Ken C. Pohlmann Sig­nals: Smart Speak­ers and The Art of War

Sound & Vision - - CONTENS -

Sun Tzu was a Chi­nese gen­eral and mil­i­tary the­o­rist liv­ing in the 6th cen­tury B.C. He was the au­thor of The Art of War, a trea­tise on mil­i­tary strat­egy and tac­tics. In ad­di­tion to its pro­found mil­i­tary im­por­tance, his work has in­flu­enced many other com­pet­i­tive en­ter­prises. I imag­ine that busi­ness ex­ec­u­tives are study­ing Sun Tzu right now, as they plan for one of the great­est cor­po­rate wars of all time.

“The art of war is of vi­tal im­por­tance to the State. It is a mat­ter of life and death, a road ei­ther to safety or to ruin.”

The com­ing war, al­ready build­ing in in­ten­sity, is the war of the smart speak­ers. Who could have guessed that loud­speak­ers, such a seden­tary tech­nol­ogy, would sud­denly be­come weaponized? Of course, it’s not the mag­nets and voice coils that are in con­tention; it’s their new­found in­tel­li­gence. And it is vi­tal that com­pa­nies win that war or at least oc­cupy some of the dis­puted ter­ri­tory. How im­por­tant? It’s ex­pected that smart speak­ers will be smart­phones all over again.

“If you know the en­emy and know your­self, you need not fear the re­sult of a hun­dred bat­tles.”

Sales of smart speak­ers were a pal­try $360 mil­lion in 2015. That’s hardly enough for a com­pany to re­model the re­strooms in their head­quar­ters. By 2021, the smart speaker mar­ket is ex­pected to be $3.5 bil­lion. That’s a re­spectable fig­ure, but it’s chump change com­pared with the real re­wards at stake. Imag­ine that you had a device in ev­ery home that searched the in­ter­net, played mu­sic, made phone calls, read e-mail, bought goods and ser­vices, con­trolled other smart de­vices, etc. Lever­ag­ing that data flow and data-min­ing it and sell­ing the in­for­ma­tion would bring you un­told bil­lions.

“Who­ever is first in the field and awaits the com­ing of the en­emy will be fresh for the fight; who­ever is sec­ond in the field and has to has­ten to bat­tle will ar­rive ex­hausted.”

Ama­zon was the first com­pany to score ma­jor vic­to­ries. Its Alexa prod­ucts in­tro­duced smart speaker tech­nol­ogy to the pub­lic; thanks to its head start, Ama­zon owns 70 per­cent of the smart speaker mar­ket. Alexa is in­te­gral to Ama­zon’s strat­egy of en­list­ing you into the army of Ama­zon Prime. Apple, Mi­crosoft, and Google re­sponded with their own smart speak­ers. And out­side the home and of­fice, the bat­tle is mov­ing to cars. Talk to your new BMW, and Alexa will re­spond.

“On the ground of in­ter­sect­ing high­ways, join hands with your al­lies.”

The four com­bat­ants are all nat­u­ral en­e­mies in dif­fer­ent re­spects. But Ama­zon and Mi­crosoft don’t re­ally go head to head in most of their en­deav­ors. Thus, they agreed to join forces for this bat­tle. By the time you read this, Alexa and Cor­tana will be linked; you can ask one to ac­cess the other. Over time, as the in­te­gra­tion strength­ens, the sys­tems will au­to­mat­i­cally route your re­quest to which­ever as­sis­tant is most com­pe­tent to re­spond. This al­liance makes com­plete sense; Alexa oc­cu­pies mil­lions of homes, and Cor­tana lives in mil­lions of PCS via Win­dows 10, while Google and Apple own phone plat­forms and, as such, oc­cupy the high ground. Apple, in par­tic­u­lar, is very pro­tec­tive of its high ground. Ama­zon and Mi­crosoft failed in the phone mar­ket and must do ev­ery­thing they can, in­clud­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion that ef­fec­tively places two as­sis­tants in each hard­ware device, to com­pete against the pow­er­ful phone as­sis­tants.

“He will win who, pre­pared him­self, waits to take the en­emy un­pre­pared.”

I have all four as­sis­tants ar­ranged strate­gi­cally around my house. In turn, I asked them if they knew who au­thored The Art of War. Each of them promptly re­sponded that it was Sun Tzu. Clearly, they’ve been pre­par­ing for a fight.

Who could have guessed that loud­speak­ers would be­come weaponized?

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.