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IT Chronicles at CES 2021: AI Gets (a Bit More) Real

AI sessions at CES 2021

Two conference sessions at CES 2021 on Tuesday focused on artificial intelligence (AI). Taken together, they offer some interesting and perhaps even useful guidance to business technology decision makers.

The first was called “The Power of AI.” It featured Digital Trends editor Jeremy Kaplan, BlackBerry Chief Product Architect Eric Cornelius, Kevin Guo, CEO of AI-powered automation solution vendor Hive, and Bridget Karlin, CTO and VP of IBM’s Global Technology Services business. All pretty heavy business and enterprise hitters for a “consumer” show conference session.

The key takeaway was that AI today is like computing a few years ago. AI has reached a threshold where it is poised to touch, and in some cases radically change, almost every aspect of business. This includes how buyers shop, select and purchase business technologies, and how developers build them, turn them into products and services, and even sell and deliver them.

Of course, you probably knew or at least suspected this already. But when people from companies aimed squarely at business and enterprise markets – because really, what consumer needs AI-powered automation solutions? – talk about the power of AI, it’s worth taking that talk seriously.

Whatever your business builds, provides, buys, or sells, AI is likely to find its way into one or more of your demand, supply, or value chains, if it hasn’t done so already. And those AI elements will evolve rapidly and nearly continuously as the technology, its developers, and its users all get smarter and more experienced.

Perhaps nowhere is this more immediately evident and fraught with promise and challenges than healthcare, the topic of today’s second AI-focused conference session: “Trust and the Impact of AI on Healthcare.” Speakers included representatives from the American Medical Association (AMA), the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, and Philips.

(You may know Philips as a maker of vehicle lights, fancy electric toothbrushes, or smart light bulbs for the home. But they also manufacture multiple health and personal care devices and systems. And they are, at heart, a technology company. So they’re bringing or considering how to incorporate AI into all of their lines of business.)

This session was particularly interesting because it got to the heart of some of the same challenges AI presents to businesses beyond health care. One of those is how to convince customers, partners, prospects, and users who are not AI experts to trust AI-powered tools and services. Another is what AI technology and solution developers can do to help instill, maintain, and protect that trust.

If your business is pursuing or considering using AI in any way, shape, or form, you and your team have got to be thinking about and working on these issues. And that goes beyond focusing on the most credibly trustworthy tools and solutions you can find. You’ve also got to sharpen your storytelling skills for both your external and internal constituents. You’ve got to tell the right stories in the right ways for each audience, to set reasonable expectations, address concerns and questions effectively, and maximize business value and user satisfaction.

You’re probably gonna need help with at least some of this. And not all of that help can or should come from AI specialists or even technologists. Just a thought.


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