Last month, Amazon's Dash services arrived on UK shores to great fanfare. Reports in the media varied from the dismissive to the delighted and the downright incredulous.
If you're not familiar with the services, each Dash Button, connected to your Amazon account via WiFi, is linked to a specific product: press the button and it will automatically place an order for that product. Meanwhile the Dash Replenishment Service enables devices like washing machines and printers to automatically order new supplies of detergent or ink cartridges without their owner needing to do anything.
According to Amazon, Dash orders in the US have risen by a third in the past two months and now there are two every minute. So there's clearly interest, and people are using the services. What these consumers probably don't realize, though, is that they're actually at the forefront of the artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive intelligence revolution.
In both Dash services, these smart appliances are talking to the network about their needs. Amazon is gathering this data, which is essentially about our behaviour, and analysing it - using technologies like predictive intelligence - to deliver a better shopping experience.
And as we become more and more connected, with not just devices but also networked objects in our homes, this enhanced experience is going to increase - because it's data that enables predictive intelligence and the easier shopping experience it brings.
As we interact with our chosen devices, each choice we make and each button we click creates a tremendous amount of data so that retailers can better determine what we like and don't like and so offer us more 'tailored' shopping.
And there are certainly benefits for the shopper. No more (or at least less) researching products on the internet - those that suit us most will be suggested to us. No more pounding the pavements to grab some milk before the shops shut - it will be automatically be delivered to us as we run low. And with the winter holiday season around the corner, it makes it even more exciting for people who want to make their holiday shopping as easy and painless as possible.
Ultimately, in our connected world, technologies like predictive intelligence will actually give us some time back.
In fact, one of the greatest, yet often overlooked, benefits of technology is its ability to free us from life's administrative burdens. In our daily lives, this might be avoiding having to run out before dinner to grab a bottle of wine. In our work lives, it might be proactively providing us with data or insights to help us get our jobs done more effectively and precisely.
This, to me at least, is important. I want to spend less time on what feels like chores, and more on activities that really matter to me - spending time with my family, volunteering, keeping my life balanced. And I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this. So let's look forward to a time when, thanks to predictive intelligence and, more generally, AI, we'll all be able to spend just that little bit more time with our families, giving back to our communities and taking time for ourselves.
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