and IoT
  3. Blockchain Connects With CES 2018
  4. Products Becoming More Software-Smart
  5. In-Vehicle Artificial Intelligence Driving Connected Car Market

1. Expanding Connectivity of Artificial Intelligence 

The expanding connectivity and uses of AI will be a central storyline at CES 2018. The story will be about more pervasive use of the technology than at last year’s CES, spanning a wider range of applications, connecting to more devices and networks.  

Expect to learn about how the combined and expanding uses of AI and analytics continue to enable smarter and more proactive products, services and customer support. AI has reached an inflection point where it is no longer thought of as “artificial” or an interesting technology trend but rather a real, expected and routine part of people’s business and personal lives nearly everywhere they go. Like a Wi FI connection, AI has become something we expect and that it will deliver what we want.  

AI is in smartphones, self-driving cars, video games, and a host of other devices shown at the show. AI is also becoming part of the workforce, functioning side by side with humans to accomplish routine and complex tasks faster, more efficiently, and at lower costs. 

There will be more conference sessions on AI – nine – than any other topic. The more intriguing AI sessions figure to be “AI and Analytics: Creating Compelling IoT Services”; “Designing AI-Powered Robots”; “How AI is Changing the World”; and “Turning AI Into Dollars.” 

Increasing use of digital voice assistants 

At the show look for increasing use of AI-powered digital voice assistants. These devices are emerging as central interfaces within people’s connected homes and the gateways to broader ecosystem connections. This trend began last year when one of the biggest stories at CES was the excitement about the widespread connections of devices and equipment with digital voice assistants on the show floors. At CES 2018 these digital voice assistants will be connected on the show floors with a broader range of devices and equipment.  

At the show expect a race among current digital voice assistants to become the dominant interfaces across all devices including cars, any type of home appliance, communications, or entertainment device. There will also be increased integration and use of voice in connected home products. This will be accelerated by increased licensing of the technology to third parties, such as platform and device manufacturers, and a stronger push toward smarter connected home products powered by machine learning. 

2. Chicken or the Egg – 5G and IoT 

Ordinarily you don’t hear much about fifth-generation (5G) wireless communications technology at CES. But as testing in labs advances with a market roll-out expected for 2020 - which will significantly speed up the adoption of IoT - expect 5G to be an important story at this year’s show.  

5G has the potential to accelerate data transmission speeds approximately 10 times faster than the currently used 4G wireless standard. Delivering reduced network latency, 5G has the potential to increase bandwidth needed to handle the ever-expanding IoT ecosystem and accelerate the speeds and services needed for rich data applications such as faster video streaming, virtual reality gaming, and more efficient self-driving cars. 

Offering more enhanced consumer experiences, 5G is intended to enable lower-cost device-to-device communication with shorter delays that help extend the battery lives of IoT devices and make possible more data-rich IoT connections among more devices, equipment and networks.  

5G could not only drive IoT; it will likely be the force behind high-tech processes moving forward in general. This includes the need for faster processing of semiconductors for virtual reality gaming, connected homes, and video streaming – unleashing new opportunities for media and entertainment and digital video companies. 

With all its potential, however, there will be challenges in making 5G a reality. The wireless industry will need to ensure the next-generation of networks can support a wider range of services and devices.  

Other IoT growth markets: health and fitness 

A related storyline to watch will be the latest growth in specific IoT segments including health and fitness, home security and safety, and automotive entertainment. CES 2018 will likely reveal that Bluetooth headsets and smartwatches dominate the wearable devices market. Driven by the growth in U.S. wellness programs, watch for news about the growing popularity of fitness wearables, which include wristbands, smart garments, chest straps, sports watches, and other fitness monitors. 

3. Blockchain Connects With CES 2018 

Blockchain is the hottest new technology on the horizon.  

Expect this trend to continue at CES 2018 -- marking the first time blockchain will have generated notable interest at this event.  

Broadly defined, blockchain is a type of distributed database that maintains and records data, such as payment transactions, in a way that allows multiple stakeholders to confidently and securely share access to the same information. This distributed ledger technology shares data in a manner that is transparent, safe, auditable and resistant to outages. Blockchain could help organisations become more decentralised as well as more democratic, efficient and secure. 

Over the next five to ten years blockchain will likely disrupt many industries. The technology offers promise across a wide range of business applications, including consumer electronics, payment processing and banking, healthcare, online music, content micropayments and private transport, to name just a few. 

At CES 2018, you may not see blockchain technologies and products physically displayed. But the technology will be a focal point in presentations and demonstrations of advanced and emerging technologies. One CES 2018 conference session is completely focused on blockchain. The session, titled “Uses for Blockchain,” notes that “we’ll explore the most radical possibilities.” 

You may see potential use cases in which blockchain solves problems across a range of consumer electronics products and technologies, such as smartphones, networking and the Internet of Things, as well as private transport. 

In the smartphone market, there could be demonstrations of highly secure, open source smartphones using blockchain technology that allow phone users to securely send and receive payments for services and products -- without having to pay fees. The phones may offer features such as secure exchange access and encrypted communications. 

In the networking and Internet of Things arena, you could see decentralised networks of IoT devices that use the blockchain, thereby eliminating the need for a central location to manage communications between these products. Within this decentralised network, the devices could communicate directly, manage bugs, monitor energy use, and upgrade software. 

In transportation, you may see blockchain used to create a decentralised version of peer-to-peer ride applications. This would allow car owners and users to arrange terms and conditions securely without a third-party provider. Blockchain could also enable use of built-in wallets that enable car owners to automatically pay for parking and highway tolls. Blockchain also has potential value in supply chain operations of consumer electronics companies. The blockchain online ledger can establish a single version of the data truth between entire systems, suppliers, distributors, retailers and consumers. One key result of this is faster payments to suppliers. 

CES 2018 attendees are likely to be interested in how blockchain can be used to address key business challenges such as creating new revenue streams, improving operational efficiencies, lowering overall costs, and delivering more personalised services. 

4. Products Becoming More Software-Smart 

CES has traditionally been a hardware show spotlighting the latest in electronics gadgets. But at this year’s show you are likely to notice that a growing amount of these products consist of, and are powered by, software.  

Software makes these devices and products smarter. These products are being enhanced by smart software-based application programming interfaces that deliver more feature-rich, intelligent, and personalised services and capabilities. Consider the smartphones, wearable fitness monitors, PCs and TVs typically shown at CES. They’re getting smarter, and the reason is the growing amount of software embedded within them. So are the digital voice assistants – which are bound to be one of this year’s hot products.  

Consistent with this trend, look for evidence of traditional hardware product companies unveiling more intelligent products increasingly powered by software. These companies will more often develop and use software and function like software companies that leverage the power of analytics and release new features faster. Also at the show anticipate more software platform companies entering more hardware markets over a range of devices such as servers, digital assistants, tablets, smartphones, drones, and autonomous cars. 

5. In-Vehicle Artificial Intelligence Driving Connected Car Market 

Connected cars and their associated digital services have been among the most intriguing products shown at the CES show in recent years. But there remain numerous engineering, regulatory, and usability challenges. 

These challenges can be overcome with breakthroughs in predictive capabilities, self-driving features, and “in-vehicle” AI and algorithm solutions and intuitive user interfaces such as voice. What’s needed is a means for AI to interact with data in cars in seamless and smart ways that enhance the driving experience. Before AI becomes widely used in cars, some tough issues need to be addressed, such as data acquisition and storage.  

Acquiring the data, such as images, audio and video, is difficult. Archiving it takes massive storage. And annotating it to a usable state for AI training takes a large amount of resources. Each hour of data collected takes hundreds of human hours to annotate. Scaling data annotation is a difficult process. 

The technical challenges associated with storing such high volumes of image, video and sensor data of differing formats, sizes and characteristics can halt or delay an autonomous vehicle project.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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