It's interesting to talk with Jason Burton about his trip last fall to China -- partly to hear his observations about how Chinese society differs from ours but mostly because a chunk of Burton's trip was to observe Chinese technology: Burton is president of Chicago Technology Consulting.
I know Burton because he nurses my laptop, phone and iPad back to health after I've pushed them the other way.
Putting political issues aside, what results from a conversation with Burton is an opportunity -- or perhaps challenge -- to contemplate where all this computer stuff might take us -- and our businesses. Burton's China observations are interesting because of his long interest in tech issues. Tech, China and Burton blend well, because so much of our technology has a Chinese connection.
It's what Burton describes as he shares his impressions of China and technology that we perhaps should know.
• China has more than 800 million internet users, more than twice as many internet users as we have people. Why does that matter? Maybe it doesn't, except 800 million internet users are a large market base: Think phones, watches and other devices that, for example, you could use to make a purchase -- and payment -- in a store that has no attendant.
Use your phone. Tap your watch. Pay for the goods you've purchased: 98 percent of all those Chinese internet users, Burton says, use mobile devices.
• Is yours a retail business? Think about stores with no checkouts -- at least no traditional checkouts. China, Burton says, long ago "leapt over the credit card" as a payment device.
Here, a handful of Amazon Go stores are an example. There are four in Chicago. Watch the video at https://www.amazon.com/b?ie=UTF8 & node=16008589011.
All that's needed is a phone with an app. Walk in, pick the items you want to buy and walk out. Your phone records the transaction: As you pick an item from the shelf, the total is rung up by your phone. Don't want that item? Put it back; the phone will remove it (and its cost) from your items purchased.
• Artificial intelligence. China, Burton says, exceeds the United States in artificial intelligence -- both in spending and everyday usage. The Brookings Institution, a nonprofit public policy organization based in Washington, D.C., has a somewhat lengthy but easy enough to understand definition and example of how AI is in use today. Find it at https://www.brookings.edu/research/what-is-artificial-intelligence/,
• Think that ThinkPad laptop you have is cool? In many ways it is. It's also made in China.
• WeChat? It's a highly popular Chinese app that provides messaging, payment and social media support. Tencent? A Chinese holding company with a reach throughout that nation's internet world. Huawei? A hardware company with generally high quality items that mimic Apple products.
What does all this mean? Unless you're a techie like Burton, this is something of a quick introduction to the rest of the technical world -- almost certainly with more to come.