David Kender is the Editor in Chief of Reviewed, the essential site for honest reviews of highly tested consumer products. Earlier this year, he visited CES, the enormous annual trade show in Las Vegas where tech brands debut their latest consumer electronic innovations. As an editor, he has the opportunity to attend exclusive media events to learn what these brands are going to roll out to the country in the coming year.
He shared with me his learnings and how businesses are using AI right now to lead to smarter products in the future.
For the last couple of years at CES, one of the main narratives has been AI. This does not make for the most interesting CES because AI is not a fun gadget that you can hold in your hand and a consumer can purchase. It’s largely conceptual, and it’s entirely invisible. Its benefits are equally ubiquitous and difficult to discern.
What major brands want to do is own as much data as humanly possible (or maybe that’s the opposite of the point “ not humanly at all!) on their customers so they can leverage it to make products more predictive. Here, I’ll give you three examples of artificial intelligence businesses are using today.
LG Fridges Use AI to Understand Shopping Habits & Frequency
Let’s start with LG. The whole thrust of their CES product lineup this January was about AI. The first challenge is that AI can’t exist on a device. So for the last few years, they’ve been putting Wi-Fi antennas and connected infrastructure in their large appliances — refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, etc.
To begin, they had to build the infrastructure so that these appliances can ping data home to the servers. The appliances are gathering usage data. LG wants to know, collectively across the millions of fridges sold, incredibly specific data such as: how many times a day the fridge door is opened, for how long, and between which temperatures the fridge is fluctuating. If for instance, the doors of the fridge have been opened for a full three minutes and the internal temperature of the fridge has suddenly risen, they can extrapolate that the person just went grocery shopping and put a load of fresh, warmer food in the fridge.
Who cares? Well actually, grocery delivery services do. A lot. Because now LG, in partnership with a handful of delivery services, can utilize the applications of artificial intelligence to predict your spending habits and your shopping frequency.
Samsung’s Family Help Fridge Uses AI to Look at Brand Purchases
Now take Samsung’s Family Help fridge “ overpriced and overly complicated, at least in its first generation, says Kender “ and use their cameras and leverage their AI capabilities to decipher exactly what types and brands of food you are putting in your fridge. It can see how many times you are taking a carton of name-brand orange juice in and out and make a prediction as to when you’re going to need to replace that brand. Then suddenly the consumer finds that brand has been put on his shopping list app, which is integrated into Samsung’s Family Hub smart platform, and can be delivered to the house tomorrow by Amazon Fresh.
Et voila “ you know exactly who is feeding a huge family with lots of hungry sports-crazed kids, or who eats light and needs a constant flow of prosecco and ice cream.
More from LG: Washing Machines use AI to Increase Efficiency
Back to LG. Washing machines have grown significantly more advanced with time and the race to counteract the effects of climate change. With an effort to reduce energy use, LG wants their washing machines to use only as much water or as much detergent is needed. Sensors in the new LG washers can not only determine the weight and density of the load, but can also determine the fabric type. So, as your wardrobe is spinning around and around, it knows whether you’re trying to dry towels and jeans (more energy) or delicates (much less).
What does this have to with AI? [link to How Predictive Analytics Drives Marketing Success] If this device wasn’t AI-enabled, the engineers would make some informed guesses as to what makes the best behavior in a washer/dryer, and then no longer have contact with the product once an owner installs it. But with a Wi-Fi connected product, LG can constantly receive data, see what types of loads people are washing, and then use AI to build smarter algorithms to push automatic updates to the machines so it actually gets better over time at analyzing every part of your wardrobe. Can you imagine an appliance getting better over time instead of going kaput? These are the kinds of benefits of artificial intelligence in business that affect and improve the mundanities of our daily lives.
Kender offers a major statement: “There is nothing that you can conceive of that is not intended to be driven toward connectedness and AI in the future.” Connected toothbrushes to measure dental health, smart belts to measure your waistline, and other health-related gadgets are about to become highly prevalent in our lives.
That’s big business. Bring it home to me.
What Does this Mean for Local Businesses?
For local and regional businesses, AI yields additional opportunities to service their customers. You may feel that the smaller the business, the harder it is to justify that kind of investment. But you are probably using AI already as a part of your CRM solution or your point of sale system “ you’re the beneficiary of credit card information, Square or Apple Pay data, and email addresses. The first step, and probably the most important for a local business at this current stage, is to think about your voice search strategy.
If you’re a tailor with a single storefront and a button falls off a potential customer’s coat, you want to be the first business that Alexa recommends. You as the tailor don’t need to be hiring an AI software developer, but you do need to understand that the new consumer behavior is related to voice search, not the phone book.
Here’s the thing about AI. You’re probably already doing it.
Let me tell you something reassuring if you’re overwhelmed with incorporating something shiny like the world of AI into your marketing strategy. If you’re doing a good job managing your local listings with Google My Business, you’re already participating with customers who have voice assistants.
Best practices in this audio-first world are still hazy, and unlike the search engine result page that we’re all accustomed to on our phones where there are spaces carved out for a list of paid and organic results, in a voice environment a consumer would never tolerate listening to a voice assistant reading out a list of multiple results. So what action does the consumer want from there? Texting the address to your phone? Sending a message to the tailor to book a fitting? And what do you need on your end as a local business to allow the voice assistant to complete that action?
We don’t really know the perfect answer yet. That’s good news for local businesses, who can use this time now to dip their toes into the AI water without drowning. By the time big business irons out the machine learning pain points, it will be ready to trickle down to benefit you.