Last week I attended the Big Data Analytics & Innovation Summit as part of the London Data Fest. There were some fantastic talks from a range of leading companies including Zipcar, Adidas and Soundcloud to name a few, sharing interesting ways they are using data to deepen insight into their business and customers. Yet I walked away from the conference with a mixed feeling of disappointment and excitement.We truly are on the cusp of a revolutionary wave in the way people use data to run their businesses. This wave is being driven by the long developing undercurrent of increasingly accessible cloud computing, which is enabling significantly more sophisticated cognitive computing in terms of machine, artificial intelligence (AI), and deep learning. This wave is incredibly exciting because, as Albert Wenger explained in his recent Web Summit talk, this influx of innovation is the next revolution for our society on par with the age of enlightenment and industrial revolution. It will not only change how we do things but also fundamentally change what we do.However, many of the talks at the conference appeared to neglect this revolution. To take the wave analogy further, they were mostly like surfers looking out to sea rather than scoping the next break to catch or getting on the wave. Don’t get me wrong, the data scientists and business managers who presented are doing impressive stuff with big data to really understand what is going on with their business at a granular level from a research perspective. However most of the examples fall short of applying this intelligence in an automated, robust way that machine learning offers.
Now there were a number of consultants who talked about AI and warned of this coming wave. Many of these talks were almost an echo of those held in2010 regarding Big Data that hyped the opportunity at an almost philosophical level but left me wanting for real applied examples of how Big Data was driving business improvement at an operational level a CFO, CEO or business leader could understand. The talks about AI also carry a recurring sub-topic about the fear of robots taking over our lives, which unfortunately is an issue that will distract innovators for a while yet.
To be successful product innovators in this space, we will need to cut through the hype and baggage AI has already acquired. We will also need to focus forward, toward the beach, on moving from big data research focused analytics to applied analytics driven and automated by machine learning.
Originally posted on Medium here