Tai Esteban Sunnanon
Technology is revolutionizing virtually every aspect of our world. The advancements and innovations in technology are bringing forth a new reality that is pushing the limits of even our social fabric.
Technology trends and innovations offer customers a taste of new tech-enabled environments, processes, products, services, and more. It is bridging the gaps between the digital and physical world and blending real-time patterns and techniques.
Be it AI, VR & AR (Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality), Metaverse, cloud, 5G, machine learning, robotics, Web3, cybersecurity, and other tech expansions, the trends in tech are changing how we live our daily lives (whether we want it to or not!). How we capitalize on them falls, in large part, to tech and industry leaders.
Innovators like Tai Esteban Sunnanon, a Global Social Entrepreneur, and Tech Executive are at the helm of this tech transformation and are accelerating technology innovation. Guided by his drive for innovation and passion for tech serving a bigger social purpose, Tai’s journey highlights unique experiences, challenges, and more. Setting examples for future tech leaders and entrepreneurs, he shares his insights related to technology global innovations, giving us a holistic tech picture.
Becoming a Tech Innovator
For the past 20 years, Tai has been fascinated by improving business processes and by the grand possibilities of technology. After running a few companies, then studying and teaching at Harvard University, he started his own consulting company. And now, he is engaged in tech innovation with the U.S. Department of Defense. He gets to both research and apply technology on a day-to-day basis and dream big of the future possibilities for the tech industry and its positive impacts in society.
Overcoming IT Challenges
The IT industry is evolving at a pace that is hard to keep up with, so one has to have a solid ground game for reviewing and digesting important information very quickly. Tai grew up before there was the internet and AI was just a pipe dream. Then, information was highly centralized , with just a few key players in the industry who were leading experts.
Today, everyone is experiencing a new world order by which information is relayed just as quickly as technology is evolving. It’s hard to overcome that.
That said, Tai has been a tech innovator for a long time now. He has extensively written about technology innovation and has come to trust a few key sources written by industry analysts. Tai adds, “I’d like to think I’ve become one of them myself!”
The Future of Technology
Tai is fascinated about the current-term (2023), near-term (< 2040), and long-term (> 2040) state of play on AI, the Internet of Everything (IoE), robotics, automation, quantum computing, cybersecurity, fintech, and blockchain.
And, he is equally fascinated by how these technologies could take both the private sector and society to new heights. In the current term, he thinks about improving business processes and outcomes. But, thinking 10+ years out, he likes to think big, focused primarily on the human benefits from technology.
Tai’s long-standing tech experience gives him a deep understanding of tech trends. He gives us a sneak peek at how to expand our horizons to keep up with existing times and also bring a transformative change.
In the current term, we must become hyper experts, enabling our business to:
- Optimize IT systems for greater reliability through Digital Immune Systems, Applied Observation, and TRiSM (AI Trust, Risk, and Security Management) to improve data-driven decisions and maintain the value integrity of AI systems in production.
- Accelerate vertical offerings by utilizing Industry Cloud Platforms, Platform Engineering, and Wireless Value Realization to increase the pace of product delivery and enable connectivity everywhere.
- Pioneer business model change, reinventing engagement with employees and customers and accelerating strategies through the adoption of Super apps, Adaptive AI, and the Metaverse.
In the near term, I’m interested in:
- Internet equity. Only around half the world’s population is connected to the internet. There are many reasons for this, including economic and social reasons, but for some, the internet just isn’t accessible because they have no connection. Google is slowly trying to solve the problem of helium balloons beaming the internet to inaccessible areas. And companies like Hiber have taken a different approach by launching their network of shoebox-sized microsatellites into low Earth orbit, which wakes up a modem plugged into your computer or device when it flies over and delivers your data. Their satellites orbit the Earth 16 times a day and are already being used by organizations like The British Antarctic Survey to provide internet access to the very extremes of our planet.
- Energy storage in bricks. Scientists have found a way to store energy in the red bricks that are used to build houses. Researchers led by Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, US, have developed a method that can turn cheap and widely available building material into “smart bricks” that can store energy like a battery. Although the research is still in the proof-of-concept stage, the scientists claim that walls made of these bricks could store ample amounts of energy to power a home.
In the long term, I’m looking forward to:
- Chip-based artificial neurons. Researchers have found a way to attach human-like neurons onto silicon chips that will mimic the electrical properties of a real neuron. If this application becomes a success, this can treat heart failure and even Alzheimer’s. This could also equate to a new type of programmable organism that has multiple human benefits.
- Bionic eyes. In January 2021, surgeons from Israel implanted the world’s first artificial cornea into a blind 78-year-old man. After the surgery, the man was able to read and recognize family members as the implant is capable of fusing with human tissue. Imagine the tech capabilities of a bionic eye beyond just sight?!
Establishing a Suitable Corporate Culture
Tai reckons that there has been a lot written about corporate culture. The challenge that most companies face is the following:
- The post-pandemic workplace continues to shift and requires collaboration between remote workers and office workers.
- Digital transformation has accelerated across every organization and CIOs must maneuver to keep pace.
- Customer expectations have shifted, and spending habits are moving away from in-person activities to online.
- IT must improve its maturity in key capabilities to maintain relevance in the organization.
Overall, Tai offers the following advice, keep the workforce intellectually engaged. He is a big proponent of upgrade training. Training can be done in-house, by guest speakers, done at symposiums, or via online certificates. But, training must be dynamic, not static. This way the professionals are constantly on a learning curve and adapt to new processes and systems efficiently. Moreover, a major advantage of training is emphasizing skillsets and helping professionals excel to their maximum potential.
Allow the workforce to be problem-solvers. Early on in Tai’s career, he felt compelled to solve every major problem in the company, be it technology or customer retention. He was the CEO, after all. But, slowly, he learned to invite his staff to help problem-solve via cross-talk, protocols, and facilitator-led ideation sessions. He was surprised at how many of his team members rose to the occasion (when given the proper guidance and clear expectations)!
The workforce is an integral part of the organization. Employees serve as an asset helping to drive organizational growth and success.
Biggest Source of Inspiration
Tai is inspired by Industry Analysts. They help him get up to speed on the plethora of information that exists on areas of tech innovation he cares about (and right now that’s AI).
Generative AI is a type of semi-supervised machine learning that uses neural networks to create new content or interpret complex signal information. By training the models with a large amount of content, they can be made to generate new works like what people would create. The uses for generative AI go beyond creating imagery. It could help businesses with predictive maintenance or improving cybersecurity analytics. It could help generate new ideas for drugs or assist in quality analysis and medical diagnoses.
Generative AI can play an adaptive role to enhance processes that allow a CIO to analyze business outcomes, automate tasks, and identify risks. But, many businesses struggle with making use of unstructured data for analysis. Generative AI can interpret that data and transform it into structured data. That not only renders it usable in analytics but trainable for robotic process automation (RPA). Generative AI can also detect anomalies in network and application behavior, aiding security systems in identifying threats.
Yet, there are competing priorities that every CIO must deal with, like costs, and urgency. A company may be more compelled to spend more on cybersecurity or fintech than they are in automating tasks for greater efficiency. Organizations are increasing their spending on AI because of the potential benefits it offers. It can augment workers to do more work more quickly, reducing costs by automating away more tasks. It can help discover new products more quickly and increase revenues. With more commercialized options available to deploy generative AI and more organizations investing, those that don’t invest may fall behind.
Generative AI is a relatively new field. It can be beneficial in terms of Creativity, Efficiency, Insight, Personalization, and Novel Applications. It is ever evolving and plans to bring potential advancements in its systems over time. So, acting upon the need of the hour, businesses and organizations should invest wisely to yield maximum profits.
A Word of Encouragement for Budding Professionals in the Tech
Being in the field of Tech as an innovator and researcher, Tai shares a piece of advice for tech professionals, who are stepping out and aiming high.
“I cannot stress this enough: be hyper-focused on a narrow area of interest. Don’t shoot for the moon right away. You need to become an expert on a very specific thing such that you become the go-to person in your company, which will naturally lead tospeaking engagements and then becoming a legitimate expert by society at-large. That’s why news programs always have a special guest who has written the book on that subject matter. The author spent years researching their area of interest. They’ve published articles. They’ve been validated by their community. A top-tier academic institution would hire them.
I remember when I sought guidance from my mentor at Harvard University about applying to the Ph.D. program there. I was interested in the economics of social entrepreneurship. He said that my topic was too broad. So, my research question (RQ) became micro-economic gains due to micro-lending in developing nations. It still wasn’t narrowly focused enough. See where I’m going with this?
The more work you put into a narrowly defined subject matter, the greater chance you have of becoming viewed as a leading expert and can speak to it adeptly. After that, the sky’s the limit!”
Words of Wisdom
Like every passing year where technology innovation rules the IT news waves, 2023 will be no different. However, having experts like Tai Esteban Sunnanon bring sage advise and projections, makes digesting all this information more palatable and worthwhile.