It’s no surprise that artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) have become the focus of businesses around the globe. The fact that this emerging technology will be the single greatest driver of business success in the decades to come is more than proven at this point—it’s a reality. More so, the numbers that support the decision to embrace and implement digital transformation initiatives are downright staggering, to say the least. 

For instance, let’s first consider the single greatest historical driver of technological change: the smartphone. In just one decade, this ubiquitous mobile device, and what it represents, has changed how the majority of people around the globe view technology and its impact on daily existence. After all, with the advent of the smartphone came the mobile app, the direct representation of a smart device’s highly personalized features and functionality. 

To put the smartphone’s impact on the global economy in context, it is projected that by just next year, the total number of mobile phone users in the world will surpass the five billion mark. Add to that the staggering statistic that, in 2018 alone, consumers downloaded 205 billion mobile apps to their connected devices—a number that, by 2022, is expected to surpass 258 billion downloads.

However, mobility is not where this ends—not by a long shot. Paired with the smartphone, and the seemingly endless number of apps available to download, comes the introduction of the IoT. From thermostats, cameras, and home-monitoring systems, to city infrastructure and wearable personal devices that track health—and even automobiles—apps and mobility are directly related to the IoT. All of these “things” represent a far greater end-user experience, one that is customized to each user. By doing so, users now have the ability to create the experience they want—far from the generic brand experiences of the past where everyone received the same experience regardless.

It’s this new approach that the IoT offers that companies such as Amazon are wholeheartedly embracing, a customer-first approach that will set the stage for a new way of doing business. Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon put it best: “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” In this case, the IoT and supporting technology enables Amazon to use ongoing data to personalize real-time experiences, all based on browsing and buying history—a lesson to be learned by all companies looking to take a truly customer-centric approach.
And, just like the staggering numbers that illustrate the growth of mobility, the rise of the IoT is right behind it. As recently reported by Gartner, the total number of IoT devices being used across the world will reach 20.4 billion by 2020, a staggering figure unto itself considering that it is more than double the number from 2017 (approximately 8 billion).

Furthermore, the evolution of mobile and the IoT is now falling squarely into the new realm of AI. And with that new realm comes the introduction and mass adoption of digital assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Google Home, and Apple’s Siri, all of which are supported by AI. It’s this pairing of new world order technology that enables the very essence of outcomes: a five-part process defined by Sense > Transmit > Store > Analyze > Act. This series has come to define the IoT, AI, and digital transformation as a whole—the ecosystem that business must adopt in order to succeed in the months and years to come. 

Why such a short timeline as it relates to needed adoption? The reasoning is simple. When calculating the evolution of mobility—and subsequent app adoption—for work and lifestyle use, the digital assistant becomes the next logical step, creating a literal hands-off approach while leveraging highly personalized experiences through AI-driven magic. And if you are one of the few skeptics still contemplating the mass adoption of digital assistants and AI, know that the estimated number of people using digital assistants worldwide is projected to grow to more than 1.8 billion by 2021, an increase of more than 80 percent from today—not a bad number given a three-year trajectory.

So where does this leave business and strategic planning for the next decade? With the need to strategically plan digital transformation initiatives, creating the ability to adapt, through technology, to better manage and accelerate goals and desired outcomes and create a better end-user experience. It’s that paradigm that also enables businesses of all types to capture and utilize user data for better business, improving everything from customer experience to supply chain management, to creating whole new revenue streams. After all, with increased data creating more detailed single-user-profiles, the better and more engaging the experience—and the higher the potential revenue gains and cost savings.

The reality is that end users—whether they be consumers or internal business users—are driving an unprecedented demand for all “things” to be connected in a way never before seen. Moreover, that connection of things must be so highly intrinsic that it functions as the perfect blurred line between all work and life ideals. No longer is there the touted work–life balance; now, it is just digital life. And with that, businesses must embrace an approach far beyond that of their own brand. They must now speak to a global ecosystem wherein all things are created equal and are equally accessible and, most importantly, consistent. If a brand cannot compete with every other brand in the world—regardless of vertical market—the world will ultimately move on without it. 

Simply put, the IoT, AI, and digital transformation form the new status quo for business and the clear path to business success. And without it? I shudder to think of the consequences.