This article was written by Dr. Emad Mousavi, the Founder and CEO of QuiGig. If you want to see others that he has posted, visit his LinkedIn.
The first personal computers were released in the early 80s and, over the next ten to fifteen years, became a ubiquitous fixture in modern homes. Many of the more forward thinking companies had already begun installing computers in their offices years before, from the models of the 70s that filled entire rooms to the desktop terminals that proliferated in the 80s and 90s.
The ability to automate manual processes and store information spurred a massive shift in the way we live and work. Computers and their associated data technologies–hard drives, floppy disks, etc.–overhauled the way we do so many things personally and professionally in two key ways: by giving us the ability to collect and store more data, faster, and by giving us the ability to efficiently process and analyze it to derive insight that can inform decision making.
Those original storage formats were revolutionary at the time but actually could only hold a few kilobytes of data, unlike the many gigabyte capacities of basic flash drives you can pick up at Best Buy now. And processing speed, while faster than could be accomplished manually at that point, still paled in comparison to the lightning fast processors of today.
That sudden ability to process mountains of data in order to glean actionable insight is what has driven the exponential growth of the Information Age and what continues to shape innovation. It meant that companies and organizations could examine consumer behavior patterns on a massive scale to determine effective product development and marketing strategies. It meant that businesses and individuals could communicate and share information far more quickly and easily than ever before. It meant simplifying, and sometimes even fully automating, menial yet crucial tasks in our personal and professional worlds.
And it never stops evolving. Each new capability leads to the discovery of even more capabilities, all with the idea of streamlining work, increasing efficiency and profitability and improving our overall lives. More recently, the evolution of phones from landlines to bag phones to flip phones to Smartphones and tablets has placed the utility of the personal computer in our hands, powered by the integration of Internet and mobile data connections that lets us take that functionality anywhere we go.
This abundance of data gathering, storing and analytical technologies is a dream scenario for data scientists and marketers, though it has created new concerns with regard to privacy and the actual ownership of personal data. For the individuals who use platforms like Facebook and Google (which, let’s face it, is most of us) the tradeoff for access to those platforms is relinquishment of the information you provide while using them. You may be the one generating data from your interactions and behaviors on Facebook, but you don’t own that data; Facebook does. It can sell your data as it wants, and you agree to that arrangement by creating an account and using it.
The consequences of handing over your data to the major ISPs are still debatable. For the most part, these companies track behaviors with cookies and use that insight to serve you more relevant ads and content, but the personally identifiable information is inaccessible; they’re tying your data to an IP address, not your name. So the Big Brother creep factor is an issue, but another important thing to consider is how such advanced data capabilities put these companies light years ahead of their competition.
Which leads us to artificial intelligence–the next technology frontier to be conquered. We have already begun to implement AI and machine learning to further automate tasks and analyze data on a micro level. No longer do we have to make assumptions based on high level patterns observed in a large group of people; we can now use advanced data analysis to engage on an individual level but still at scale.
Artificial intelligence has brought us to the peak of efficiency–it enables data analysis and automated action to ensure personal and professional tasks are carried out quickly and accurately. But AI is still largely the property of the major market players–your average independent brand doesn’t have access to it unless they partner with a provider, which can be cost prohibitive for some.
It remains to be seen just how much AI will affect our daily lives, but every industry out there is already experimenting with it as much as they can in the quest for efficiency and profitability. The growth trajectory has been rapid and steep, so you can bet we won’t have to wait long.