Apple WWDC 2017 - The Future of Digital Disruption

    As a technologist, I like to stay close to key new developments and trends in the world of digital technology to understand how these can help users address common day to day problems more efficiently. Digital disruption and technologies behind that such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) & Mixed Reality (MR) are hot topics as they have the potential to significantly reshape how consumers will consume products and services going forward. Such technologies and the potential impact they can have on traditional businesses in an increasingly digital, connected world is huge.

    I’ve been an Apple fan since the first iPhone launch as they have been the prime example of a tech vendor who utilise cutting edge IT technologies to provide an elegant solution to address day to day requirements in a simple and effective manner that providers a rich user experience. Like many of you, I practically live on my iPhone every day for work and non-work related activities and also appreciate their other ecosystem products such as the MacBook, Apple watch, Apple TV and iPad. This is not because they are technologically more advanced, but simply because they provide a simple, seamless user experience when it comes to using them to increase my productivity during day to day activities.

    During the Worldwide Developer Conference event that took place in San Jose, Apple announced how they intend to use some of these technologies in their next set of product upgrades. Apple’s use cases are a good example of how any modern business out there that manufactures a product, or provides a service or a solution offering to their customers, can potentially look to incorporate similar digital technologies in a similar or even more creative and an innovative manner that is only limited by imagination & creativity.  

    Summarised below is how Apple will use AI, VR, AR and IoT in their next product upgrades and how in my view, those can set the bar on how other organisations can potentially follow suite.

    Artificial Intelligence

    • Increased use of Artificial Intelligence technologies such as Machine Learning by the personal assistant “Siri” within the upcoming iOS 11, to provide a more positive and a more personalised user experience through making Siri context aware, while also using Deep learning technologies to offer a more natural and expressive voice that sounds less machine and more human. Same technologies will also enable Siri to learn and add new words to its vocabulary based on content you read (i.e. News)
    • Use of Machine Learning in iOS 11 within the photo app to enable various new capabilities to make life easier with your photos
      • Next version of Apple Mac OS, code named High Sierra, will support additional features on the photo app including advanced face & image recognition capabilities which utilises AI technologies such as Advanced convolution Neural networks. This provides the ability for contents on photos to be recognised automatically and be used to perform various activities such as grouping, filtering, categorisation, create events, memories etc.
      • Using computer vision capabilities to create seamless loops on live photos
      • Use of Machine Learning to activate palm rejection on the iPad during writing using the apple Pen to enhance the user experience
    • Most Machine Learning capabilities will also be available via the iOS 11 API’s enabling 3rd party 3rd party app developers to harness the power of AI within their apps
      • Vision API - Enables iOS app developers harness machine learning for face tracking, face detection, landmarks, text detection, rectangle detection, barcode detection, object tracking, image registration)
      • Natural Language API - Provides language identification, tokenization, lemmatisation, part of speech, named entity recognition)
    • Use of Machine Learning within the next version of Mac OS to provide advanced graphics capabilities & content development

    Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality

    • Introduction of Metal 2 API for Virtual Reality to be used by app developers
      • That includes Virtual Reality integration to Mac OS High Sierra Metal2 API to enable features such as VR-optimised display as well as Virtual Reality based video editing
    • Introduction of Augmented Reality capabilities straight out of iPhone using its camera and built in Machine Learning to identify contents on the live video, real time.
      • ARKit for iOS 11 will enable 3rd party app developers harness the same capabilities within their iOS apps now

    Internet of Things

    • Apple Watch OS 4 related announcements
      • Apple Watch will now integrate with ordinary gym equipment so that your Apple watch will now act as an IoT gateway to your gym equipment, to personalise your training to suit you.
      • Apple Watch OS 4 will also provide core Bluetooth connectivity to other devices such as various healthcare tools that open the connectivity of those devices to Internet through the Apple Watch

    My thoughts

    The use cases for digital technologies, such as AI, AR and VR in a typical corporate or enterprise environment to create a better product, service or solution offering has always been immense. And it’s exciting to see someone like Apple who’s a typical trend setter in the industry embracing these technologies to offer better versions of their already industry leading products by enhancing capabilities and the end user experience. As Apple has demonstrated, often the possibilities using such digital technologies and their use cases are only limited by the level of creativity and imagination.

    Many organisations around the world, from other tech or product vendors, to independent software vendors, to ordinary organisations like high street retailers can all benefit from the creative application of new digital technologies such as AI, AR and IoT in their product, service or solution offerings to provide their customers with richer user experiences as well as even exciting new solutions.

    Topics like AI and AR are hot topics in the industry and some organisations are already evaluating the use of them, whilst some already benefit from these technologies made easily accessible to the enterprise through platforms such as public cloud (Microsoft Cortana Analytics and Azure Machine Learning capabilities available on Microsoft Azure for example) platforms. But there are also a large number of organisations who are not yet fully investigating how these technologies can potentially make their business more innovative, differentiated or at the very least, more efficient.

    If you belong to the latter group, I would highly encourage you to start thinking about how these technologies can be adopted by your business creatively. This applies to any organisation of any size in the increasingly digitally connected world of today. If you have a trusted partner for IT, I’d encourage you to talk to them about the same as the chances are that they will have more collective experience in helping similar businesses adopt such technologies which is more beneficial than trying to get there on your own, especially if you are new to it all.

    Digital disruption is here to stay and Apple have just shown how advanced technologies that come out of digital disruption can be used to create better products and solutions for their customers. Pretty soon, AI, AR and IoT backed capabilities will become the norm rather than the exception and how would your business compete if you are not adequately prepared to embrace them to create better products & solutions for your customers?