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2019: The Year AI Comes Alive!

Heading into 2019, investors are being plagued by a laundry list of concerns. And while many of the major issues worrying the market have been addressed (the perception of complacency has been flushed out; interest rates are heading back to normal; and Powell has given doves hope even while signaling lower growth, pending inflation, and the need to be data dependent), now is the time to focus on investing—and staying invested—in the future growth of what has been called the most important investment opportunity of our generation: robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence (RAAI).

Despite the recent global downturn, companies across the global RAAI supply chain are gearing up for another exciting year. As we head into 2019, all expectations point to an even bigger, faster, and more innovative year than the last. RAAI technologies and application have rapidly become central to every industry—from building construction to healthcare administration to food production.

Of all the technologies within the scope of RAAI, the most exciting of all is AI. Thanks to the intense confluence of massive amounts of data, exponentially faster processing power, and increasingly powerful algorithms, 2019 will be the year that AI will create a wave of new opportunities for personalization, monitoring, and marketing, and a whole new world of use cases. As AI technologies make their way into nearly every industry and every geography, machines will suddenly gain the power to speak, listen, move, and make decisions in unprecedented ways. Every one of these advancements will dramatically change existing processes, create the potential for new business opportunities, and attract new investments worldwide.

Like its predecessors—the industrial revolution, the computer age, and the smart phone revolution—AI is in the midst of completely transforming our society, including how we work, live, and play. Tractica forecasts that the revenue generated from the direct and indirect application of AI software will grow from $5.4B in 2017 to an almost shocking $105.8B by 2025, representing a growth curve with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 45%. Here are just a handful of the ways AI is already impacting our daily lives:

Healthcare

Artificial intelligence is slowly but surely becoming a significant change agent in the healthcare industry and AI is already driving revolutionary change in the medical field. But this does not mean that doctors will be replaced by medical robots. Far from it. Instead, AI will continue to bolster the capabilities of medical professionals (physicians included) and the medical devices and machines they use every day to deliver better patient outcomes. As innovations in healthcare AI accelerate, doctors, researchers, and other medical professionals will have access to smarter, more powerful tools that can help them diagnose and treat patients faster and with fewer flaws than ever before.

Personalization

The more data collected about an individual, the better companies can understand each customer’s most intimate preferences, and the more effectively retailers can achieve true one-to-one marketing. 2019 will bring an increase in cross-industry collaborations that accelerates the use of personal data to offer even more opportunity to market to the individual. This AI-driven personalization is inspiring new product features, as well as helping companies set preferences for services have been one-size-fits-all services in the past.

Aging population

Seniors aren’t who they used to be! People are living longer, and today’s seniors are much more tech-friendly than previous generations. Because they are comfortable with technology in every aspect of their lives, this generation is opening up entirely new market segments that support their needs as they age. Seniors living alone or who suffer from dementia can be tracked passively using AI-assisted surveillance technology. Robotic assistants are adding much-needed support to staffs at hospitals and assisted living facilities. Amazon Echo’s drop-in feature allows users to broadcast to any speaker within a home, giving seniors the ability to reach family members and caretakers—and vice versa—without ever picking up a phone. Indoor cameras like Google Clips use AI to keep seniors within its line-of-vision, enabling family members to know their loved one is safe and sound.

E-Commerce

Brick-and-mortar retail outlets may be struggling, but shopping itself is more popular than ever. What has changed is the retail channels. The entire world is moving more and more toward an e-commerce model, and the only way for retailers to survive and meet demand is with automation. According to Adobe, shoppers spent nearly 24% more this year on Black Friday than in 2017. Cyber Monday hit $7.9B — up nearly 20% from last year.

Self-driving cars

The promise of autonomous driving hasn’t quite arrived, but last-mile delivery may be the first place where we see fully autonomous fleets deployed. Driving humans across long distances without a driver is the greatest challenge, requiring Level 5 autonomy. Driving groceries across short distances without a driver is much (much!) easier, and the technology required is already here. The technology needed is smaller, slower, and lighter than what is required for full-size passenger vehicles, and without human cargo, the stakes are lower. According to McKinsey, last-mile cost-per-delivery can range between $1.75 and $4.56. Other industry estimates have put last-mile delivery costs at about 30% of delivering a good. Tomorrow’s leaders will be those that can solve the cost/efficiency challenge. For companies striving to accelerate last-mile delivery, that marks autonomous vehicles as the key to competitive advantage. 2019 may be the year companies begin using autonomous vehicles in their last-mile deliveries.

Wearable technology

Wearable technology just may be the Trojan horse of 2019. Tech has already infiltrated your waking hours; now, it’s coming for your sleep. In the past, companies have piloted all sorts of technology to try and track sleep data. From addressing sleep disorders to monitoring patients with sleep apnea to tracking heart rate and other biometrics, today’s wearables offer the extra level of precision and granularity that was previously impossible to achieve. Expect to see a wave of sleep technology enter the market in 2019.

Cobots

Enterprises are already envisioning how they can replace human judgment with the power of AI and a digital workforce. That vision is driving innovations that enable bots with natural language processing, optical character recognition, intelligent character recognition, and machine learning technologies. While chatbots have become increasingly prevalent in customer service and internal processes, advancements in predictive analytics, machine learning, and more are moving into the realm of mobile cobots that take on tasks for industry and consumers alike.

The impact of AI and its fellow RAAI technologies is like nothing we at ROBO Global have ever seen before. As we look out to the next 3 to 5 years, growth across the sector is literally everywhere. As consumers continue to adjust to smart devices in the home, there will be an increased call to action for companies to make everything smarter than ever.

The explosion of the collaborative robotics market continues. The industrial robot market has decoupled from a pure automotive and electronics focus and is seeing huge growth in markets such as food and beverage, warehousing, and logistics. Drones have evolved from consumer toys to powerful commercial tools that tackle surveying tasks in construction and enable oil and gas companies to identify new energy sources with high-precision accuracy.  Today’s cloud systems that remotely control industrial IoT and AI—often at significant distances from inspection sites—are transitioning to distributed and autonomous systems closer to the source of inspections, making inspection data collection more efficient and safer. The convergence of robot process automation (RPA) and AI is gaining speed, giving organizations the ability to automate manual, repetitive processes and gain new efficiencies.

Society is on the cusp of ubiquitous automation that is being driven almost entirely by robotics, automation, and AI. Volatility has returned to the market, which means long-term investors are focused on buying the troughs. As major corporations gear up for a surge in robotics and AI-based technologies over the next decade, now is the time for wise investors to position for the growth to come.

By Bill Studebaker, President & CIO, ROBO Global

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