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June 3, 2016

The Latest Charts on Internet Statistics

Summary:

Mary Meeker's annual presentation on the state of the Internet says voice-recognition technology is nearly ready and will be highly disruptive.

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Mary Meeker gave her always-anticipated, annual presentation on the state of the Internet this week, and I thought I should share with you. Here is the link to her massive, 213-slide presentation: http://www.kpcb.com/internet-trends.

You will certainly see numbers or even whole slides proliferate in coming days and weeks, but I encourage you to at least skim through this. Meeker, a partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers, has become an institution in Silicon Valley because of this presentation, which serves as a reference point for many innovators.

You won’t find huge surprises — unless I’ve missed something — but I thought a few things were worth noting:

— The main one for me is maturing of voice recognition, which she covers starting on slide 112. Just when you thought you were starting to figure out how to move to mobile, Silicon Valley starts to move to another disruptive technology for you to cope with….

See also: Solution to Brain Drain in Insurance?

Meeker has a chart showing that voice recognition is now about 90% accurate even in a noisy environment with speakers who have a variety of accents. That is up from 70% just six years ago. She shows essentially straight-line improvement since 1970 and says that, once voice recognition hits 99% accuracy, the human interface with computers will quickly move to voice, with all kinds of implications.

Now, she hasn’t always been accurate. Back in the late 1990s, when she was a securities analyst at Morgan Stanley, she was one of the main characters pumping air into what turned out to be a bubble of valuations for Internet start-ups. Personally, I wouldn’t assume that her chart will continue to show straight-line growth for voice recognition. It’s a lot easier, typically, to get from 70% to 90% than it is get those last few percentage points of improvement for any technology.

I’m also a bit jaded because I’ve been hearing about voice recognition for a good 25 years, at least since I saw a demonstration at a conference I attended during my days as a technology reporter at the Wall Street Journal. A gentleman was supposedly chosen at random from the audience and, despite a heavy Russian accent, had his speech recognized almost perfectly when he spoke into a microphone. Yet here we are 25 years later, and uses of voice recognition are almost always part of phone trees where the choices of response are quite limited — and where the system doesn’t seem to hear you when you demand a live person, no matter how you loud or distinct you are when you say the word “representative.”

Still, anyone who has used an Amazon Echo or similar device knows how great it can be to be able to just call out a question about the weather or what the score is in a baseball game. And the change caused by voice recognition will be disruptive enough that any thinking about new user interfaces should at least contain some experimenting with voice recognition. You need to figure out how close it is now to being useful for your purposes and to stay on top of developments in coming years. I don’t think it’ll be 25 years before I write again about voice recognition, and, when I do, I’ll probably dictate to my computer.

— Starting on slide 137, she does a nice job laying out the latest stats on the connected car. Nothing startling, if you’ve been following along, but lots of good material.

— Beginning on slide 185, she offers some trend lines about the Internet that include some names you won’t know and might want to note — I certainly didn’t know some of them, and I follow this stuff pretty closely.  She singles out Slack, a communication system that is becoming popular in some circles, especially the younger types. She also mentions Looker, an interesting data platform, plus Mapbox, Datadog, Ionic Security and so on.

— The last 10 slides or so contain some good stats about cyber security.

See also: Best Practices in Cyber Security  

There is plenty of other good material, including about opportunities in China and India, but I wanted to single out the sections that touch most closely on the themes we’ve been hitting about innovation at Insurance Thought Leadership.

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About the Author

Paul Carroll is the editor-in-chief of Insurance Thought Leadership. He is also co-author of Billion Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn From the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last 25 Years and the author of a best-seller on IBM, published in 1993. Carroll spent 17 years at the Wall Street Journal as an editor and reporter; he was nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize. He later was a finalist for a National Magazine Award.

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