The advent of certain technologies—inexpensive high-speed internet, secure cloud storage, mobility solutions and low-cost devices—has allowed fantastical possibilities of the past to become reality. One of the platforms that has been enabled is artificial intelligence. And AI's ability to process information, at high speeds and scale, unleashes endless new opportunities and infinitely better management of processes, systems, networks and information.
In 2016, we use voice-recognition systems, driverless cars are being trialed and robotic hotel receptionists work in Japan. In fact, every industry—from healthcare to finance to travel to fashion—is being impacted by new AI technologies. These applications can help travellers plan vacations, doctors select the right treatment plans for patients, and lawyers find important legal research in a much shorter time.
[T]he first operator to discover the "killer" application of AI which becomes a basic expectation of a smartphone rather than a gimmicky extra will open up a market of infinite opportunity.
Perhaps the biggest area being impacted by the rise of AI is mobile. Mobile devices put AI at consumers' fingertips through the likes of Siri, Cortana, Alexa and Google now – 'personal digital assistants' embedded in your smartphone.
For now, however, personal assistants are simply that—assistants. They can't make connections or fully understand the patterns of everyday life. And they don't learn from interactions, as truly artificial intelligent applications, running on platforms built by IBM, Facebook, Google and others can.
But this is about to change. According to Gartner, by year-end 2018, consumer digital assistants will recognise individuals by face and voice across channels, and by 2020 smart agents will facilitate 40% of mobile interactions. Gartner also predicts that virtual personal assistants will "monitor user content and behaviour in conjunction with cloud-hosted neural networks to build and maintain data models from which the technology will draw inferences about people, content and contexts."
So, while Siri, Alexa and Cortana won't be appearing as super-human life forms anytime soon, what Gartner's prediction does foreshadow is that they will become a huge trove of data for companies and consumers alike to tap into.
Personal assistants aren't the only way devices will get smarter. Applications—programs that live in the mobile-first world—are gradually becoming more entwined with the devices themselves. Rather than simply checking for an IP connection and basic device characteristics, applications will find themselves diving deeper into handsets they live on and peering into the networks that serve them, enabling customers to enjoy a more seamless experience.
AI could herald the end of the era of roaming and this represents a great opportunity for operators.
These smarter applications will transform the handset from a mere assistant to an essential, particularly when a user is in unfamiliar territory. Earlier we mentioned that new AI applications can help consumers plan trips and provide hotel and restaurant recommendations. But if you're travelling to a foreign country (and, crucially, a foreign network) having an AI-capable smartphone is one thing, but having a connected AI enabled smartphone is quite another. Cross-border mobility will be fundamental expectation, as users will refuse to tolerate their smart device being hamstrung by outdated network approaches to roaming. AI could herald the end of the era of roaming and this represents a great opportunity for operators.
With the ability to quickly analyse massive amount of consumer behaviour and data, mobile devices with artificial intelligence applications have the ability to recognise a person the way humans recognise other people—by individual characteristics. It's now possible to analyse and recognise multiple facets of an individual and use these together to make a picture of "you." This goes beyond just simple voice or facial recognition. For example, some video games use AI to analyse the way a person speaks and their body language. There are also AI applications that can actually detect and distinguish animals in the wild through a smartphone camera. From a picture, the application can provide information like the scientific name of the animal and other details a person likely wouldn't know on their own.
[B]y year-end 2018, consumer digital assistants will recognise individuals by face and voice across channels, and by 2020 smart agents will facilitate 40% of mobile interactions.
Ultimately, AI will make it possible for the network itself to adapt to the needs of the end users, reconfiguring for bandwidth and speed dynamically as the end user population moves around
Networks provide a seamless use of any and all communications paths. For example, you don't need to know if you are on wifi or cell network to make a call using Facetime on your iPhone, it just works. The key is, right now it's on top of existing network paradigms. Imagine a mobile device on which the user doesn't even have to think about cell coverage or wifi, it just works on any network available—including IoT networks, Bluetooth and others.
For consumers, the most exciting promise of artificial intelligence is having phones that can take care of menial daily tasks. For businesses, the data behind artificial intelligence will really change the way they operate and utilise information. The massive amounts of data that AI systems can process in short periods of time can provide companies with invaluable insights about their customer behaviour, and how they can adjust their business practices to better meet the needs and demands of customers.
There is little argument that AI is going to change the way people live, work and behave. What is an open question is whether today's era of data operators will become the catalyst of that change. To succeed, AI needs to become critical, and the first operator to discover the "killer" application of AI which becomes a basic expectation of a smartphone rather than a gimmicky extra will open up a market of infinite opportunity.