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Past, present and future - now

Last week I was fortunate to attend the Future Now Conference; Microsoft's premier AI event for partners, business leaders and implementers. Immediately upon entry it was clear we were going to see some great and life-changing innovations from the clever customer and partner ecosystem – and we were not disappointed.

However, before we all get carried away with what can be done (because let’s face it, we were born into a time of technology where nearly anything can be done); as much emphasis, right from the powerful keynote, was placed on what we should and more importantly shouldn't be doing.

Te Aroha Morehu from Ngāti Whātua Orākei gave a stirring, visceral performance on the importance of guardianship. Technology is immensely capable, with seemingly unlimited potential, but more important are the people, the land, our ancestry and our resources – all of which are not unlimited. If we advance our brands, our businesses and our finances and yet fail to protect the most ancient brands of whānau, culture, mana, and identity; then we will have lost our way. My words cannot do justice to Te Aroha's inspirational speech, so I encourage you to watch it as part of the Keynote (his contribution begins at 1:41:50).

This for me was one of those timely reminders that we all need to centre ourselves and balance our priorities. I left that session with a single thought in my head... "I needed to see that!

Having had my senses and awareness replenished, I was excited to go and appreciate all the super innovations through vendor stands, breakout sessions and the networking with colleagues and customers in the main areas. There I saw and discussed incredible innovations like being able to identify an insect from drone footage by the frequency of its wing beats. Clever innovations like bringing a network of 'white spaces' to otherwise off-grid rural areas using the now-deprecated terrestrial television frequencies. Using augmented reality to enable children with language, sensory or cognitive disorders to communicate and learn in regular classrooms and at home. And using AI to recognise and identify tissue boundaries to enable segmentation and colouration of organs and tumours.

In-session in the Green Zone, complete with Silent Events headsets
In-session in the Green Zone, complete with Silent Events headsets

As vendors, we are fortunate to be involved with a number of customers at various stages of their BI and AI journeys. To gain real insights and benefits from AI requires a deep knowledge of the business domain in combination with technology expertise – and a healthy dose of trial, error and incremental improvement.

As we saw from the very impressive health, education, agricultural, environmental and cultural case studies; the successes came from a commitment by engaged, empowered and passionate users; combined with dedicated product and implementation vendors; combined with the impressive array of tools, techniques and guidance from Microsoft. A great quote I heard was “Get the right people in the room, the right mandate from the business, the right support from partners and you can really get things done.”

Often the advice from sessions and conversations with folks at the stands was a recognition that this stuff takes time; and as the team works together they grow their knowledge (and may often change approach to improve outcomes and refine accuracies). Accuracy to within 1cm may be more than reasonable when ordering a ride to work, but it is nowhere near good enough when removing a tumour. I saw a lot of parallels to this approach to all successful technology outcomes. A healthy dose of pragmatism, empowered decision makers, clever subject matter experts, technology specialists; together with patience and commitment (both financially and productively) from all parties.

Where this stuff stood out though was the incredible potential to transform our lives – and not just the gadgets and time-saving aspects; but our actual lives.

AI during surgery with HoloLens
AI during surgery with HoloLens

Using AI to optimise the use of our limited resources in the most effective way possible (whether to increase patient throughput, improve patient outcomes, focus on the most important issues or identify and predict ailing people, machines or ecosystems); to me was another powerful message bookmarking this event with Te Aroha's introduction. We sit on the verge looking into the Fourth Industrial Revolution – what we collectively do with this opportunity will define our species and shape the lives of our descendants. That’s exciting as well as a bit daunting, so let’s keep talking about it.

This blog is part of the #datareimagine series. For more experts' insights, clients' experiences and to download our datasheets, click the banner.

For more experts' insights, clients' experience and to download our datasheets, click the banner #datareimagine

Posted by: Bryce Saunders, Senior Consultant | 02 November 2018

Tags: Virtual Reality, HoloLens, AI, AR, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, VR, #CXreimagine, #DataReimagine, #AIReimagine

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