What do the following have in common?
Well, a strong clue would be if I said that I was at the inaugural IBM Think 2018 conference and expo which took place March 19-22 March.
Over 30,000 delegates from all corners of the globe converged on the Mandalay Bay Convention Centre in Las Vegas ready to gorge themselves in a veritable feast of technology.
And those technologies were very much in evidence wherever you looked. What stood out as technology trends no-one can ignore and everyone must embrace.
1. Artificial Intelligence
Not for the first (or last most likely) time in 2018 I find myself writing about AI. Whether it be medicine, automotive, Government, telecoms, media, entertainment....the list goes on.....and especially retail, AI is a gamechanger like no other we have ever witnessed.
Not since the birth of the internet has there been such a disruptive technology.
The message is very clear for retail brands; if AI is not already part of your strategy you might as well start planning for a CVA. It's THAT critical to success.
2. Quantum and Blockchain
Two disruptive technologies both in a relative state of infancy but both set to revolutionise commerce.
Mention blockchain and the usual response is bitcoin but it's so much more than that. Having the ability to connect peer to peer in a completely secure environment, blockchain will disrupt almost every business model in some way or other.
Estate agents could become a thing of the past (cause for celebration?) and online marketplaces could find themselves under threat. If you can go direct why bother with the middle man? Retail supplier relationships will change and with it, as consumers, will we always need to transact direct with a retailer?
Quantum computing, an entirely new way to view bits and byte processing where it's no longer digital and binary ie. 0 or 1 but where 'superpositions' multiple state of bits can exist. This translates to much quicker computing power and opens the door to entirely new possibilities.
At Retail Week Live earlier this month, M&S Steve Rowe declared that M&S is 'drowning in data' and that they 'couldn't join the dots'.
Well Steve, I hope you sent some of your IT guys to Think 2018 because here they would have learnt how to use all that data and to be able to join the dots.
If data is the new oil, then the ability to interpret, understand and use it to deliver amazing, inspiring customer experiences is datatopia.
4. There's No Silver Bullet
Whilst it's easy to get lost in one particular technology, believing it to the answer to all our prayers, that's simply not the case. AI may just be the single biggest piece of the jigsaw but combining it with cloud, blockchain, quantum, data, security - using Watson is what is really smart and unlocks incredible possibilities.
To quote from IBM: Let's put smart to work.
Andrew Busby is Founder of retail analysts Retail Reflections and is an IBM Influencer