At EFI’s Connect 2017, (17-20 January), EFI CEO Guy Gecht kicked off the conference with insights into the evolution of modern technology—when it began and where it is going. What was of special interest for print entrepreneurs is how the newest step along the evolutionary path affects them.
Gecht focused on innovations that were “revolutionary”—technology that essentially changed our lives. The first revolution occurred in the 80s with the personal computer, untethering the business world from mainframes and opening up computing to everyone. The second revolution came a decade later with the Internet and the World Wide Web. The ability to research, conduct business and communicate electronically gave us global reach and opened the gateway to ecommerce. Mobile technology, the third, was possibly the most revolutionary of all, closing distances and bending time so we could work or play from anywhere at any time. It put every aspect of our lives in the palms of our hands.
So what’s next? Artificial Intelligence (AI), said Gecht. From self-driving cars and health sensors to smart homes and companion robots, artificial intelligence is breaking ground. It has the power to upend our lives.
Pros and cons of artificial intelligence
Let’s start with the cons. According to theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, artificial intelligence “could spell the end of the human race.” Super-entrepreneur Bill Gates has said “I don’t understand why some people are not concerned.” And Tesla CEO Elon Musk has referred to the technology as “summoning the demon.” Surely powerful technology in the wrong hands is always dangerous. So while visionaries express caution, they also extoll the benefits of AI.
Gates points to revolutions such as “Personal Agent” which Microsoft is developing to help people manage their memory, attention, and focus. “Problems like vision and speech understanding and translation will be very good…Mechanical robot tasks like picking fruit or moving a patient will be solved,” he says.
What all of these innovators warn us of is the danger of removing human intelligence from the equation. Tesla cars rely on the ability for the driver to intervene. We need to use AI with control instead of allowing machines to make all the decisions.
Combining real and artificial intelligence
What makes machines with AI so “intelligent,” explained Gecht is the “big” data from which they learn. The more information they have the smarter they get over time. For example, smart devices can watch and track the habits of consumers, such as what type of pizza they order on specific nights, so marketers can offer them the right products at the right time.
EFI customers can use AI to perform preventive diagnostics and predictive maintenance. EFI’s goal, said Gecht, is to use AI to improve uptime, reduce maintenance as much as 25%, Improve first-time fix rate by 50%, reduce recovery time and ultimately improve the top and bottom lines.
CEO Mike Graff of Sandy Alexander (Clifton, NJ, US) refers to his new, “intelligent” VUTEk 5r as “nothing short of amazing” in both productivity and quality.
Marco Caciotti, IT manager and business analyst for Collotype Labels Italia explained that he was able to teach Print Flow, a component of the EFI Productivity Suite, everything he needed to automate his business and significantly improve productivity.
AI-driven technology learns and analyses every detail of the operation, so EFI customers can not only improve production performance but can also understand the needs and preferences of their customers, so they can better serve them.
More from Connect 2017
Gecht conducted two fireside chats, one with Jeff Jacobson, Xerox CEO and another with Joel Quadracci, Quad Graphics CEO.
Jacobson shared a number of strategies intended to give his audience ideas they can apply to their own businesses. He suggested being innovative both externally (with customers) and internally (with employees). “My biggest challenge,” he said, “has been to get those who have been doing the same thing for so long to think outside the box.” He asks his young “millennial” employees to “challenge us.” It is important to see and learn from what your employees see.
Jacobson also stressed the importance of partnerships. As Xerox and EFI partner in digital production printing, he encourages companies to find strength in partnerships so both companies can grow.
“Follow the Customer” was Joel Quadracci’s overlying theme. He learned from his father and company founder, Harry Quadracci that you need to “look at technology as your economic life not mechanical.” You need the latest technology to move your customers to the best platform. To be successful you need to follow and embrace change.
“You don’t want to be an ‘also’ company,” he added; you want to invent and drive the curve…Know what customers want even if they don’t know yet.” Quadracci explained that we are in a crisis of measurement in all marketing channels. This is an opportunity to give customers what they need through data collection and analysis.
He offered a wake-up call to all CEOs of every size company. “Never be complaisant. The CEO should be a key salesperson. Always stay involved. Your employees will all have different interpretations of what the customer said. Hear it for yourself. This drives you to spend in smart places.”
Along with insights from the two CEOs, EFI offered its latest technology, including six segment-specific certified Productivity Suites, the latest EFI Fiery products, the new VUTEk 5r and 2r high-productivity roll-to-roll LED printers and the VUTEk FabriVU soft-signage printer.
Michael Plier, Director of Business Development, Inks, EFI will be challenging us to be innovative at InPrint USA on Thursday 27thApril in the Global Inkjet Conference with his exciting and informative session:
A Stretch beyond the Imagination! DIGITAL Meets Analogue! Thermoforming & the Imaging of things!
If you would like to know more about EFI products then join them on their booth at #1320
For more information about the InPrint Conference programme:
You can register for the show for FREE as our guest using code: Court17
For more information on InPrint USA 2017 visit:
For more information visit www.efi.com/connect