Raise your hand if the following words make your head spin with ambiguity and overuse: big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence, predictive analytics — the list goes on and on.
If you surveyed 10 people, you’d probably get 10 different definitions for each of these buzzwords — and probably more than a few concerning comments about what the future holds for technology that thinks faster than we do.
So instead of getting into the unknown dark side of AI, let’s think about how such technology has already improved the way we go about our lives everyday. Take road tripping, for example…
Getting from point A to point B
Think of how our process for planning how to get from point A to point B has changed over time.
Atlas — Remember when you had to have an actual, physical map in your vehicle? You would have to locate where you were and your destination was on the page and determine the best route between the two points. Then hope you don’t miss a turn.
Mapquest — Then Mapquest helped us skip the process of building the best route ourselves – the computer did the work for us and we just had to print out the directions. Much easier than reading a map, but if you missed the exit, you could be in trouble.
GPS — An in-car device like TomTom would calculate the best route and actually tell you when the turns were coming up. If you missed your exit, the gadget would recalculate the route in real time.
Phone Apps — Now, your navigator lives in your pocket. Whether you like Google Maps, Apple Maps, or Waze, these apps not only provide multiple options for the route, but have access to real time information, recalculating ETA based on a recent crash and even flagging speed traps through crowdsourced data.
The evolution of navigation has been staggering. Today, all the information that we need is at the tip of our fingers, with real time recommendations helping us arrive places on time (or at least know exactly how late we are going to be).
Navigating Technology and Decision Making
The technological progression that is helping to guide us from point A to point B is fairly analogous to the world of business analytics powering food and agribusinesses of all types.
And yet, despite the consequences in business being much greater (ie. million-dollar trade decisions compared to arriving to the party 10 minutes late) these technologies are often being adopted at a much slower rate. Let’s look at how processes for managing data and formulations have progressed to our advantage.
Yellow legal pad — Remember when you had to perform long form calculations by hand?
Excel — Gave us the ability to do extensive analysis of time series data. This was, and still is, an incredibly powerful tool. The problem is that in any given organization, there are only 2-3 power users with the knowledge to control the master spreadsheets.
Cloud computing — Has empowered us to crunch a staggering amount of data incredibly quickly. While it can be hard to wrap your head around, the insights revealed from cloud computing have revolutionized the industry’s approach to everything from crop planting to shelf stocking.
Applied in the right context, machine learning technologies can be used to understand risk and help the industry make better decisions. Artificial Intelligence and Predictive Analytics are empowering decision makers to run millions of simulations in a matter of seconds, gaming out scenarios to prepare for an unpredictable future.
While these emerging technologies may cause concerns about what’s next, let’s stay focused on what’s already here, what is already helping our commodities partners navigate this changing world we live in.
Just think of it as putting down the map and opening up the app on your phone… for decision makers.