Expert View: Smart to the very core?

Gareth Kershaw

Friday 14 June 2019

In this series of ‘Expert Views’ we explore Lenovo’s big tech predictions for 2019. Prediction #1? That smart devices are set to get even smarter and quickly evolving to meet ‘core human needs’. In other words, Sylvain Ansart, Technical Architect at Lenovo tells Gareth Kershaw, it’s about empowering everyday innovation – innovation that actually works…

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Gareth Kershaw:
Lenovo COO Gianfranco Lanci has talked a lot about ‘smart’ devices in recent months. How they’re getting even smarter and more fit for purpose. When and how do you see this happening?

Sylvain Ansart:
Now. Today. And more and more. It’s already gone way beyond the PC and into devices that simplify people’s working days; the meetings they attend; their lives. Technologies like Lenovo’s SmartHub and Smart Display, and AR glasses for instance – which are already readily available – are making that happen here and now.

There’s the Lenovo Smart Display which connects to Google services, and the Lenovo Smart Dock for the Lenovo Smart Tab which connects to Alexa, for example. Both understand what you say. So you can ask, say, how to cook pancakes, and see and hear how at the same time; there and then.

There’s going to be a lot of that kind of tech and AI in Lenovo devices moving forward.

 

GK: Where is this likely to manifest itself?

SA:
We’re extending beyond hardware into software. It’s really about not settling back and resting on our laurels. Smart ‘devices’ aren’t enough. We want to keep pushing the boundaries and creating devices that are smarter and smarter. To make those devices fit for very specialist, specific needs.

Essentially we don’t want to be seen as just box pushers, but to deliver more and more intelligence and value. Solutions is the word here. Content is key too and we want a stake in that; not just in providing the ‘plumbing’.

 

GK: Specialist, specific needs? The varying requirements of different types of end user and organisation you mean?

SA:
Absolutely. Google assistant is a great example. Where individuals are embracing such technologies, the majority of business customers aren’t fully ready for them yet.

They’re understandably wary of installing completely ‘open’ devices; devices that listen to ‘everything’. For obvious reasons businesses don’t want to feel that they’re being ‘listened to’ and monitored on a continuous basis.

Lenovo has introduced a hardware switch that cuts the microphone and the camera on such devices. This is what we mean by every innovation – measures that make users happy and security officers alike.

There’s clearly going to be a big difference between what individuals want and what companies feel comfortable installing, however. While we’re likely to see younger generations pushing for these technologies (they will have been living with them forever after all), their organizations will want to be certain of their ground before committing themselves.

 

GK: So it’s a matter of devices not just getting smarter for the sake of it, but of unburdening different people in different and specific ways?

SA:
Exactly. Freeing people from basic tasks, and often in the simplest ways.
Just installing software is so much faster, simpler, and more with AI for example.

Helping the accountant drop invoices into Excel.

Autocorrecting the copywriter’s work on the fly. And not just typos but the actual structure and sense of what they’re writing.

Face recognition – more or less impossible a few years back but now becoming a serious mainstream technology.

Big Data, which is trying to help turn economics into a ‘real’, more exact science.

AR (Augmented Reality) could get very big very soon too, as will smaller devices, which will get more and more useful and efficient. We’re also working on foldable devices, lighter devices, super high-performance devices.

Tech is even helping in areas like self-esteem and accomplishment.

There’s lots of incredible technologies behind it and they’re improving all the time.

 

GK: So it’s about working smarter, faster, easier?

SA:
In a word, it’s impatience. People no longer want to wait. Especially younger generations. They want instant results, instant connectivity, instant gratification.

Look at smart mirrors, which feed people content as they’re getting ready on the morning. In that sense it’s almost as though a new level has been added to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Many of the smart technologies we’re introducing will definitely help in this regard. And not just in basic tasks, but in crucial disciplines like decision making, where we’ll be able to ask questions of a machine and get answers humans simply can’t deliver. Certainly not as rapidly.

 

GK: The embodiment of Lenovo’s philosophy of ‘everyday innovation’?

SA:
It’s about making innovation ‘real’ and useful. Introducing small increments and improvements that maybe you don’t even notice are there but that help you complete those everyday tasks and deliver results better and faster. Little things that just do their job so that you can get on with doing yours.

 

GK: But there’s likely to be a downside to device evolution too, surely? Added security concerns for instance? How can organizations manage that?

SA:
Naturally. As new technologies and features emerge, inevitably so will new threats.

Organizations need to look at the risk/reward ratios. On one hand you need data  from everywhere. On the other you need to protect yourself. What’s the balance?

Hence corporate caution around technologies like Google assistant and Alexa. Wariness is understandable. We don’t know or understand all threats yet and we need to.

It’s vital that companies stay abreast of the possibilities too though. The benefits and opportunities emerging technologies can deliver. And that’s really the purpose and thinking behind measures like Lenovo’s Innovation Centers, which allow customers to test drive, try out, and familiarise themselves with solutions before committing.

The world is a complicated place and while it’s impossible to modernise it overnight, everyday innovation can and will help – in making our lives easier one step at a time and in making the ongoing transition as fast, smooth, and rewarding as possible too.

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