The Year AI-First Will Become the New Mobile-First


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Article ImageWe live in exciting times. Our phones are more powerful than the computer that first sent man to the moon. The most valuable companies today are tech brands decades—not centuries—old. Startup unicorns seem to be less endangered than most mammals. Consumer expectations are rising at a phenomenal speed. The most popular language today is emoji. 

It is safe to say that change is the only constant. 

In February 2010, Eric Schmidt of Google first used the phrase “mobile-first” to describe the company’s priority of mobile over desktop products. 2016 was a landmark year in mobile since it was the first time that digital ad spend (which includes mobile) overtook TV in the U.S. and that mobile ad spend overtook desktop in the U.K. In fact, all around the world, 2016 represents another key year in mobile’s success trajectory.

As Mary Meeker once predicted, money is now flowing to where consumers are spending their time. And yet, 2016 also started to spell the end of the phrase mobile-first, as Google coined a new, important phrase: AI-first. Mobile-as-a-device is becoming the connecting tissue between channels. As such, it’s seen less as a device and more as a means for connecting deeply with your consumer in the moments that matter. It is the intelligent personal content or solutions delivered via the devices—more and more powered by machine learning and AI (artificial intelligence)—that will become the dominant force.

For 6 years, achieving a mobile-first ethos has been a badge of honor within organizations and a genuine philosophy to solve problems for—or preview content on—the device users are most likely to turn to first. Now, true AI is progressing quickly, while there is already a proliferation of practical AI on our mobiles. Contextual assistants, bots, and digital concierges are right at our fingertips—notably Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Now.

However, these intelligent helpers aren’t so helpful when it comes to playing well together. Once these assistants are able to “talk” to each other, it will create a more connected experience for us all, enabling even greater business transformation in the next few years. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in October 2016 that he believes the last 10 years were about building a mobile-first world, turning smartphones into remote controls for our lives. But in the next 10 years, the shift will be toward a world that is AI-first, a world in which computing is universally available and all around us—be it at home, at work, in the car, or on-the-go. Our contextual assistants will be joined up. And now the interactions become more invisible with software, sensors, data, and hardware all around us, shaping the world we experience.

Basically, AI will be completely and seamlessly woven into the fabric of our lives and how we get things done. Microsoft can already scan your emails and see you have a flight coming up. Cortana then adds it to your diary and helps get things done via reminders and prompts. Depending on how much trust we put in our devices and into AI, it will be like having a personal assistant in your pocket.

However, it’s not all good news with AI. Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates all agree that true AI represents the “biggest risk to human existence.” Musk, for example, is the co-chair of OpenAI, a non-profit AI research company that aims to help prevent the dark side of AI from becoming a reality. The goal of OpenAI is to “advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return.” Additionally, there is a lot being written about how AI will transform job markets and increase the gap between the rich and the poor.

When it comes to user experience, consumer research tends to tell brands that users want fewer choices, and this affects conversion. If you dig a little deeper, you will find that consumers want better choices: more personal, more contextual, and more relevant. AI will make that a reality quicker than we can imagine, and IBM’s Watson is now more readily available to help make AI practical and applicable to your business challenges today. 

Some major, real-life applications of AI are already closer than you might imagine. The ability to automatically rent out your AI-controlled, self-driving car and have it drive other people around while you’re at work is closer than you would think.

Under the right circumstances, AI can serve customers, save the enterprise time, reduce fraud, improve web design, create or curate content, translate and recognize speech, optimize ad targeting, drive cars, and move goods. For example, technology from Qualcomm and Google can instantly add tags to photography to speed up internal processes when digitizing and cataloging content. CMS technology can use AI to segment users in real time and pre-fetch the next page a visitor is likely to click on so that when he or she does, it appears in a nanosecond, therefore enhancing customer experience and possibly conversion. Furthermore, Uber already uses AI to get drivers to customers faster by predicting behavior based on numerous factors. And eventually, Google, Tesla, Apple, and Uber will all compete in the self-driving car space.

Perhaps it’s time to get on top of AI as a trend and start to look beyond mobile-first in your strategy in 2017 and beyond.