EFI Connect kicks off with AI address

By Jo Francis, Thursday 19 January 2017

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EFI chief executive Guy Gecht highlighted Artificial Intelligence (AI) as the next big thing for the industry in his opening address at EFI’s annual user conference, Connect.

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Gecht: lights out print factor is a reality

Gecht had actually worked on an AI project when he was at university 30 years ago, which involved attempting to make a computer recognise different handwritten letters.

“It was very difficult for a computer to do that, and the key thing was could it learn over time. It was so tough [for the computer to achieve this], I thought ‘this isn’t going to happen in my lifetime’. But something happened and the AI space is accelerating at unbelievable speed.”

He said the AI revolution was being powered by big data, the “unbelievable computation power in the cloud” and the computing power in everyday devices.

“Technology everywhere is helping us to do more with less people,” Gecht stated. “Machine learning will watch the habits of customers.”

He said the often-talked-about ‘lights out’ print factory was becoming a reality.

He cited Printflow as EFI’s first learning software, and said the company was investing in other AI projects such as Smart Print Production, which has a major focus on preventive diagnostics and a goal of improving uptime by 20-25% and to improve the first time fix rate on service calls by 50%.

He quipped: “The robot that will make the keynote address in two or three years will introduce you to even more happy customers.”

However, he also shared research involving a survey of 1,000 people that showed how widespread people’s concerns are about the possible dangers of AI – the younger demographic of 18-34 year-olds were actually more concerned about its likely affect on jobs and the potential for ‘bad people to use AI to harm others’ than the general population.

Gecht’s address kicked off the event, at the Wynn hotel in Las Vegas, with some 1,000 customers from around the world in attendance. EFI also unveiled three new printers: the Vutek 5r and 3r (5m and 3m wide) LED roll-to-roll printers claiming world-beating production speed at almost 455sqm/hour. It also launched its largest soft signage printer yet, the 5.2m-wide Vutek FabriVU 520.

Firstan finance director Dawn Mutter, a first-time attendee who is holding a session about the Huntingdon packaging printer’s implementation of Printflow later this week, said: “It’s great to meet other users. Everyone has different things going on and it’s well worth being here.”

Gecht also hosted a fireside chat with Xerox chief executive Jeff Jacobson, Jacobson’s first interview outside of the financial community since the firm officially separated into two at the beginning of the year.

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Jacobson urged the wider industry to have “courage and vision” about print’s strengths and potential future opportunities. “Print is the igniter for it all, it all starts with the static page,” he said.

He said he believed that inkjet and toner “would co-exist for a long, long time” and that the new Xerox would also increase its focus on solutions for smaller companies.

“We’ve always been very successful at an enterprise level but we’re going to migrate down to SMEs and more medium-sized companies,” he stated.  

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