January 2, 2019

What’s Next in AI? The One Thing I’m Looking for at CES 2019

Upon returning from CES last year, I declared IoT dead. When smart razors and connected breast pumps litter the showroom floor, I think it’s safe to say that connected devices just aren’t all that unique anymore. The connected buzz is gone. So, as we turn the page on 2018 and begin prepping for another Consumer Electronics Show, it’s appropriate to ask – “What’s next? What should we expect to see at next week’s show?”

In a world where data collection has become ubiquitous – the reality of connected everything – the next logical progression is to figure out how to use the data we collect for increasingly innovative things. This explains why the IoT buzzword of 2016 and 2017 has been replaced by acronyms like AI (Artificial Intelligence), ML (Machine Learning) and DL (Deep Learning). Each technique is fueled by data, and each promises to introduce new value that we previously could not have even imagined.

Contrary to popular belief, the reality is that unless you’re Facebook, Google, Amazon or Apple, you’re likely doing very little, save experimentation, with these advanced analytical techniques. Only the most forward thinking organizations have created the data infrastructure necessary to be able to deploy these technologies, and even those who have are struggling to envision how they might use them in order to enhance their products.

While that may be today’s reality, I believe we will soon see that you don’t have to be a Facebook, Google, Amazon or Apple to use AI, ML, or DL effectively. Earlier this year, Motley Fool covered three companies using AI to their advantage. Yes, two of the three were Alphabet (Google’s parent) and Apple, but the third was FireEye, a cybersecurity company that’s using machine learning to detect unseen threats and decrease threat response time.

So, what I’m looking for at CES in 2019 are the early indications that the age of AI has actually arrived. I’m looking for pragmatic applications of AI, ML and DL that are creeping into consumer products – in other words, more FireEyes. I’m looking for small incremental uses that will lead to breakthrough ideas as well as the major breakthroughs that will set the tone in various industries that have yet to crack the nut on how to use AI in their real world.

Just a few of the companies I’ll be keeping an eye on based on who’s on panels discussing AI at CES this year include Stitch Fix, which has disrupted retail using AI and machine learning, AARP, whose Innovation Fund recently invested in an artificial intelligence consumer robotics company called Anki, and USAA, which has been using machine learning to analyze its vast amounts of data since 2015 and is a known innovator in the Financial Services space.

At this point, AI, ML, and DL are still mostly technological advances for their own sake. I have no doubt that over the course of the next few CES shows we will see an increasing number of innovators figure out how to leverage these techniques in order to address real consumer needs.