Apple WWDC 2017 – Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality & Mixed Reality

Introduction

As a technologist, I like to stay close to key new developments & trends in the world of digital technology to understand how these can help users address common day to day problems more efficiently. Digital disruption and technologies behind that such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), IoTVirtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) & Mixed Reality (MR) are hot topics as they have the potential to significantly reshape how consumers will consume products and services going forward. I am a keen follower on these disruptive technologies because the potential impact they can have on traditional businesses in an increasingly digital, connected world is huge in my view.

Something I’ve heard today coming out of Apple, the largest tech vendor on the planet about how they intend on using various AI technologies along with VR and AR technologies in their next product upgrades across the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, App store, Mac…etc made me want to summarise those announcements and add my thoughts on how Apple will potentially lead the way to mass adoption of such digital technologies by many organisations of tomorrow.

Apple’s WWDC 2017 announcements

I’ve been an Apple fan since the first iPhone launch as they have been the prime example when it comes to tech vendors who utilizes cutting edge IT technologies to provide an elegant solution to address day to day requirements in a simple and effective manner that providers a rich user experience. I practically live on my iPhone every day for work and non-work related activities and also appreciate their other ecosystem products such as the MacBook, Apple watch, Apple TV and the iPad. This is typically not because they are technologically so advanced, but simply because they provide a simple, seamless user experience when it comes to using them to increase my productivity during day to day activities.

So naturally I was keen on finding out about the latest announcements that came out of Apple’s latest World Wide Developer Conference event that was held earlier today in San Jose. Having listened to the event and the announcements, I was excited by the new product and software upgrades announced but more than that, I was super excited about couple of related technology integrations Apple are coming out with which include a mix of AI, VR & AR to provide an even better user experience by integrating these technology advancements in to their product offerings.

Now before I go any further, I want to highlight this is NOT a summary of their new product announcements. What interested me out of these announcements were not so much the new apple products, but mainly how Apple, as a pioneer in using cutting edge technologies to create positive user experiences like no other technology vendor on the planet, are going to be using these potentially revolutionary digital technologies to provide a hugely positive user experience. This is relevant to every single business out there that manufacture a product, provides a service or solution offering to their customers as anyone can potentially look to incorporate the same capabilities in a similar or even a more creative and an innovative manner than Apple to provide a positive user experience in a similar fashion.

Use of Artificial Intelligence

Today Apple announced the increased use of various AI technologies everywhere within the future apple products as summarised below

  • Increased use of Artificial Intelligence technologies by the personal assistant “Siri”, to provide a more positive & a more personalised user experience
    • In the upcoming version of the Watch OS 4 for Apple Watch, AI technologies such as Machine Learning is going to be used to power the new Siri face such that Siri can now provide you with dynamic updates that are specifically relevant to you and what you do (context awareness)
    • The new iOS 11 will include a new voice for Siri, which now uses Deep Learning Technologies (AI) behind the scene to offer a more natural and expressive voice that sounds less machine and more human.
    • Siri will also use Machine Learning on each device (“On device learning”) to understand specifically what’s more relevant to you based on what you do on your device so that more personalised interactions can be made by Siri – In other words, Siri is becoming more context aware thanks to Machine Learning to provide a truly personal assistant service unique to each user including predictive tips based on what you are likely to want to do / use next.
    • Siri will use Machine Learning to automatically memorise new words from the content you read (i.e. News) so these words are now included on the dictionary & predictive texts automatically if you want to type them

 

  • Use of Machine Learning in iOS 11 within the photo app to enable various new capabilities to make life easier with your photos
    • Next version of Apple Mac OS, code named High Sierra, will supports additional features on the photo app including advanced face recognition capabilities which utilises AI technologies such as Advanced convolution Neural networks in order to let you group / filter your photos actually based on who’s on them
    • Machine learning capabilities will also be used to automatically understand the context of each photo based on the content of the photo to identify photos from events such as sporting events, weddings…etc and automatically group them / create events / memories
    • Using computer vision capabilities to create seamless loops on live photos
    • Use of Machine Learning to activate palm rejection on the iPad during writing using the apple Pen
    • Most Machine Learning capabilities are now available for 3rd party programmers via the iOS API’s such as Vision API (enables iOS app developers harness machine learning for face tracking, face detection, landmarks, text detection, rectangle detection, barcode detection, object tracking, image registration), Natural Language API (provides language identification, tokenization, lemmatisation, part of speech, named entity recognition)
    • Introduction of Machine Learning Model Converter, 3rd party ML contents can be converted to native iOS 11 Core ML functions.

 

  • Use of Machine Learning to improve graphics on iOS 11
    • Another Mac OS high sierra updates will include Metal 2 (the Apple API that provides app developers near direct access to the GPU capabilities) that will now integrate Machine Learning to graphic processing to provide advanced graphical capabilities such as Metal performance shaders, Recurrent neural network kernels, binary convolution, dilated convolution, L-2 norm pooling, Dilated pooling etc. (https://developer.apple.com/metal/)
    • Newly announced Mac Pro graphics powered by AMD Radeon Vega can provide up to 22 teraflops of half precision compute power which is specifically relevant for machine learning related content development

 

Use of Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality

  • Announcement on the introduction of Metal API for Virtual Reality to be used by developers – That includes Virtual Reality integration to Mac OS High Sierra Metal2 API to enable features such as VR-optimised display pipeline for video editing using VR and other related updates such as viewport arrays, system trace stereo timelines, GPU queue priorities, Frame debugger stereoscopic visualisation.
  • Availability of the ARKit for iOS 11 to create Augmented Reality straight out of iPhone using its camera and built in Machine Learning to identify contents on the live video, real time.

 

Use of IoT capabilities

  • Apple Watch integration for bi directional information synchronisation between Apple Watch and ordinary gym equipment so that your apple watch will now act as an IoT gateway to your typical gym equipment’s like the Treadmill or the cross trainer to provide more accurate measurements from the apple watch and the gym equipment will adjust the workouts based on those readings.
  • Apple watch OS 4 will also provide core Bluetooth connectivity to other devices such as various healthcare tools that open the connectivity of those devices through the Apple Watch

 

My thoughts

The use cases for digital technologies, such as AI, AR & VR in a typical corporate or an enterprise environment to create a better product / service / solution offering like Apple has used them, is immense and is often only limited by one’s level of creativity & imaginations. Many organisations around the world, from other tech or product vendors to Independent Software Vendors to an ordinary organisation like a high street shop or a supermarket can all benefit from the creative application of new digital technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality and Internet Of Things in to their product / service / solution offerings to provide their customers with richer user experience as well as exciting new solutions. Topics like AI and AR are hot topics in the industry and some organisations are already evaluating the use of them while some already benefit from some of these technologies made easily accessible to the enterprise through platforms such as public cloud (Microsoft Cortana Analytics and Azure Machine Learning capabilities available on Microsoft Azure for example) platforms. But there are also a large number of organisations who are not yet fully investigating how these technologies can potentially make their business more innovative, differentiated or at the very least, more efficient.

If you belong to the latter group, I would highly encourage you to start thinking about how these technologies can be adopted by your business creatively. This applies to any organisation of any size in the increasingly digitally connected world of today. If you have a trusted partner for IT, I’d encourage you to talk to them about the same as the chances are that they will have more collective experience in helping similar businesses adopt such technologies which is more beneficial than trying to get their on your own, especially if you are new to it all.

Digital disruption is here to stay and Apple have just shown how advanced technologies that come out of digital disruption can be used to create better products / solutions for average customers. Pretty soon, AI / AR / IoT backed capabilities will become the norm rather than the exception and how would your business compete if you are not adequately prepared to embrace them?

Keen to get your thoughts?

 

You can watch the recorded version of the Apple WWDC 2017 event here.

Image credit goes to #Apple

 

#Apple #WWDC #2017 #AI #DeepLearning #MachineLearning #ComputerVision #IoT #AR #AugmentedReality #VR #VirtualReality #DigitalDisruption #Azure #Microsoft

 

Time of the Hybrid Cloud?

Hybrid Cloud

A little blog on something slightly less technical but equally important today. Not a marketing piece but just my thoughts on something I came across that I thought would be worth writing something about.

Background

I came across an interesting article this morning based on a Gartner research on last years global IT spend where it was revealed that global IT spent was down by about $216 Billion during 2015. However during the same year data center IT spend was up by 1.8% and is forecasted to go up to 3% within 2016. Everyone from IT vendors to resellers to every IT sales person you come across these days, on Internet blogs / news / LinkedIn or out in the field seem to believe (and make you believe) that the customer owned data center is dead for good and everything is or should be moving to the cloud (Public cloud that is). If all that is true, it made me wonder how the data center spend went up when in fact that should have gone down? One might think this data center spend itself was possibly fuelled by the growth in the public cloud infrastructure expansion due to increased demand on Public cloud platforms like Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS. Make total sense right? Perhaps in the outset. But upon closer inspection, there’s a slightly complicated story, the way I see it.

 

Part 1 – Contribution from the Public cloud

Public cloud platforms like AWS are growing fast and aggressively and there’s no denying that. They address a need in the industry to be able to use a global, shared platform that can scale infinitely on demand and due to the sheer economy of scale these shared platform providers have, customers benefit from cheaper IT costs, especially compared to having to spec up a data center for your occasional peak requirements (that may only be hit once a month) and having to pay for it all upfront regardless of the actual utilisation can be an expensive exercise for many. With a Public cloud platform, the up front cost is cheaper and you pay per usage which makes it an attractive platform for many. Sure there are more benefits of using a public cloud platform than just the cost factor, but essentially “the cost” has always been the most key underpinning driver for enterprises to adopt public cloud since its inception. Most new start ups (Netflix’s of the world) and even some established enterprise customers who don’t have the baggage of legacy apps, (By legacy apps, I’m referring to client-server type of applications typically run on Microsoft Windows platform), are by default electing to predominantly use a cheaper Public cloud platform like AWS to locate their business application stack without owning their own data center kit. This will continue to be the case for those customers and therefore will continue to drive the expansion of Public cloud platforms like AWS. And I’m sure a significant portion of the growth of the data center spend in 2015 would have come from the increase of these pure Public cloud usage causing the cloud providers to buy yet more data center hardware.

 

Part 2 – Contribution from the “Other” cloud

The point is however, not all the data center spend increment within 2015 would have come from just Public cloud platforms like AWS or Azure buying extra kit for their data centres. When you look at numbers from traditional hardware vendors, HP’s numbers appear to be up by around 25% for the year and others such as Dell, Cisco, EMC also appear to have grown their sales in 2015 which appear to have contributed towards this increased data center spend.  It is no secret that none of these public cloud platforms use traditional data center hardware vendors kit in their Public cloud data centres.  They often use commodity hardware or even build servers & networking equipment themselves (lot cheaper). So  where would the increased sales for these vendors have come from? My guess is that they likely have come from most enterprise customers deploying Hybrid Cloud solutions that involves customers own hardware being deployed in their own  / co-location / off prem / hosted data centres (customer still own their kit) along with using an enterprise friendly Public cloud platform (mostly Microsoft Azure or VMware vCloud Air) acting as just another segment of their overall data center strategy. If you consider most of the established enterprise customers, the chances are that they have lots of legacy applications that are not always cloud friendly. By legacy applications, I mean typical WINTEL applications that typically conform to the client server architecture. These apps would have started life in the enterprise since Windows NT / 2000 days and have grown with their business over time. These applications are typically not cloud friendly (industry buzz word is “Cloud Native”) and often moving these as is on to a Public cloud platform like AWS or Azure is commercially or technically not feasible for most enterprises. (I’ve been working in the industry since Windows 2000 days and I can assure you that these type of apps still make up a significant number out there). And this “baggage” often prevents many enterprises from purely using just Public cloud (sure there are other things like compliance that gets in the way too of Public cloud but over time, Public cloud system will naturally begin to cater properly for compliance requirements…etc. so these obstacles would be short lived). While a small number of those enterprises will have the engineering budget and the resources necessary to re-design and re-develop these legacy app stacks to be a more modern & cloud native stack, most of them will not have that luxury. Often such redevelopment work are expensive and most importantly, time consuming and disruptive.

So, for most of these customers, the immediate tactical solution is to resort to a Hybrid cloud solution where the legacy “baggage” app stack live on a legacy data center and all newly developed apps will likely be developed as cloud native (designed and developed from ground up) on an enterprise friendly Public cloud system such as Microsoft Azure or VMware vCloud Air. An overarching IT operations management platform (industry buzz word “Cloud Management Platform”) will then manage both the customer owned (private) portion and the Public portion of the Hybrid cloud solution seamlessly (with caveats of course). I think this is what has been happening in 2015 and this may also explain the growth of legacy hardware vendor sales at the same time. Since I work for a fairly large global reseller, I’ve witnessed this increased hardware sales first hand from the traditional data center hardware vendor partners (HP, Cisco…etc.) through our business too which adds up. I believe this adoption of Hybrid cloud solutions will continue through out 2016 and possibly beyond for a good while, at least until such time that all legacy apps are eventually all phased out but that could be a long while away.

 

Summary

So there you have it. In my view, Public cloud will continue to grow but if you think that it will replace customer owned data center kit anytime soon, that’s probably unlikely. At least 2015 has proved that both Public cloud and Private cloud platforms (through the guise of Hybrid cloud) have grown together and my thoughts are that this will continue to be the case for a good while. Who knows, I may well be proven wrong and within 6 months, AWZ & Azure & Google Public clouds will devour all private cloud platforms and everybody would be happy on just Public cloud :-). But the common sense suggest otherwise. I can see lot more Hybrid cloud deployments in the immediate future (at least few years) using mainly Microsoft Azure and VMware vCloud Air platforms.  Based on technologies available today, these 2 in my view stand out as probably the best suited Public cloud platforms with a strong Hybrid cloud compatibility given their already popular presence in the enterprise data center (for hosting legacy apps efficiently) as well as each having a good overarching cloud management platform that customers can use to manage their Hybrid Cloud environments with.

 

Thoughts and comments are welcome….!!