Artificial Intelligence – A Reality or Just a Hype?

 In Our Thinking

Sentient robots making autonomous decisions to annihilate the world – isn’t that what comes to mind, or rather, came to mind when anyone said ‘AI’? Thankfully, we are moving away from this imagery as AI begins to prove that it is not just any other rogue technology.

AI, undoubtedly, is one of the hottest talking points in the tech landscape today. Almost everyone seems to have an opinion on this technology…some of which are assimilated via scholarly articles and some from those who work in this field. It is rather unsurprising that this technology is shrouded with so much hype and even misinformation.

Over the years, we have seen AI move from being an avant-garde concept to technological reality. It is now more than just self-driving cars. Somehow it feels that AI, as a term, has been undoubtedly misused. AI now is doing more than it has ever before. According to a Deloitte survey of senior executives, 76% feel that AI will transform their companies within three years. 92% feel that this technology is important or very important for their internal business processes.

So why has AI suddenly shot into the limelight?

The Power of Data

It wasn’t until recently that the data deluge started. The sheer volume of data generated every day is mind-boggling. Research shows that we now generate 2.5 quintillion bytes of data each day.

As technologies, such as IoT, mature, the pace at which we generate data also increases. There are more than 3.7 billion internet users across the globe. Google processes more than 40,000 searches each second. Worldwide there are more than 5 billion searches conducted each day.

Then there is the social angle with social media channels generating a gold mine of data! And data sources increase even more as we become a more platform-driven economy.

Making data worth its merit is storage and computational power, something that we did not have access to until we saw the phenomenal rise of the cloud.

Given these two factors, it is hardly a surprise that AI has managed to generate as much hype as it has. This technology has found its application across industries and business processes. We can now see AI being used in business functions such as sales and marketing, manufacturing operations, customer service, research and development, distribution and logistics, human resources, etc.

The Impact of AI Across Industries

The development of deep learning models has enabled a paradigm shift on how intelligence can be built into everyday operations. It is no longer relegated to the scientific and research community alone. As data abundance increases, computational power rises, making way for accelerated processing power.

Manufacturing

The intersection of AI with the Internet of Things has delivered us to the age of Industry 4.0 or smart manufacturing, as we commonly know of it. AI technologies give cognitive power to this industry to drive optimizations across areas such as inventory management, supply chain management, asset management, etc. AI has helped manufacturing improve asset utilization capabilities by giving them Predictive Maintenance. With this, the manufacturing sector has been able to forecast failures, monitor complex machines, and reduce equipment downtime as well.

This sector has also leveraged AI for yield enhancement. AI engines can now capably identify reasons behind yield losses and locate these yield detractors. AI-enabled visual inspections are improving the testing and quality check outcomes and also reducing the time taken for these activities.

Bosch, for example, was able to achieve a 35% reduction in test and calibration time in their hydraulic pump production.

Better demand forecasting, inventory management, maintenance, and supply chain management are areas in manufacturing where AI is making its presence felt in a big way.

Healthcare

A seemingly unlikely contender, but healthcare has been welcoming towards AI technologies. Since healthcare is a process-driven industry, AI has been able to find its niche here quite easily.

Accenture reports that AI applications in healthcare can lead to cost savings amounting to $150 billion annually by 2026. While AI has made into the operating room with robot-assisted surgery and is assisting surgeons in performing better and helping surgeries become minimally invasive, it has found many more applications in the healthcare ecosystem. We now have virtual nurse assistants who are improving patient experience in the hospital environment. AI is making operation theatre management easier and more efficient. It is also enabling continuous patient monitoring leveraging data generated from intraoperative monitors, surgical navigation systems, sensors, and wearable devices, etc.

AI is greatly impacting how we perceive diagnostics and to improve surgical outcomes by applying cognition to the volumes of health records and recognizing patterns across millions of scans.

Google AI’s LYNA (Lymph Node Assistant), for example, can detect metastatic breast cancer accurately 99% of the time.

AI is also impacting the administrative sections of the healthcare ecosystem and assisting hospitals to improve their documentation capabilities, automating data analysis, and is ensuring better staff and inventory management. AI has essentially removed the guesswork from this environment and replaced it with data-backed answers.

Telecom

The telecom industry is experiencing massive technological growth. The global telecom IoT market is expected to post a CAGR of 42% by 2020. Impressive? I thought so too. But what is the driver of this growth? It is AI, again!

The telecom industry is inundated with vast volumes of data. They are now able to analyze these huge data volumes and extract actionable insights using AI and provide better customer experiences, improve revenue with new products and services, and improve their operations.

With Gartner predicting that 20.4 billion connected devices to be in use by 2020, we find more communication service providers becoming warmer towards AI. AI investments in the telecom sector are primarily focused on preventive maintenance, network optimization, virtual assistants, and RPA, and the results are beginning to show.

According to IDC, 63.5% of telecom operators are investing in AI to improve their infrastructure. AI-driven predictive analytics are getting the capability to fix problems with communication hardware proactively, anticipate failures and monitor equipment with intelligence. We are also finding telecom providers turning towards virtual assistants to manage the massive number of support requests that often overwhelm customer service centers. Juniper Research estimates that this move will cut business expenses by almost $8 million annually by 2022.

AI has proved to be a technology, that is anything but hype. But reality also is that there are challenges abound in this universe as well. Prohibitive costs of implementation, the complexity of integrating AI and most importantly, a shortage of AI expertise could be listed out as the main ones.

However, given that each new technology has its initial teething problems, and that is the case with AI as well. As the technology matures, I feel that we shall soon mitigate these challenges. The future, quite clearly, is now, and it is technologies such as AI that are making it happen!

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