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A network ready for the AI revolution

December 14, 2016

John Hayduk   

Blog Contributor

By this point, consumers have heard plenty about the world changing potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the ways it is going to change their lives at biggest and smallest levels. AI is, undoubtedly, the future. Its ability to process information – and the speed with which it does it – unleashes endless new opportunities and infinitely better management of processes, systems, networks and information. However, for consumers, the most tangible impact will be through the increasing smarts invested in their phones though the likes of Siri, Cortana and Google now ā€“ ā€˜personal digital assistantsā€™ embedded in your smartphone.

These are just a glimpse of the potential of AI on the smartphone. They are point solutions, bringing intelligence to single functions ā€“ guiding through a city or managing a diary. They canā€™t make connections or fully understand the patterns of your everyday life. Weā€™ll see point solutions proliferate and spread in the next 2-3 years. Itā€™ll be confusing and, again, not an ideal vision of AI. Alongside it, however, weā€™ll see a second pattern of AI services starting to connect. With connection will come cross-pollination and at that point weā€™ll begin to see a true AI appear on consumersā€™ phones.

Thatā€™s really where the opportunity of the personal digital assistant begins to emerge. This ‘true AI’ enabling consumersā€™ everyday lives will be a major asset to any brand that can become its chief provider, enabling access to huge amounts of data for service improvement, and new services.

At the moment, the natural owner of that experience is the brand providing the ecosystem ā€“ Google, Apple or Microsoft. Though Amazon is making its own play beginning with the home through Alexa. It wonā€™t necessarily be just these providers who have the last word, however. Adoption of that complete AI will depend on cost, and how much personal information consumers are willing to put in the cloud and how they control access to it. Personal Digital Assistants of that depth will be data hungry. And to achieve the promise, that data just canā€™t be restricted to just one application or service. PDAs will rely on cross-pollination of services alongside deep access to a consumerā€™s data in order to enable the learning that makes AI intelligent and personalised to each individual user.

Neither of these are proprietary or even biased towards OS creators. In fact operators have the opportunity to introduce their own PDAs compatible with any platform (unlike those led by the OS) and underpinned by guaranteed performance at the network level. In a world of open APIs and standards, knitting together the services on a userā€™s phone into one single true AI experience becomes, relatively, the simple part of the offering.

While OTTs are ahead in the race to own the personal digital assistant, thereā€™s no reason why operators couldnā€™t make the entire experience – from cloud to consumer – better. They own the usage data that will make AI smart, they can guarantee performance at the network level and they have the customer relationships to drive adoption.

AI is going to change the way people live, and, on the phone, operators have the opportunity to be the catalyst of that change. They should be getting into the race now to build their value to consumers, regain their footprint on the device and manage the demands it creates on the network.

Itā€™s the consumerā€™s network operator that will need to work out how to deliver performance at a price point that consumers will stomach and also its opportunity. One slice of the wider challenge and opportunity that the rise of 5G and 5G based services will create for operators.

How do you think networks will adapt to accommodate AI? Let us know in the comments below.