Aside from bigger, richer TVs (The Wall from Samsung), lighter more versatile virtual reality tools (HTC’s Vive Focus and Oculus Go), and driverless cars, there weren’t the kind of game-changing innovations you’d expect to see at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year.

That said, there were some key takeaways for pharma and healthcare. The most significant: the certainty that artificial intelligence (AI) is being integrated into everything from blood pressure cuffs to sneaker insoles.

Ignore AI at Your Own Risk

For our pharma clients, the message should be clear: AI can no longer be relegated to the COE and innovation groups. In order for marketing paradigms to shift and customer experience value propositions to evolve, AI is going to be the brain that powers it all, and the foundation for this evolution starts now. Or does it?

Artificial intelligence — the kind of technological and innovative breakthrough that has the power to disrupt marketplaces and literally replace humans — is a number of years away. The AI that’s powering the bulk of today’s consumer products is technology that really should be confined to the moniker of “chat interface.”

True AI, like the AI algorithm developed at the University of Nottingham in the UK, has the ability to predict heart attack risk with an almost 8% greater accuracy rate than cardiologists. This particular AI processed 300,000 medical records and — using an algorithm that examines patient age, cholesterol level, blood pressure and other risk factors — was able to more accurately predict heart attacks than doctors using the standard method. This, unfortunately, is an anomaly.

Right now, for the most part, when our clients think of AI, they think of the little customer service chatbots that live rather benignly in the right-rail of the Verizon Mobile website, for example. What they don’t think of is complex orchestration that marries analytics with actions, or engagement with affinities.

Starting Small Is OK, as Long as You Start

This may not be the worst thing in the world, however. Presenting a connected ecosystem that effectively manages patient record data, social, influencer, wearable, network, first-party, third-party, attitudinal and behavioral data, is ultimately the vision. But starting with a simple chat interface that can live in an Echo, or through SMS, email and chat, would certainly be a step in the right direction.

We need to set our focus on very specific solutions for things like adherence issues, daily reminders, filling prescriptions and providing engaging daily content to remain top of mind among our target audiences. By positioning AI in this way, as a practical solution to systematic problems that all brands face, we as marketers can get regulatory teams on board.

If there’s one key lesson to be gleaned from CES, it’s that we have turned the corner on AI.

AI-enhanced businesses will be considered the norm very soon, and regardless of whether this technology manifests as true AI or smaller iterations thereof, laying your AI foundation now means keeping up (or surpassing) the competition in the (near) future.