This week Datapipe exhibited at Microsoft’s Future Decoded conference in London. The conference gave Microsoft an opportunity to communicate its vision of digital transformation and gave us a glimpse into – what it says will be – the next industrial revolution.
The consensus amongst the keynote speakers was that digital transformation is accelerating thanks to developments in four key areas: artificial intelligence, machine learning, cognitive science and cloud technologies. These developments are driving change and technological advancement.
Speaking at the beginning of the conference, Cindy Rose, CEO at Microsoft UK, stressed that Microsoft is not “immune to the changes” in technology. She described how the company plans to lead the waves of change, engaging its customers, empowering its employees, optimising its operations and transforming its products. The company has gone through a process of self-learning and understanding and is teetering on the cusp of “a fourth industrial revolution”.
This fourth industrial revolution would put power into the virtual – or even physical – hands of machines. Intelligent computing is the next great transformative leap forward, and Chris Bishop, laboratory director at Microsoft Research Cambridge, explained how Microsoft is using advancements in AI to power this transformation. By using machine learning techniques, Microsoft is not planning to replace humans but to empower them with ever more useful and intelligent machines, describing AI’s broad applications and current uses. Examples included the company’s online chat-bot, a device that simulates real conversations to help solve customers’ issues, and projects that aim to crack the code of cancer with computer science.
The importance of cloud computing in this transformation was highlighted by Toni Townes-Whitely, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of the Worldwide Public Sector. She explained that “cloud [is] the engine and data [is] the fuel in this fourth industrial revolution”. Advancements in cognitive science that allow researchers to understand the human brain to a better degree than ever before have catalysed advancements in cloud translation and transcription technologies. “If a human takes speech and transcribes it, it makes mistakes,” Bishop elaborated. “A few weeks ago we reached the point of the same word error rate as transcribers.”
At Datapipe, digital transformation is a key theme we have observed amongst our clients and we see the cloud as the agent to enable digital transformation within business. With BMJ, for example, they used their journey to the cloud to modernise and automate their processes and bring a culture of continuous change to the organisation.
The ideas Microsoft presented were visionary and fascinating. There may be some blue sky thinking going on at Microsoft but the clouds on the horizon signify that positive change is coming.