At a time when devices integrate information across channels and data is the new God, tech behemoths are working on a convergence of business models and data ownership.
Every American home has one thing in common these days: children and adults alike are playing with Amazon Echo or Google Home. “Hey Google, tell me the time,” “Hey Alexa, tell me the weather,” or “Hey Siri, play me rock music.” The requests are many, the wonder is the same.
Any reader with a legacy business mindset would call these devices a “waste of time”. But, look closely and you’ll realise that the bet is not on the novelty of these devices, but, on the race to owning data of consumer across all channels of communication in their life.
It’s no longer about legacy enterprises owning your data; it is about these home devices integrating data across channels. What then? The data will be a Google’s or Amazon’s or Apple’s, in partnership with these legacy companies.
Soon, the retailer, the automobile company, the insurance company and the bank will partner with these tech companies to bring a single view of the customer. Talk about creative business models and hybrid worlds. These home devices, which are voice-based assistants, will know everything about a person’s life. They will be able to pull out information from all devices, including cars, home devices, mobile phones, CRM systems and many more. They will know what you do every day because you have signed up to share your data with them.
Today, these things throw static information at you. However, with the kind of edge analytics - analytics done at high speed by pulling data from the consumer devices end – at play, Google, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Facebook seem set to be at the centre of the new revolution, a convergence of business models and data ownership.
Seems likely that there will be no countries like the US or India. There will be Google, and its people will be called Googlers. Then there will be Amazon and Amazonians. The war is no longer between Android and iPhone operating systems; it is about your data and how the entire ecosystem of home, car, work and device are integrated for you (the consumer) to be served with better information.
Werner Vogels, the CTO of Amazon, says: “We are working with partners to make voice the natural interface of communication because we already see app fatigue setting in.”
He adds that they want the developer community to use AI and Natural Language Processing and crunch data to create new business services.
In India, we already see this happening very quietly.
Manthan is working with Future Group to work on AI-based edge analytics by white-labelling Amazon’s Alexa. Shoppers Stop is working with Cisco to get a single view of the customer. Bengaluru based 24/7.AI, a BPO with $400 million in revenues, has rebranded itself into a fully automated service using voice-based interfaces.
Professor S Sadagopan, Director IIIT-B, says: “Perhaps this is the first time in the world we see convergence and interfaces. Convergence in data and interfaces in business models.”
On the other side of the world, NASA is already working with Amazon to source open source geospatial data for the developer community and students across the world. If you think this makes for strange bedfellows, know that retailers and manufacturers sharing their data with cloud companies like Google and Amazon is only a matter of time.
Yuval Noah Harari, the author of Homodeus, calls this “Dataism” where the new religion is no longer about sky Gods in the cloud, but about technology companies in the cloud that can predict a person’s behaviour with absolute certainty.
Humans have been trying to predict behaviour for the longest time - the price movements in the stock market use the human buying and selling variable as one of the variables to understand trading outcomes. The only thing is that data about the consumer being crunched by these devices sitting in your home and powered by the cloud of Amazon and Google makes for a compelling future.
In very simple terms, your driving data is being collected by a car, for example, and is being stored in a cloud. The car is the edge device and the analytics are being performed by an AI platform trained by humans to understand patterns and learn every time when the repetition changes into a new experience. IoT-based devices in the garage and at home will play a major role in connecting the dots. These are the things that have to happen for edge analytics:
“The voice assistant knows exactly what time you will get home. You can tell it to keep the lights on or keep your garage open,” Werner says. He adds that all these repetitive tasks will be replaced by AI, which will compute and analyse volumes of data.
This argument is not limited to technology companies alone. Even Volkswagen, the $250 billion dollar in revenues car manufacturer, is positioning itself as an operating systems company.
Christian Senger, Head of e-mobility, Volkswagen AG, says: “The car is now an operating system. The Volkswagen operating system will be available with a whole range of services from startups and partners.”
By 2020, VW is looking at a data platform that will also focus heavily on security.
“This is an era of artificial intelligence and the car will generate so much data. At Volkswagen, we do not understand this, but we need to speed up these services. Security will be very important. We have achieved traffic safety, but information theft is what all of us are worried about,” Christian says.
The carmaker has a joint venture in AI with an Israeli company and it is still early days in understanding how AI will pan out, but what is certain is that the digital economy will usher in plenty of on-the-go services, thanks to data sharing.
“We can do several things in the car of the future - music, banking and much more. It is the duty of the automaker to protect this. We have to step over the bridge. People see the benefit of sharing data today, and they understand it allows them to get services to make their daily living better,” Christian says.
Edge Analytics is being done by a few companies like i2E1, WizGo and Bezirk.
i2e1 collects data from over 20 million devices every month.
Satyam Darmora, Founder of i2e1, says: “We analyse over 50 million data points daily to estimate footfalls at various physical marketplaces across the country, which helps our clients to efficiently manage their current stores and plan new stores.”
He says the company gets retailers to use data in forms that are usable.
There are data stories all around us, though data usage remains nascent in India.
UIDAI, the world’s largest biometric database, is a great example of how big data infrastructure has been used to deliver a product that powers the digital identity of every Indian. The challenges around big data projects are not really unique to India but more related to poor planning and weak linkage to real business problems.
“In our view, more than the CTO, it is business managers who often lack understanding of the real potential of big data; this is curtailing progress,” Satyam says. He adds that the real users of benefits will be P&L owners and not necessarily the technology teams.
Rolls Royce recently signed a deal with Indian IT giant TCS to crunch data from all its machines and engines, and deliver the analytics through a voice or a chat assistant.
Andy Jassy, CEO of AWS, says: “Several system integrators from India are using Amazon’s platforms to deliver new-age services like AI and Machine Learning.”
No wonder the likes of Google and Amazon have their finger on the pulse on the future. Data is no longer proprietary to enterprises to stay ahead in the business race, they will partner with these cloud and analytics companies to create new business models. Individuals have willingly shared data with social systems; they shared it with the government, paid taxes and found security. Now, through these edge devices and platforms, data is even more social. But they will eventually want it protected by Amazon and Google just like we let the state protect our borders from foreign invasion.
The new enemy is the digital borders, but that’s where Google and Amazon are investing a lot more.
For now, the era of edge analytics is here.