When I joined Siemens as head of digital communications in 2016 we asked ourselves: what is the next big frontier in communications technology? The Internet and social media had already made a dramatic impact, reshaping budgets, creating new job roles and fundamentally changing the dynamics of the media world.
So what would be next?
One of the answers lay in the analysis of what we had achieved already with digitalization. For all the positive impact of technology in communications there was still a reality that we had simply traded one cost for another. Yes, we no longer needed to spend money printing brochures and paying for traditional advertising. But that money was now being used to pay for social media amplification and other paid and expensive means for getting our message out.
Technology needed to provide a better answer. And that answer lay in the most fundamental currency of communications and marketing – content.
Content is the fundamental challenge. Content is the everything of communication and marketing. Great content will be found, shared, virally amplified. So-so content will at best require amplification dollars for it to even be seen, and at worst it will have negative effects on your reputation.
This is why AI is a truly transformational technology opportunity in communications. Although in 2016 AI was infinitely limited compared to what we have today, we were convinced that it offered the potential to help us solve the fundamental content challenges – what to write about, how to write it, and how to position the results.
The Inference Strategy
In 2017 I met Deb Ray, one of the foundational thinkers in this field and we quickly adopted a shared vision for what would in the future be called generative AI. Remember, if I had described ChatGPT to you back then you would have thought I was quite mad.. A machine that can answer pretty much any question in perfectly formed language? No… Deb proved our thesis shortly after by creating the world’s first AI generated movie script the following year in 2018.
In close partnership we spent the next years experimenting, learning, thinking, sometimes failing, but consistently refining our approach and understanding. I was proud that Siemens became recognized as a leader and pioneer in this field.
And then AI became cool. ChatGPT exploded on to the scene and woke everybody up to the possibilities of generative AI. Suddenly everybody wanted to talk about it and everybody was excited by the possibilities. (Well, almost everybody).
So in early 2023 I left Siemens, and Deb and myself drew up our vision for InferenceCloud. A vision for a new chapter in communications and marketing driven end to end by AI.
AI is not just a tool to generate content. AI is an approach that can fundamentally boost organizational intelligence across the board. AI enables faster decisions, better data, easier collaboration and better results and outcomes in every dimension.
The key to all of this is what we call Inference. The inference layer is what connects AI technologies to business results. Much as operating systems and applications enable computers to be useful, the inference layer is a flexible approach to enabling organizations to extract value from AI, and this is what the amazing team we’ve built now focuses on every day.
So where are we now?
Since 2016 much has happened in our field. The rapid development of AI models boosted by widespread adoption of open source principles, inspiring collaboration across the field through a continuous stream of academic research, heightened general interest and a healthy investment environment is making everything possible. The possibilities become more endless every single week.
We are fortunate that we started early while everybody thought AI was a pretty left field idea in communications. We’ve already made many of the mistakes, figured out many of the issues and our ideas and thinking have matured as the technology has gained the potential to make things real.
And this is where the Inference concept really comes in to play, providing us with a flexible and fast approach to meeting the real business needs that exist – solving real business problems by applying organizational intelligence.
This is what we have built InferenceCloud on – a solid vision for how we can make communications and marketing better with AI, enabled by the amazing technical innovations of the last few years, and driven by a team of the most talented, technically accomplished and collaborative people I’ve ever worked with.
AI was always cool, and it is only getting cooler.