Heard on Campus: Former IBM executive Linda Bernardi at Penn State Behrend

 “You are the new brand. Every time you use an app, every time you input data, every time you engage with Uber or Cortana or Airbnb, you are building and co-creating that product. In the future, brands aren’t going to exist. The consumer experience is the only thing that will matter.”

— Linda Bernardi, former chef innovation officer at IBM, during a Speaker Series program March 13 at Penn State Behrend.

A portrait of Linda Bernardi, former Chief Innovation Officer at IBM.

Linda Bernardi, the former chief innovation officer at IBM, discussed artificial intelligence and the "Internet of Things" during a Speaker Series event at Penn State Behrend.

Credit: Contributed photo

Bernardi, an early advocate of RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology, served as chief product and strategy officer at Element AI, a Quebec-based artificial intelligence company. At IBM, she integrated Watson’s cognitive capabilities into the “Internet of Things,” the ever-expanding network of Wi-Fi-enabled devices.

More than 23 billion devices now connect to the internet. That doesn’t make them “smart,” Bernardi said.

“When I connect a toaster to the internet, it’s still just a toaster,” she said. “Connectivity isn’t enough. It’s when the device becomes intelligent, and the technology is immersive, and peer-to-peer — when a device knows which other devices it needs to recruit in order to do something — that things get interesting.”

Bernardi doesn’t worry about the network taking over, “Terminator”-style. “That’s a Hollywood construct,” she said, “and we’re nowhere near it being a reality. It’s still too difficult for a robot to open a doorknob, or to climb stairs.”

The “Internet of Things” is changing the ways we interact with technology, however. Some human skills will be lost as the network evolves, Bernardi said.

“When we think about the future, we have to think about natural language processing,” she said. “The next generation probably will not know how to type. They won’t have to. I hardly type now. I don’t even touch my devices. These machines are constantly learning, adapting to the language I use, and anticipating what I want them to do. When I type, that’s telling them directly, and nothing’s being learned.”