Maybe you remember all the fuss about the internet of things some ten years ago. The excitement wasn’t misplaced—the prospect of every type of electronic appliance being connected is plenty titillating—but the premise lacked a main ingredient. There was no ecosystem in which all of these connected devices could truly connect. Maybe a smart fridge could tell you when you’re running low on oat milk and relay that information, but, as a use case, its limits are apparent.
In an ecosystem built for intelligent automation, the fridge can provide a list of common groceries that it recognizes as running low or nearing their expiration date. That data can be cross-referenced against any recent online purchase you’ve made to remove items you’ve already reordered. Maybe your smart washing machine has been tracking your detergent consumption and provides an alert that you’ve almost used up 64 ounces, signaling that you might need to buy more. In this ecosystem, that data can be set against your typical detergent purchases to determine if you should indeed buy more. It also detects that you use detergent at such a consistent pace that it might be a good idea to register with a subscription service.
In this world, you meander into your favorite clothing store, try on some shirts and pants and head to an unmanned checkout. RFID tags make scanning your items as simple as setting them on a specified counter. A scan of your thumb completes the transaction wraps within a few seconds.
On the way out, you’re approached by an employee who asks if you’ve paid for your goods. You pull up your receipt, which is already on your phone, and show them proof of purchase. They seem suspi- cious and aggravated but let you go. Out on the sidewalk, you send the business a complaint.
Within minutes, the company’s automated service system flags your complaint and, after confirming that transaction and complaint are valid, lowers the sales rep’s internal performance score. (It’s the third time it’s happened this month.)
Fast-forward to the end of the year. As is custom, the clothing company prepares bonuses for hard-working employees. Instead of subjective reviews guiding bonus amounts, they lean on employee performance scores, curated by their automated service system.
To quickly determine bonus amounts, the system runs a pre-written algorithm based on a few criteria: length of employee tenure, overall performance score, number of complaints within the last 30 days, number of commendations within the last 60 days, and total bonus budget. There’s no fussing with spreadsheets here. This is all calculated automatically and bonuses are deposited in employee cryptocurrency accounts instantly. In the development phase, automations like this will require using human-in-the-loop (HITH) technology to fine-tune and avert potentially disastrous disconnects, but as IDWs learn more about contextual cues, contingencies, and optimal use-cases, they will become more independent.
Back in real time, you’re excited to get home and put on the new pants you just bought. They are wool, something your personal IDW (the same one that’s keeping track of your fridge stock and recent purchases) has already noted by reading your digital receipt. This IDW knows that you don’t have anything to spot clean wool pants, so it sends you a text suggesting you pick some up. Your IDW knows that you prefer shopping with small businesses and recommends a corner grocery on the way home. You text back that you don’t have time, so the IDW offers to order from a selection of products online. Your favor- ite online store is generous to those with high customer scores and you qualify for free drone shipping.
You’re in a hurry to get home because you start a new job tomorrow and you want to make sure your outfit is on fleek
(it’s the future, but that piece of slang still lingers). As you ride the train home, a text message arrives from the IDW that’s part of your new company’s human resources department. You’ve been corresponding with the IDW all week long, as it gathers all of the required personal information needed to get you set up as an employee. Today it wants to let you know that the standing desk you requested comes in two colors. Would you like a black or white desk waiting for you tomorrow?
This is just a taste of a world hyperdisrupted by hyperdisruptions brought on by hyperautomation. Still, you should feel better equipped to strategize solutions that might fit into a landscape dominated by intelligent automations that can pull data from just about anywhere and use it to do just about anything. Now, let’s get to the nuts and bolts of doing it.