“AI must be viewed in a holistic manner”

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Artificial intelligence (AI) is touching new heights across all verticals, including consumer services, e-commerce, mobile phones, life sciences and manufacturing, among others. But how will AI transform itself over time? Arjun Vishwanathan, associate director, emerging technologies, IDC India, discusses the transformation of AI in an exclusive conversation with Jagmeet Singh of OSFY. Edited excerpts…

Q What are the latest trends in the world of AI?

IDC predicts that by 2018, 75 per cent of enterprise and ISV development will include cognitive, AI or machine learning functionality in at least one application, including all business analytics tools. The adoption of AI solutions is set to grow at a fast pace, especially in the Asia Pacific region (excluding Japan) (APEJ). More than half of the organisations in this region are planning to adopt AI within a five-year timeline.

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Q What are your observations on the evolution of AI?

Global spending on cognitive and AI solutions will continue to see significant corporate investment over the next several years, achieving a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 54.4 per cent through 2020 when revenues will be more than US$ 46 billion. Around 59 per cent of organisations plan to make new software investments in cognitive or AI technologies, whereas 45 per cent will make new investments in hardware, IT services and business services. Data services have the lowest rank in all the categories. Overall, IDC forecasts that worldwide revenues for cognitive and AI systems will reach US$ 12.5 billion in 2017, an increase of 59.3 per cent over 2016.

Q In what ways can AI become the icing on the cake for enterprises moving towards digital transformation (DX)?

The adoption status of cognitive/AI correlates highly with the information DX maturity of the organisations. More organisations that adopted AI solutions have moved into the later stages of information DX maturity, which is then managed and optimised by AI. To promote digital transformation that utilises IoT and cognitive systems, it is important for user companies to cultivate an ‘agile’ mindset. For instance, it is necessary to determine the ROI while using IoT and cognitive systems in actual situations.

Q How do you see the growth of machine learning and deep learning in the growing space of AI?

IDC predicts that by 2019, all effective IoT efforts will merge streaming analytics with machine learning trained on data lakes and content stores, accelerated by discrete or integrated processors. An increase in the use of machine learning will lower reliance on the programmatic model of development.

Q There is a belief that AI will one day become a major reason for unemployment in the IT world. What is your take on this?

AI must be viewed in a holistic manner. Having said as much, AI and cognitive developments are expected to make significant inroads into hitherto unchartered and mostly manual/human domains. IDC predicts that by 2022, nearly 40 per cent of operational processes will be self-healing and self-learning— minimising the need for human intervention or adjustments. Additionally, as IDC recently forecasted, as much as 5 per cent of business revenues will come through interaction with a customer’s digital assistant by 2019.

All this merely proves that AI will increasingly complement businesses in driving new and more authentic experiences while also driving business value.

Q What are the obstacles slowing down the growth of AI nowadays?

The primary barriers to AI solutions include a shortage of skill sets, an understanding of vendor solutions, governance and regulatory implications.

Q Do you think companies like Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft will take the current AI model to the next level in the future?

Amazon, Google, IBM and Microsoft certainly have the largest mindshare in the Asia-Pacific region. But domestic platforms, such as Alibaba PAI and Baidu PaddlePaddle are even better known in local markets. Also, the IBM Watson platform has a larger mindshare compared with that of other bigger organisations.

Q Why should enterprises focus on enabling AI advances to move towards a profitable future?

Increased employee productivity and greater process automation are the most common expectations among organisations adopting or planning to adopt AI solutions. AI is presumed to bring significant business value to half of the organisations in the APAC region within two years. Customer service and support are the business processes that receive the most immediate benefits, whereas supply chain and physical assets management see the least urgency.

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