How will local needs and demands be met by small-scale entrepreneurs in an Ai-enabled world where machines have few moving parts and much of the software is proprietary? (2min read)

The majority of public and private funding pots for supporting new Ai-enabled technologies are aimed, not unsurprisingly, at the supply side; developing new platforms, research and innovations. There is less focus at present on the demand side, users and implementers, as it is deemed that mostly big business and government will deliver this aspect. So where does the retail market opportunities figure? 

Retail Demand

What the demand side of Ai-enabled technology will look like in the Forth Industrial Revolution is difficult to imagine. The channels of delivery for many of the new technologies will come via large companies and institutions through mobile phone apps, embedded into new equipment like fridges, televisions and smart gadgets, and within smart cities infrastructure. How citizens will be able to create new types of business that fulfil a local need from these innovations, without hacking the software, is an area of investigation for the Haphazard Innovation Hub.

Creating Secondary Ecosystems

For a hundred years, cars have been built by large manufacturing companies, who use economies of scale to drive down costs for the end user. A similar production model is already developing for new Ai-enabled technologies. Where these two models part company is the potential for secondary business models, dictated by local needs and demands, to emerge in an Ai world.

As the car industry took off an ecosystem sprung up around the sold vehicles; mechanic repairs, bodyshops, patent parts supply, valeting. These in turn allowed people the opportunity to personalise and customise vehicles, spawning new industries, for example Drag Car Racing.

Such entrepreneurism seems less possible with the Fourth Industrial Revolution where the core of the product is in code that is locked down tight and protected by intellectual property law. Increasingly, if modern machines and equipment incur a fault it is likely to be fixed remotely, via tweaks to an algorithm and not requiring much human input, if any – take a brand new car engine today for example! There are few or no moving parts in most cases that an entrepreneur can easily adapt to fulfil a need, gap, or area of market failure. So where do the opportunities lay for a young person who wishes to start his or her own business but not particularly savvy with mathematics or coding?

Brook, the camper van’s engine, where all the parts can be unbolted and removed and rebuilt if necessary, unlike today’s solid state engines | Image John McKiernan

Future Businesses

Just because the new retail business opportunities are not obvious now, does not mean that they won’t emerge. Maybe the innovation hub, once it is live, might begin to address some of these questions and possibly highlight the first glimmers of what local ecosystems could look like in a fully Ai-enabled world?

John M

Please feel free to comment below, negative or positive, and join the discussion.

This post relates to Ai Hub, Innovation Hub, Electric Vehicles, and Haphazard Law blog posts.


This is presently a self-funded projected, any contributions will be gratefully received. Thank You!


Header Image: Deteriorating Industry, Folkestone | John McKiernan

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