After last year’s CES, I wrote a blog post about the growing popularity of digital assistants, home hubs and the cord cutting phenomenon. My impression from this year’s event is that many companies invested more time and resources developing products and features ahead of the demand curve. As the Guardian pointed out in its article, “CES 2018: less ‘whoa’, more ‘no!’,” too much of the showcase was focused on either gadgets (self-driving suitcases), or gimmicks (phone apps that turn on my shower) – although I have to say Samsung’s “The Wall” did get rave reviews from my colleagues who saw it.
Where I saw the real innovation at this CES was not so much in the technology itself, but in the way a major technology brand is describing itself and what that signals for the future. For the last year or so, Intel, whose CEO gave the opening keynote at CES, has been re-positioning itself as a data company. In his introduction of speaker and Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, cited the “fundamental transformation” Intel had undergone under Brian’s leadership “from a PC-centric company to a data-centric company.”
So, what does he mean by a data-centric company exactly? In his keynote presentation titled, “Experience the Power of Data,” Krzanich cited the opportunities driven by a single factor, the explosion of data, and outlined the need for all that data to be processed and structured. It’s perhaps not a big leap for Intel – known for its processors, the ingredient “inside” that make PCs run – to shift its strategy in this way. With the array of opportunities this data deluge offers, and with investments in artificial intelligence, drones, virtual reality and autonomous driving (even flying), Intel is betting that all end devices generating data will need a chip and memory inside, and the company will continue to support end device producers similar to how it supported PC manufacturers in the past.
So, besides the stunning and visually appealing forecasts Krzanich made changing the worlds of entertainment and transportation, announcing partnerships with both Ferrari and Paramount, what makes this innovative? Intel’s repositioning is a clear signal that many more companies, well-known brands as well as new players, are starting to define themselves primarily through their relationship with data, and that the term “data company” is not one-size-fits-all.
A data company has been defined as a company that has data as its core competency. By that definition, many now consider Google, Amazon, Apple, and Facebook to be data companies. With almost every company touching data in some way, and leveraging it to generate value for stakeholders and consumers, more and more enterprises from healthcare to financial services will all soon need to redefine who they are and what they do in direct relation to data.
Many talk about data being the oil of the 21st Century, since without it “progress [in the digital economy] would halt.” However, what is misleading about this comparison is the fact that oil is, was, and always will be a finite resource. While many new industries were created around this resource – drilling, refinery, combustion and distribution, among others – the key difference is that data is, was, and always will be an unlimited resource that’s expanding exponentially. It is a resource that has no limits, which is already transforming our lives, and it holds many infinite possibilities for how it can be harnessed to create valuable products, services and experiences for all (while remembering to always keep data ethics at the forefront).
Like the story of the blind men and an elephant, where each man conceptualizes what the elephant is based on his own experience with the creature, each company’s relationship with data can be perceived and defined in so many unexpected ways; but unlike the physical elephant in this parable, there can never be one definition, one concept of what data is – it is an ever-evolving, ever-changing resource that has quickly become the life blood of our economy. And if you want to see what this means for our future, just check out this video of a prototype flying taxi.