Pre-emptive shopping will take the dreary out of retail

Within a few years, an autistic child will don glasses graced with high-tech artificial intelligence and venture onto a crowded playground. Wherever the autistic child looks, the glasses will display names and dominant emotions of every child and adult on the playground. The technology will offer autistic folks a way to overcome the most daunting aspects of the disability.

The artificial-intelligence future is upon us, according to Jonathan Miranda, director of strategy-technology for San Francisco-based Salesforce, which makes cloud-based sales-management software. Miranda spoke Monday afternoon as the keynote at the 2017 Global Tech Forum at Sonoma State University in Cotati.

Salesforce, with 2017 revenue near $10 billion, is exploding with growth at nearly 30 percent per quarter, Miranda said. Already the company has some 26,000 employees.

“In the next couple of years,” Miranda said, “the fundamental relationship with technology is going to change.” Technology will be embedded as a form of intelligence into nearly every common device, he said. “The world is going to come alive just like the natural world. You will be ordering food through your refrigerator, having a discussion with your washing machine that tells you you are about to ruin your favorite sweater.”

Though some people fear that artificial intelligence will take jobs away from the North Bay economy, quite the opposite is likely, Miranda said. As technology takes over repetitive, dull tasks from some jobs, it will open up new kinds of jobs for humans.

For instance, a truck driver’s job might shift to managing a fleet of trucks using virtual reality. The driver, who formerly piloted one rig, will virtually guide one truck through its cargo pickup, steer it through surface streets onto a highway then turn it over to a self-driving autopilot. Then the driver will virtually jump into another truck and steer it off the highway to its destination, interacting remotely with the business where the shipment is going, Miranda said.

Stores using advanced facial recognition and artificial intelligence will push into a form of super-convenient shopping, Miranda said. When a regular customer walks into the store, the software will recognize her or his face. Each customer will be able to shop freely and walk out without ever going through a register. The software will track each item selected and charge it to the customer’s credit card.

Even more futuristic is pre-emptive retail. A store might know that you routinely buy English muffins and eat them four times a week with a particular brand of orange marmalade. The store will ship you your favorite muffins and other items before you run out. If you decide one week that you don’t want a few items, you just put them outside in a delivery box and the store will take them back. You’ll only be charged for what you use.

Global Tech Advocates was founded by Russ Shaw, who also created Tech London Advocates. The Bay Area part of the organization is Tech Bay Area Advocates, run by Lannie Medina, founder and board chair.

The conference was sponsored by Salesforce, Sonoma State University’s School of Business and Economics, Penningtons Manches, a London-based law firm, Cornerstone Properties, Chandi Hospitality Group, Rotate2Black, AffMeter, the Press Democrat and North Bay Business Journal.

Salesforce was founded by Marc Benioff in 1999. With estimated net worth of about $5 billion, Benioff still owns about 5 percent of Salesforce and is a noted Bay Area philanthropist. Benioff and his wife Lynne donated $100 million to fund the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Mission Bay.

Prior to founding Salesforce, Benioff worked more than a dozen years at Oracle, the database company founded by Larry Ellison.

Global Tech Forum was presented by Tech Bay Area Advocates, a non-profit organization based in Sonoma County. The conference, with the theme of expanding support for technology entrepreneurs in the North Bay, had more than two dozen panelists and was attended by about 150 people. The Forum is a coalition of some 5,500 technology experts, leaders and investors in more than 50 countries.

James Dunn covers technology, ?biotech, law, the food industry, and banking and finance. Reach him at: or 707-521-4257

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