Cloud computing enables any user to access previously unimaginable computing power, with just a credit card.
No capital expenditure is required and the service can usually be turned on and off, at will.
Only the computing and storage resources actually used are billed, thus precisely matching supply and demand for the user.
Major industry providers, such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and Microsoft's Azure cloud, together with other independent or specialty cloud providers, make their capabilities available to a wide market.
One of the key benefits of cloud computing for innovation is the idea of virtually infinite computing resources.
For example, Pfizer, together with other pharmaceutical companies, simulate and digitally "test" new drug formulations using cloud computing.
Literally, thousands of servers may be orchestrated to focus on the task.
When the project is completed, the servers are released back to the provider.
Any person building a new product from their kitchen table has access to the same computing power.
Large scale supercomputing, in terms of raw compute and storage power, has been democratised, making it available globally with keen price competitiveness.
The exponential growth in data generated by business activities and environmental sensors poses a considerable challenge to businesses trying to make sense of it.
Data analytics offers significant promise to those firms willing to invest in the skills and reimagined processes to take advantage of the insights gained.
Software for advanced analytics and the handling of large sets of data are available in a similar on-demand model.
Rather than a firm investing in the compute resource and analytical software, which would have only intermittent demand, the full benefits of advanced analytics can be realised with cloud computing.
Other cloud services may offer enormous data sets for use by businesses and individuals.
For example, Google Earth Engine offers satellite images of earth, which can be accessed by any device connected to the Internet.
This means that industries ranging from agriculture, civil engineering, local authorities and resource-based industries have the globe at their fingertips.
The Internet of Things, which involves the collection of data from sensors tracking location, moisture content, temperature, movement, humidity, acceleration and so forth, generates enormous volumes of high quality data.
While this data may be vital for a business to ensure processes are followed and specifications are met, the potential value of the data is exponential with artificial intelligence (AI).
Artificial intelligence is a hot buzzword at present, particularly the branch of AI known as machine learning.
This means that large volumes of high quality data, such as data generated by IoT sensors, can be analysed with machine learning algorithms, or specialty software, to help discern patterns in the data that may otherwise be elusive to humans.
Insights from machine learning can help build new and improved products and services.
The autonomous car is a classic example of machine learning applied to new product development.
Other elements of artificial intelligence, such as voice and image recognition, language translation and forecasting, delivered through cloud computing services, may be combined to create new products and services.
A recent example of a new product created with AI involved the design of a new chair.
Prerequisites, such as preferred materials and their inherent characteristics, were combined with marketing requirements, such as strength and size.
A product design AI tool calculated thousands of novel designs. The selected design for the new chair used 25 per cent less material than its predecessor and went on to outstanding commercial success.
Supercomputing, IoT platforms, advanced analytics and artificial intelligence are now general-purpose technologies available as cloud computing services from the three major cloud providers.
Most importantly, for the New Zealand business environment, any individual or a business of any size now has affordable access to these powerful cloud-based capabilities for innovation.
- Dr Michael Snowden is the CEO of OneNet Limited.
This story is sponsored by OneNet