SparkOptimus News Highlights – Week 3

At SparkOptimus, we try to highlight the most important news and background stories in digital, e-commerce and retail. Here is our selection of last week’s news:

“We are today at the beginning of a Fourth Industrial Revolution” according to the World Economic Forum, which took place in Davos this week. The impact of technology on our society is accelerating, with expected shifts ranging from the labour markets to changes closer to home.

To start off at home, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his personal challenge for 2016: to build an Jarvis-like Artificial Intelligence to perform simple household tasks. At the same time, Amazon officially launched its Dash Replenishment Service by opening up its API in private beta. Later this year, Amazon is expected to further expand its smart home initiatives, among which Echo, as part of its broader purpose to anticipate on shoppers’ buying behaviour and become the customer interface in the smart home. So for 2016, say hi to your new family member Alexa – or to Google’s Brillo, or to Apple’s HomeKit depending on how 2016 will unwind.

In the labour market, fears have been expressed by some that AI developments will lead to a loss in jobs. Already, we see 3D scanners being used to fit customers with the perfect suit, beating old-school tailors in the process. However, whereas technology might lead to certain jobs disappearing, work will always remain. Retail already presents us with examples, where physical stores are more and more turning into show- and fitting rooms, requiring salespersons to focus much more on assisting customers with expertise and personal attention, rather than performing menial shelf-stocking tasks. Moreover, three industrial revolutions have already taken place previously, each demanding a new set of skills from people, but never drastically changing employment rates. Technological innovations will provide us with a whole new set of jobs, which we cannot even imagine yet today: according to the World Economic Forum 65% of children starting elementary school today will be performing a job that does not even exist yet. So who knows, maybe the next Messi will even be a robot!