Sometimes it feels like we’re living in the future. Remember the first time you ordered an Uber, and it pulled up right in front of you? Or when you found out about Spotify and its infinite music library? Those moments can feel like magic. They also make it easy to forget that we’re just getting started.
Even though we don’t think much about the digital services we use every single day, they’ve become an essential part of our lives in a short amount of time. Think about it: Uber was founded in 2009, and Spotify has only been around since 2006 — both serve over 75 million paying users.
Imagine someone living in 1987 — 30 years ago — and having to explain to them how we go about our day in 2017. Our lives are so intertwined with technology and the internet, that they probably wouldn’t understand most of what you’re saying. Checking your commute on Google Maps? Hopping on a quick FaceTime call with a colleague? Sending your business expense via your mobile ? It all sounds like gibberish to them.
But now imagine someone from 2047, exactly 30 years from today. Our future friend travels back to the present, and comes with the same intention: to explain their daily life. Chances are we wouldn’t understand a single word of what they’re saying.
Innovation is happening at breakneck speed, and ideas that seem impossible today, might become reality in the near future — at least the world’s fastest growing industry is trying hard to make sure they will.
The Rise of Artificial Intelligence as a service
Artificial intelligence is one of tech’s fastest moving sectors. While it might make you think of robots, that’s not even the most exciting part — in the near future, digital assistants will prove to be much more impactful.
Currently, all of our data is locked in different services and devices. While your contacts might live in your iPhone, your emails could be stored in Gmail and your messages on Facebook. Individually, the apps we use to tap into this data work fine, but they’re mostly limited to their own database.
That’s where the modern digital assistant comes in — a single virtual entity that you can ask any question, in return giving the appropriate answer or performing the right action.
Over the last couple of years, every tech giant has developed their own version of this AI. There’s Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana, and they all work in similar ways. Most of them won’t have a problem with queries like ‘Call my mom’ or ‘Play Taylor Swift’s new album’. But… that’s pretty much it. You still need to actively invoke your assistant of choice to ask the question — without the user, it’s useless.
That’s why the next big step is to create an assistant that doesn’t just wait for input, but proactively gives you the information you need.
It combines data from all of your digital services, your phone’s sensors, your location, connected home devices and more. The platform’s AI constantly monitors these streams of data, and decides to send out a notification or perform an action whenever it sees fit. This all happens without user intervention, which means you don’t need to order that Uber anymore — it’ll already be there when you get out the door.
AI assistants are getting better every single day — not just because of their ongoing development, but also thanks to machine learning. Every time a user interacts with them, they get a tiny bit smarter. They might never be perfect, but at some point they’ll be able to do things we can’t even imagine today. Servion Global Solutions has predicted that by 2025, 95% of customer interactions will be powered by AI.
In this fully integrated future, technology will become increasingly invisible. Today, virtual assistants still retain a physical presence by relying on a smartphone or wearable, but those might not be around for much longer. Always-on devices like Google Home and Amazon Alexa are already paving the way for an invisible, omnipresent assistant.
Using this futuristic AI, the possibilities are endless. Imagine going on a business trip, having your boarding pass automatically detected at the gate, and your phone playing your favorite offline playlist when you sit down.Upon arrival, your Uber is already waiting to bring you to your appointment, and the expense for the ride is automatically registered. Instead of having to fiddle around on our phones to get something done, technology will finally serve the human.
All of this offers an interesting challenge for companies and developers. Apps and services in a traditional sense probably won’t be around for much longer — instead we could be dealing with invisible software that seamlessly plugs into each other, pushing data back and forth. There might be a central platform tying it all together, but maybe there won’t — we’ll have to see. If your company provides a digital service, however, it’s definitely time to rethink how it’ll fit in this new economy.
Sure, there are a lot of things that need to happen before we get there. Even though most assistants can dip into apps to perform an action or request information, they can’t actively index and crawl through all of your data. One way to solve this would be to build an environment that can facilitate the cross-platform exchange of information between apps, while giving users total control over how and when to share their information.
That won’t be an easy task, but once again, something that seems impossible today doesn’t mean it’ll be impossible forever.