The Impending Internet Advertising Disruption and The Rise of Automation & Cognitive Computing
Since the launch of the internet in the 90's the tech industry has been in what we could call a 30 year adolescence phase. The last 30 years have fundamentally changed the way we communicate, trade ideas, learn, and quite frankly, exist.
If you take the time to really think about it, 30 years is not that long. If you told any well studied historian that 30 years is a long time they would probably laugh. The same is true of the Tech Industry's history. It is young, but it is now maturing. Within the next 5 years it will leave its early adolescence phase and move into its' young adult phase. Much like the phase before it, this next phase will result in the biggest disruption to our lives as we currently know it, and usher in the arrival of the ubiquitously connected world of IoT technologies.
As of now the web has millions of apps and businesses that almost no one in the world can keep up with without the help of extremely aggressive ad campaigns. Literally every 5 minutes there is a new mobile app, or web business that enters the mind of the internet. With over 30 years of this continuous process the internet has amassed an unbelievable amount of unstructured data that users are inundated with. In an effort to get noticed in this zoo of data, internet -based businesses lean heavily on ad tech companies along with social networks to hopefully get their product or service noticed by users other than friends or family. Despite the aggressive ad campaigns, it is getting hard as hell to hear about the app or business that truly gives you what you want exactly when you want it.
Let's take a small example like going out to eat. There are times when you know you have a taste for Italian, but you have no idea where you should go for a nice Italian meal. So, to solve this you go to your phone, or computer and you type in a search, or use SIRI, to find good Italian restaurants. You will then see a ton of results along with a ton of not so relevant advertisements.
The problem with these results isn't so much the data you get back, but its' the fact that you have to go through these results yourself manually just to make your decision! For humans, too many choices makes it that much harder to make a decision, especially if you haven't had a good amount of time to consider the choices given. Under this current structure you may never find the Mom and Pop Italian restaurant that just opened near your area unless they were lucky enough to come up high enough on the google search and you happened to notice it.
This tired manual process of searching and surfing the web for relevant information has creeped its way into every day tools, like email, mobile apps, web apps etc. Years ago this wasn't a problem. However, with this explosion of data it is no longer viable for the human to use the internet and individual apps manually in a fast paced world. There are just too many of them. It is too much for the human mind to keep up with, which is why most tech ideas and companies never make it to a mass audience even though they might have an amazing idea. Sure, one can create another app that allows you to locate small businesses and the next big idea, but there is still the issue of marketing and advertising that comes up again!
Control of the customer acquisition process is the holy grail for global business. As of now this process is controlled heavily by marketing firms, and ad tech companies. This is why ad tech companies essentially run the whole of the internet. In fact, the internet is far from being cost free. It only looks free to the users because the advertising companies single handedly fund the whole thing. Advertisers attempt to use technology to help internet users find exactly what THEY THINK a user needs by utilizing a user's surfing behavior to determine their wants and desires. They then use this data to comprise aggressive ad campaigns that seem to follow users from site to site while they surf the web, or use their mobile phone. Without them using this formula, it is very possible to put blood, sweat, and tears into building a brand only to find that no-one ever comes across your service or product on the web, or mobile device because of never hearing of it!! This creates a huge problem for people that might not have the advertising budget necessary to compete and improve their customer acquisition.
Cognitive Computing, which is the ability to simulate human thought within the realm of a computer, will disrupt the whole way this current model of customer acquisition works on the internet. Imagine a world where you'd talk to devices as if it were another human being. These devices won't only be able to comprehend what is being stated by the user, but they will be able to think about the conversation and utilize their knowledge base of infinite streams of data to form their conclusions. Instead of you manually having to surf the web to find good Italian places you would talk to this system and tell it that you want to try a really good 3 cheese lasagna but you don't want to go somewhere that is more than 10 miles away.
A good Cognitive System will be able to consider millions of possibilities from data sets you'd never thought to consider. It could even look at reviews for 3 cheese lasagna dishes in the area going back 5 to 10 years while simultaneously considering what you personally like about lasagna. After finding a match it would then respond that it has the perfect place and proceed to summon the self driving car to pick you up and take you to your destination. Reservations? Not to worry, the system would have already handled that. All you'd need to do as the human is show up.
This might sound like Science Fiction, but tech companies will need to start building services and products that behave this way, or they simply will not survive. The user base will simply not settle for the old way of doing things once automation becomes mainstream. There will come a time when having to manually surf the web will be considered an ancient practice. How will companies advertise then? Talk about a major disruption.
As Automation Engineers we design systems from the perspective of minimizing the need for human interaction, but most tech companies spend a large amount of time figuring out how to increase manual human interaction with their software products for the purpose of gaining ad revenue. These approaches are juxtaposed, and because of the nature of big data, the manual human interaction approach will collapse. Understandably, no user wants to know about data, products, or information they didn't specifically ask for. There are just too many apps, and too much data. The term "TMI" is not in our human vocabulary for nothing.
In this next phase users will demand automation, and smarter, more precise and responsive systems. Therefore automation and precision must be the new approach, and systems must be able to think and behave in ways that simplify human computer interaction while at the same time producing highly curated and personalized results without any need for advertising whatsoever.