AI just rocked Las Vegas. But where was data?

DataIQ chief knowledge officer and evangelist, David Reed, examines the gamble surrounding AI and why businesses need to play the game.
David Reed, Chief Knowledge Office and Evangelist, DataIQ, presenting at the DataIQ Conference in 2023

That opened the door for new categories of players, like vehicle makers Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai, to showcase themselves alongside established tech brands such as Sony, Panasonic, and LG, while digital whales like Amazon and Google looked down. Start-ups also took up a significant chunk of the exhibition and conference floors.  

What is notable is how many of them are betting on AI. It was hard to get airtime unless your shiny new product came with an embedded co-pilot, buddy or assistant drawing on the power of large language models to help with even the simplest task. 

Vegas is undoubtedly the right place for all of these firms to be making this play as they all try to emulate men who broke the bank at Monte Carlo casino. One of those was Charles Wells, a confidence trickster who won 1.5 million francs in 1891, while another legend, William Darnborough, successfully bet on the number five and won in five successive spins of the wheel. 

At CES, similar volumes of chips were being placed on AI with one clear hope – that it can reinvigorate a consumer tech landscape that has pretty much stalled in terms of real innovation and breakthrough products. With most new mobile phone handsets relying on materials innovations, like titanium cases or folding glass, to excite over-stretched consumers, attention is shifting towards more passive household appliances that can be zhuzhed up with a sprinkling of AI. If you have been awaiting the supposed arrival of the smart home for the last two decades, you may have your doubts. 

For B2B brands, this might not seem important were it not for the fact that data’s role in delivering AI was all but invisible. Therein lies the risk that every CES supporter could go bust by ignoring the question of where that data is processed and managed, especially any personal information that is harvested through interactions. 

Data ecosystems are likely to spring up rapidly if consumer demand for AI-embedded products does indeed take off, drawing into their ambit everybody from insurers to in-car service providers, content creators to customer care providers. The richer the suite of applications sitting in each new piece of tech, the stronger its lure for new buyers – single use gadgets are a thing of the past. That means ever more data flowing into devices which all needs to be dealt with somewhere. 

All of which brings with it the attention of regulators, both the existing ones who oversee data protection or vertical sector rules, and the likely new set who will be responsible for controlling the use of AI and checking its impact on markets.  

Few of those exhibiting and speaking at CES explained their privacy policies or the location of their data centres, but all who have built their hopes on an AI bet will have to provide answers eventually. And if you remember previous waves of innovation that had data at their heart, you might well think there could be some heavy losses once regulators come looking. 

That could mean the famous black cloth gets draped over a pile of TVs, mobile home hubs, smart appliances, and the like, rather than over the roulette wheels that formed the background to CES. 

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