The general theme was one of disappointment after Google CEO Sundar Pichai departed the stage Wednesday afternoon at Google I/O. There were no gadgets. The features — even neat ones — were only features. No one parachuted in. No new products that will change the world were showcased.
While the tech press gave the event a collective meh, Google actually showed us something quite profound about the future. Not just of tech, but of business in general. If last year’s Google I/O keynote laid out the search giant’s new reliance on AI, this year’s laid out how it planned to use that AI to deliver customized services for people based on context.
For example, Google Lens will recognize where you are and what’s around you to offer information that seems relevant. When you ask your Google Home to “Call mom,” it will recognize who in the home is asking and ring their mother.
These are tiny things, but they are a big step forward in teaching computers to better interact with people. They are a step forward in both a natural interface and in the ability to deliver customized services. And both are important in a world where we create terabytes of new information every single day. No one can get through that. Only computers can hope to try.
So what does Google’s event tell us about the world? That the focus has changed.
We’ve been living under this idea that software is eating the world, but now it’s context that will eat the world. Or shape it. As we head into a new era of constant connection, cheap data and neural networks, software will still matter, but the biggest arbiter of our experience will be context. Building services on the fly based on who we are, where we are and what we need.
Just like the shift from hardware to software, which required more flexibility and agility from companies and their infrastructure, the addition of context will force us to rethink our computing infrastructure and how we do business. Everything will be distributed.
In that world technologies that can change on the fly, such as software defined networks and server instances that can spin up and then immediately back down, will have advantages. Tracking ownership and negotiating contracts between distributed computers at scale means technology like blockchain and peer-to-peer file sharing will be relevant.
Understanding where data comes from and when edge devices have been compromised will also need a rethink, since the model associated with PCs and single-party ownership of devices won’t make much sense.
If we want to take advantage of the insights that computers can deliver with their ability to parse terabytes of information in a relative flash, then its time to advance beyond software to an era where context is king.