How Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft plan to make our data useful through evolving their version of Artificial Intelligence.

On the 9th of September Apple held its latest product release event. Apple are masters of the great reveal. They are the gold standard for creating brand buzz. But under all of the hype and excitement there is a deeper story starting to develop.

Yes, it is to do with the new phone models and AppleTVs but it is not the hardware itself. These will no doubt be great product releases but the truly interesting part of the announcement is how the personal assistant, called Siri, has evolved.

There is a battle shaping up between Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft. Each of these companies plan to make our data useful and they will do that through evolving their version of Artificial Intelligence.

Apple has “Siri”, Google has “Google Now,” Microsoft has “Cortana” and a few weeks back Facebook announced that they are testing their digital personal assistant, simply called “M”.

The idea behind a personal digital assistant is that the system can see and analyse all the data you create. It understands what you like, what you want to do, and help you make better decisions, find products more easily or simply make a reservation at a restaurant.

Creating a digital personal assistant which is as useful as a human is no small task. It needs to be able to understand you deeply and then be able to not only make useful recommendations, but then do something about them quickly. Facebook’s current approach is to blend computers with humans. Apple and Google are taking a much more scientific approach to artificial intelligence.

We are currently part of the testing phase of these products. They are somewhat basic compared to the omnipresent artificial intelligence described in recent movies such as Her and Ex­ Machina. But the technology is evolving very, very quickly.

The reason so much effort is going into this space is that the potential payoff for the technology companies is massive.

Currently these companies have a lot of information about us. But they are only scratching the surface in how they use it.

Google and Facebook mostly use our information to target advertising to us. Apple and Microsoft use it to lock you into their world of products and partnerships. Each company has their own take on how to use the data consumers create. What they all have in common is that they have access to a lot of our history – what we bought, where we have been, and what we searched for.

The next big step is to work out what we want to do next. A personal digital assistant will help this happen. We will start to tell them what we want to do. They will begin to understand, not just our behaviour, but our intent.

This is where the next big battle is actually being fought. It’s not really about phones or tablets. It’s about our data.

And the company that can reliably work out what we want before we even know it ourselves is going to change the world.