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“Enabling clients reimagine their decision making & accentuate the business performance with AI strategy in a transformation, innovation and disruption driven world”
In today’s fast paced & volatile VUCA world, leaders face unprecedented challenges. They need to navigate through volatility while staying focused on strategy, business performance and culture. Artificial Intelligence is fast becoming a game changing catalyst and a strategic differentiator and almost a panacea to solve large, complex and unresolved problems. To be an AI powered organization, leaders not only need to have a broad understanding of AI strategy, they need to know how and where to use it. AIQRATE advisory services and consulting offerings are designed to enable leaders and decision makers from Enterprises, GCCs, Cloud Providers, Technology players, Startups, SMBs, VC/PE firms, Public Institutions and Academic Institutions to become AI ready and reduce the risk associated with curating, deploying AI strategy and ensuing interventions and increase the predictability of a durable leader’s success.
In the age of the bionic enterprises, AI continues to dominate the technology & business landscape. Under the aegis of transformation, disruption and innovation, AI has several applications and impact areas which usher a new change in how we make decisions in the enterprise and personal spheres. Traditionally, human decisions are to a large extent based on intuition, gut and historical data. In the age of AI, several of our decisions will be taken by algorithms. Leveraging AI, the ability to mimic the human brain and the ensuing ability to sense, comprehend and act will significantly go up and will result in emergence of augmented intelligence in decision making. Enterprises, GCCs, SMBs, Startups and Government Institutions are attempting to harness the power of AI to change the way they do business. All these industry segments are looking at AI becoming the secret sauce behind making them gain a competitive advantage. If you have not started yet, you are already behind the competition, however large or pedigreed you might be.
So, where are you placed on your AI journey? At AIQRATE, we can guide you on your journey of understanding what AI can do for you, embedding it within your business strategy, functional areas and augmenting the decision-making process.
At AIQRATE, we are here to help you with the art of the possible with AI. Through our bespoke AI strategy frameworks, methodologies, toolkits, playbooks and assessments, we will bring seamless Transformation, Innovation and Disruption to your businesses. Leveraging our proven repository of consulting templates and artifacts, we will curate your AI strategic approach roadmap. Our advisory offerings and consulting engagements are designed in alignment with your strategic growth, vision and competitive scenarios.
We are at an inflection point where AI will revolutionize the way we do business. The paradigms of customer, products, offerings, services and competition will change dramatically; and being AI-ready will become a true differentiator. AIQRATE will be your strategic partner to help you to prepare for what’s next in order to stay relevant.
Wish you a great 2021!
Chief Executive Officer
Bangalore , India
AI led Algorithms can decide on how we need to emote, behave, react, transact or interact with an individual – Sameer with SCIKEY
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In an exclusive interaction with SCIKEY, Sameer Dhanrajani, CEO at AIQRATE Advisory & Consulting, speaks about how the future of work will look like enabled by AI, and it’s contribution in building productive teams and the emerging AI trends to watch out for in Post COVID scenario.
“AI led algorithms can decide on how we need to emote, behave, react, transact or interact with an individual,” Sameer Dhanranjani
Sameer is a globally recognized AI advisor, business builder, evangelist and thought leader known for his deep knowledge, strategic consulting approaches in AI space. Sameer has consulted with several Fortune 500 global enterprises, Indian corporations , GCCs, startups , SMBs, VC/PE firms, Academic Institutions in driving AI led strategic transformation and innovation strategies. Sameer is a renowned author, columnist, blogger and four times Tedx speaker. He is an author of bestselling book – AI and Analytics: accelerating business decisions.
In an exclusive interaction with SCIKEY, Sameer Dhanranjani, CEO at AIQRATE advisory consulting, speaks about how the future of work will look like enabled by AI, and it’s contribution in building productive teams and the emerging AI trends to watch out for in Post COVID scenario.
Mr Dhanranjani, you have consulted with several Fortune 500 enterprises, GCCs also start-ups in driving AI-led strategic transformation strategies. What according to you, are the topmost strategic considerations to weigh for managing accelerating business in Post COVID world for a start-up?
The unprecedented times of COVID-19 have brought the aspect of decision making under consideration. This includes tactical, strategic, and operational decision making that is crucial to make the venture more sustainable. Today the use of artificial intelligence is quite high amongst organizations. It can be used by start-up ventures and other outfits to make decisions irrespective of the area that needs decision making.
Most decisions that need to be made strategically are being passed on to artificial intelligence-enabled interventions. The algorithm makes similar decisions based on the previous decisions taken. Algorithms can decide how we need to emote, behave, react, transact or interact with the opposite individual This advancement in AI brings the challenge for organizations to create products and services specific to each customer through hyper-personalization and micro-segmenting. However, it can also be considered as an opportunity for organizations to emerge from the pandemic with newer business models and experiences for customers. Start-ups, especially, can make use of such advancements to reinvent and rejuvenate the organizational ecosystem.
You are known for your passion for Artificial Intelligence and are an author to the bestselling book – AI and Analytics: Accelerating Business Decisions. Tell us where how can AI be strategically significant while building productive teams.
My experience has led me to deal with engagements in the entire value chain of HR, ranging from hiring to engagement to incentivization that has leveraged using AI. It is phenomenal to see how AI can help build, engage, and sustain productive teams. AI can help in hiring through the detection emotions, facial expressions, tone modulations of the interviewee through computer vision and image classification techniques.
In the creation of productive teams, AI can gauge the engagement levels of an employee. It tries to look at the various interventions made by an employee regarding their attendance, participation in virtual meetings, and propensity to ask and engage themselves in conversations. It also keeps in check the number of pauses, intervals, and breaks taken by an employee. Every aspect of the employee is being marked to see how productive, inclusive, as an individual and in teams.
What are the top 5 AI trends to watch out for in Post COVID the scenario of the next one year?
When it comes to AI, the first trend emerging is that AI is not a tool or a technology, but it is now being touted as a strategic imperative for any organization. This means that AI strategies will become an intrinsic part and feature of every organisation.
The second trend is the democratization of AI. There is a possibility of the emergence of an AI marketplace where virtual exchanges related to business problems, demo runs etc. can be conducted. One would actually be able to figure out which algorithm is best for them in customer experience, supply chain etc.
The third trend being the cloud will act as a catalyst for AI proliferation. The propensity for cloud providers to enable AI companies with possible aspects of microservice API’s, Product Solutions will be created on the go. This means that the cloud enablers will have options to see various possibilities specific to their organisation when it comes to AI-specific use cases.
The fourth trend is linked to skilling. AI today is a part of a lot of course curriculums. But what is missing is the whole aspect of how does it get applied? The new courseware will be focused on how is AI implemented, adopted in the organization.
The last fifth trend is decision-making enabled by AI, which means humans will have no option but to upskill and reskill themselves to take a more rational, pragmatic and sanguine approach. So new models, new emerging realities of decision making will emerge.
How is AI powering the Future of Work, what are critical considerations for business and tech leaders considering the rapidly changing business dynamics due to COVID?
The future of work will be about AI and what we call AI plus a set of exponential technologies. This means that every aspect of our performance interaction and our responses will be gauged very manually through these technologies. This indicates that the level of performances in terms of how we go up-to-date needs to be worked upon. The future of work is an ecosystem where one particular employer cannot do it all.
This means that if learning must occur through an external player, it must come through the ecosystem of co-employees and the employer. In the future, we will not be caged as mere professionals doing our job but will be encouraged to push our boundaries to explore more at work. At the same time, transformation, innovation, and disruption will be a part of the future’s performance metrics. They will become a major parameter for the organization to create a mediocre versus proficient employee or a professional. This is where the onus will fall on the employees to ensure that they are not just doing what is being called out, but are going beyond to create what we call a value creation for the organisation.
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While some predict mass unemployment or all-out war between humans and artificial intelligence, others foresee a less bleak future. A future looks promising, in which humans and intelligent systems are inseparable, bound together in a continual exchange of information and goals, a “symbiotic autonomy.” If you may. It will be hard to distinguish human agency from automated assistance — but neither people nor software will be much use without the other.
Mutual Co-existence – A Symbiotic Autonomy
In the future, I believe that there will be a co-existence between humans and artificial intelligence systems that will be hopefully of service to humanity. These AI systems will involve software systems that handle the digital world, and also systems that move around in physical space, like drones, and robots, and autonomous cars, and also systems that process the physical space, like the Internet of Things.
I don’t think at AI will become an existential threat to humanity. Not that it’s impossible, but we would have to be very stupid to let that happen. Others have claimed that we would have to be very smart to prevent that from happening, but I don’t think it’s true.
If we are smart enough to build machine with super-human intelligence, chances are we will not be stupid enough to give them infinite power to destroy humanity. Also, there is a complete fallacy due to the fact that our only exposure to intelligence is through other humans. There are absolutely no reason that intelligent machines will even want to dominate the world and/or threaten humanity. The will to dominate is a very human one (and only for certain humans).
Even in humans, intelligence is not correlated with a desire for power. In fact, current events tell us that the thirst for power can be excessive (and somewhat successful) in people with limited intelligence.
You will have more intelligent systems in the physical world, too — not just on your cell phone or computer, but physically present around us, processing and sensing information about the physical world and helping us with decisions that include knowing a lot about features of the physical world. As time goes by, we’ll also see these AI systems having an impact on broader problems in society: managing traffic in a big city, for instance; making complex predictions about the climate; supporting humans in the big decisions they have to make.
Intelligence of Accountability
A lot of companies are working hard on making machines to be able to explain themselves — to be accountable for the decisions they make, to be transparent. A lot of the research we do is letting humans or users query the system. When Cobot, my robot, arrives to my office slightly late, a person can ask , “Why are you late?” or “Which route did you take?”
So they are working on the ability for these AI systems to explain themselves, while they learn, while they improve, in order to provide explanations with different levels of detail. People want to interact with these robots in ways that make us humans eventually trust AI systems more. You would like to be able to say, “Why are you saying that?” or “Why are you recommending this?” Providing that explanation is a lot of the research that is being done, and I believe robots being able to do that will lead to better understanding and trust in these AI systems. Eventually, through these interactions, humans are also going to be able to correct the AI systems. So they are trying to incorporate these corrections and have the systems learn from instruction. I think that’s a big part of our ability to coexist with these AI systems.
The Worst Case Contingency
A lot of the bad things humans do to each other are very specific to human nature. Behavior like becoming violent when we feel threatened, being jealous, wanting exclusive access to resources, preferring our next of kin to strangers, etc were built into us by evolution for the survival of the species. Intelligent machines will not have these basic behavior unless we explicitly build these behaviors into them. Why would we?
Also, if someone deliberately builds a dangerous and generally-intelligent AI, other will be able to build a second, narrower AI whose only purpose will be to destroy the first one. If both AIs have access to the same amount of computing resources, the second one will win, just like a tiger a shark or a virus can kill a human of superior intelligence.
In October 2014, Musk ignited a global discussion on the perils of artificial intelligence. Humans might be doomed if we make machines that are smarter than us, Musk warned. He called artificial intelligence our greatest existential threat.
Musk explained that his attempt to sound the alarm on artificial intelligence didn’t have an impact, so he decided to try to develop artificial intelligence in a way that will have a positive affect on humanity
Brain-machine interfaces could overhaul what it means to be human and how we live. Today, technology is implanted in brains in very limited cases, such as to treat Parkinson’s Disease. Musk wants to go farther, creating a robust plug-in for our brains that every human could use. The brain plug-in would connect to the cloud, allowing anyone with a device to immediately share thoughts.
Humans could communicate without having to talk, call, email or text. Colleagues scattered throughout the globe could brainstorm via a mindmeld. Learning would be instantaneous. Entertainment would be any experience we desired. Ideas and experiences could be shared from brain to brain.
We would be living in virtual reality, without having to wear cumbersome goggles. You could re-live a friend’s trip to Antarctica — hearing the sound of penguins, feeling the cold ice — all while your body sits on your couch.
Final Word – Is AI Uncertainty really about AI ?
I think that the research that is being done on autonomous systems — autonomous cars, autonomous robots — it’s a call to humanity to be responsible. In some sense, it has nothing to do with the AI. The technology will be developed. It was invented by us — by humans. It didn’t come from the sky. It’s our own discovery. It’s the human mind that conceived such technology, and it’s up to the human mind also to make good use of it.
I’m optimistic because I really think that humanity is aware that they need to handle this technology carefully. It’s a question of being responsible, just like being responsible with any other technology every conceived, including the potentially devastating ones like nuclear armaments. But the best thing to do is invest in education. Leave the robots alone. The robots will keep getting better, but focus on education, people knowing each other, caring for each other. Caring for the advancement of society. Caring for the advancement of Earth, of nature, improving science. There are so many things we can get involved in as humankind that could make good use of this technology we’re developing
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The brick-and-mortar retail industry is not in a good moment right now. Much of the turmoil in this industry comes from the fact that consumers are seeking a richer and indulging retail experience that reduces friction – much like what they have now become used to as they shop online. Consumers also expect traditional retailers to capture the essence of their individuality – who they are, what they like, and how they prefer to consume information. Retailers need to understand and align themselves with the expectations of the consumers in order to increase profitability and customer loyalty. They need to not only be aware, but also go full throttle for adopting technologies such as AI for influencing and revolutionising customer behaviour.
Retailers need to explore use cases pertaining to exponential technologies to address the disruption that their industry is going through. They need to catch up with how recommendation engines are redefining customer experience, how retail business value chain transformation is shaping up, and how AI can enhance the supply chain aspects of their business. And as I mentioned, awareness is simply not enough – they need to assess and adopt these technologies on a war footing to survive in the world we live in today.
The data-powered disruption of retail
Data in the retail industry is increasing exponentially in terms of volume, variety, velocity – and more importantly – value with every passing year. Smarter retailers are increasingly aware of how every interaction between the business and customers holds the potential to increase customer loyalty and drive additional customer revenue. Retailers that adopt AI today have the potential to raise their operating margins by as much as 60 percent.
But just having the data and building reports that summarise customer behaviour at an aggregate level are not enough. Insights are important, no doubt, but retailers desperately need systems that can make actionable decisions from the data. Insights into average user behaviour is simply too broad. Retailers need to now create a meaningful dialogue with each individual customer that honours their shopper’s preferred level and mode of engagement. This requires more than summarised reports. It requires technologies powered by AI – the ability to minutely understand every customer individually and take actions that each individual customer expects.
We now live in a time where data-driven decisions are extremely pervasive and useful. So much so that the worlds of ecommerce and traditional commerce are seamlessly merging. Every company is now omni-channel. Whether you think of Walmart buying Flipkart to boost their online presence or you take Amazon purchasing Whole Foods to bolster their brick-and-mortar presence. It is not about the web, the app, or the store – it is about having all of those. With the quantum of data available, we’ve seen an extraordinary few years in the retail industry – in the sense that data is actively deconstructing and rebuilding what retail will look like tomorrow. Traditional incumbents need to pay heed to the warning signs signalled by their defunct counterparts and aggressively embrace the data-driven disruption of retail.
AI transforming retail
Predictive analytics has been used in retail for several years now. However, in the last few years – with advances in technology and artificial intelligence – we are seeing the high speed, scale, and value that predictive analytics can deliver. The AI-enabled world of retail helps business transition into a world where consumers are always connected, more mobile, more social, and have choices about where they shop.
Deep learning in commerce
The retail industry is one with a lot of benefit to be gained from deep learning, in part because it’s such a data-rich industry and because there is some momentum around AI gathering already. Further a lot of the AI techniques enjoying success in other applications across industries powered by deep learning are well positioned to make serious impact on retail, streamlining processes, and transforming customer experience into something that largely resembles the experience customers get when they visit online portals.
Deep learning has been the fuel for much of the recent success in applied AI, so it is not surprising that some of the first attempts at augmenting the offline shopping experience have been making use of the power of deep learning in classifying images. If you look at something like Shelf analytics to seek out merchandising effectiveness, you can see the beginnings of how deep learning fits snugly in a retail context.
Now with minimal effort, retailers that can leverage automated AI capabilities will see a strong rise in customer engagement and sales. The best part is – this can be accomplished by data that is already available to them and captured in their enterprise systems. There’s more. The algorithms required for powering these systems, such as collaborative filtering, are relatively simple to deploy and efficient to run.
Intelligent product searches
Another great use case for retailers is leveraging AI for powering intelligent product searches. By using AI, customers can take pictures of things that they see in the real world, or even in an ad, and then locate a retailer who has that item in stock. This can easily serve as the start of a shopping experience. Typically, consumers do often see something that they like, but do not know the name of the item, brand or where they can source it from.
But taking photos is not the only modality for shopping, and there are other areas in the shopping experience where AI can play a part. In online commerce retail, for instance, customers often know what they are looking for but do not know the exact search terms or must scroll through multiple pages of inventory to find it. Deep learning can be of help here as well. Auto-encoding features of images in an inventory based on similarities and differences brings about a rich model of what is available in the inventory, and the model is surprisingly close to how we, as humans, perceive shoppable items. The model alone, of course, is not enough: We need a way to understand a shopper’s preferences as they interact with the inventory.
Speed and communication in real time
Just a few years ago, retailers used to take weeks to analyse customer data and make product offers. Machine learning and AI are changing the game by streaming live data and curating products in real time – based on their understanding of each customer. This significant drop in the amount of time taken between receiving data and powering an intelligent decision is made possible by AI and helps improve the uptake of products from retailers. For instance, by using mobile geo-location capabilities retailers can now offer deals or promotions when customers walk into or near the store (not after they’ve paid at the checkout and departed). Mobile push notifications on company apps allow retailers to track engagement the second it happens.
Given this rapid evolution, retailers have many choices on how to use AI in their marketing and sales strategies. Consumers are seeking a richer retail experience that reduces friction while also capturing the essence of who they are, what they like, and how they prefer to consume information. The sooner a retailer understands this and creates the best consumer experience they can, the sooner they will increase profitability and retention rates. I predict that this retail revolution will continue to unfold and expand over the next several years. But as the industry expands one thing is certain: in retail, personalisation and the customer journey are key, regardless of how you get there.
The ‘segment of one’ approach
A generic, aggregative understanding of customer behaviour is no longer enough. Individual segmentation is the next step for retailers looking to create a super-personalised experience for their users.
The worlds of traditional commerce retail and ecommerce retail are rapidly merging. I think ecommerce retail for many years was an interesting trend, but it was on the side, largely, of what was happening in retail. Today ecommerce retail is less an ancillary part of retail and more about the way business is now done. Online and offline experiences are fast coming together and without an omni-channel experience, it will be extremely difficult for a retailer to survive. That said, I do not doubt there is a future for brick-and-mortar retail, but there will need to be a transformation of retail real estate. Stores are going to become as much distribution and fulfilment centres as they are full-fledged shopping experiences. And they will need to be highly technology enabled.
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The Artificial Intelligence revolution in the enterprise is well under way. According to Gartner’s 2018 CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey, 65% of respondents think that AI will have a ‘material impact on an area of their business’. Due to the combination of three critical factors – improved data availability and machine learning techniques, increased computing power and storage, and a strong enterprise thrust on data-driven decision-making – AI has taken a strong foothold in some of the largest corporations in the world today, commanding executive-level interest, attention and urgency.
Beyond simple automation, AI is powering complex, critical decisions in several areas from Renaissance Technologies’ Medallion Fund, which uses statistical probabilities and quantitative models and has become one of the startling successes in the hedge fund industry, to complex image annotation and deep learning that helps radiologists detect cancer in MRI scans. Here is a look at some of the critical areas where AI is augmenting human decision-making:
As multiple countries grapple problems from an ageing population, rising healthcare costs and low doctor-to-patient ratios, AI can help improve healthcare outcomes in a variety of ways. For instance, AI is being leveraged for public health studies – from detection of potential physical or psychological pandemics to epidemiology – by mining social media and other data sources.
Further, startups and conglomerates are working on AI for diagnostics – from detection of early warning signals to identifying and quantifying abnormalities/tumours. In the pharma industry, AI is helping improve site studies, drug development and clinical trials through analysis of meaningful data.
A common AI use case for financial services is in the domain of fraud detection and anti-money laundering. AI can help surface bad actors by quickly scanning data for anomalous behaviour. Similarly, AI is also powering customer interaction decisions through intelligent chatbots that can address common concerns, thus reducing the need for human intervention in repetitive, menial tasks. We’re also seeing increased proliferation of robo-advisers – which are advanced AI tools that help make investment decisions by matching investible capital and returns expected.
The media and entertainment industry is going through an AI and digital disruption due to the combination of huge datasets and success of torchbearers like Netflix and Spotify. Content recommendation and personalisation are decisions that are autonomously delivered by AI, which can quickly scan a user’s history and match it with the preferences of similar users.
The industry is also relying on AI to make decisions around content creation, again taking a leaf out of Netflix to make content more engaging and sticky. There is also a strong use case of AI helping identify and attract customers by surfacing tailored content and promotions to increase subscriptions, loyalty and share-of-wallet.
Retail was one of the first industries to witness the rise of a data-powered competitor that eventually decimated incumbents. The brick-and-mortar retail industry is now incorporating AI in its decision-making process to replicate the customer experience expectations set by Amazon and the like.
Retailers leverage user purchase to identify next-best product and create tailored loyalty programmes. It is also being increasingly used for rapid experimentation to define store location, layouts and product-shelf decisions. Retailers can better anticipate demand, leading to leaner supply chains and warehouses, optimised inventory and fewer stockouts.
Manufacturing companies are bringing in AI interventions to run leaner supply chains to cut the cost of transportation and wastage. AI also enables them to better anticipate demand by looking at historical sales, current uptake and other business environment factors to run on-demand production.
Some AI-led decisions are pervasive across multiple industries. For instance, digital personalisation, ie, serving targeted promotions to customers based on their key purchase drivers, is a multi-industry example of AI in action.
The other is for detecting security threats through anomaly detection and video analytics to identify unauthorised entry. Human Resources is another function that is rapidly changing, with companies using AI to speed up talent acquisition by scanning resumes for relevancy and reducing attrition by identifying key drivers that lead to employees leaving.
Successful AI-led Decisions
The business value of AI is significantly lowered when performed ad hoc, without a strong foundational strategy. It is important that the organisation clearly defines the decisions that should be powered by AI to maintain a high standard of outcomes. The responses will differ from company to company and from industry to industry, but it is important that corporations establish transparent standards for fair use.
We see enough examples of hastily implemented AI, leading to calamitous consequences and companies can no longer hide by saying, ‘The AI made me do it’. To demarcate the clear go and no-go zones for AI, here’s a handy questionnaire to ask yourself:
– Do we have enough superior quality data now and in the future for AI to make the best decision?
– Do we need to bring in insights from multiple sources to contribute to the decision-making process at a speed and scale, which cannot be efficiently handled by human cognition?
– Is human decision-fatigue or bias currently creating a sub-optimal outcome in this area?
– Could there be ethical or moral implications to an AI-led decision that might lead to disastrous consequences?
We also need to address the confidence issues. For instance, a lot of executives look down upon some of the black-box processes performed by AI algorithms. We need to find a way to address these issues by creating a transparent trail of AI decisions and the reasons why AI took a decision. Even in unsupervised learning scenarios, a trail of decisions will not only boost confidence but will also help build better AI and better businesses.
Re-imagined AI-powered decisions will become de rigueur only by the quality of the outcomes they deliver. According to Dr John Kelly, SVP — IBM Research and Solutions portfolio, “The success of cognitive computing will not be measured by Turing tests or a computer’s ability to mimic humans. It will be measured in more practical ways, like return on investment, new market opportunities, diseases cured and lives saved.” This is a crucial way to look at and measure the impact of AI on our businesses, society and lives.
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Artificial intelligence (AI) will empower banking organisations to completely redefine how they operate, establish innovative products and services, and most importantly impact customer experience interventions. In this second machine age, banks will find themselves competing with upstart fintech firms leveraging advanced technologies that augment or even replace human workers with sophisticated algorithms. To maintain a sharp competitive edge, banking corporations will need to embrace AI and weave it into their business strategy.
In this post, I will examine the dynamics of AI ecosystems in the banking industry and how it is fast becoming a major disrupter by looking at some of the critical unsolved problems in this area of business. AI’s potential can be looked at through multiple lenses in this sector, particularly its implications and applications across the operating landscape of banking. Let us focus on some of the key artifiicial intelligence technology systems: robotics, computer vision, language, virtual agents, and machine learning (including deep learning) that underlines many recent advances made in this sector.
Banks entering the intelligence age are under intense pressure on multiple fronts. Rapid advances in AI are coming at a time of widespread technological and digital disruption. To manage this impact, many changes are being triggered.
- Leading banks are aggressively hiring Chief AI Officers while investing in AI labs and incubators
- AI-powered banking bots are being used on the customer experience front.
- Intelligent personal investment products are available at scale
- Multiple banks are moving towards custom in-house solutions that leverage sophisticated ontologies, natural language processing, machine learning, pattern recognition, and probabilistic reasoning algorithms to aid skilled employees and robots with complex decisions
Some of the key characteristics shaping this industry include:
- Decision support and advanced algorithms allow the automation of processes that are more cognitive in nature
- Solutions incorporate advanced self-learning capabilities
- Sophisticated cognitive hypothesis generation/advanced predictive analytics
Surge of AI in Banking
Banks today are struggling to reduce costs, meet margins, and exceed customer expectations through personal experience. To enable this, implementing AI is particularly important. And banks have started embracing AI and related technologies worldwide. According to a survey by the National Business Research Institute, over 32 percent of financial institutions use AI through voice recognition and predictive analysis. The dawn of mobile technology, data availability and the explosion of open-source software provides artificial intelligence huge playing field in the banking sector. The changing dynamics of an app-driven world is enabling the banking sector to leverage AI and integrate it tightly with the business imperatives.
AI in Banking Customer Services
Automated AI-powered customer service is gaining strong traction. Using data gathered from users’ devices, AI-based relay information using machine learning by redirecting users to the source. AI-related features also enable services, offers, and insights in line with the user’s behaviour and requirements. The cognitive machine is trained to advise and communicate by analysing users’ data. Online wealth management services and other services are powered by integrating AI advancements to the app by capturing relevant data.
The tested example of answering simple questions that the users have and redirecting them to the relevant resource has proven successful. Routine and basic operations i.e. opening or closing the account, transfer of funds, can be enabled with the help of chatbots.
Fraud and risk management
Online fraud is an area of massive concern for businesses as they digitise at scale. Risk management at internet scale cannot be managed manually or by using legacy information systems. Most banks are looking to deploy machine or deep learning and predictive analytics to examine all transactions in real-time. Machine learning can play an extremely critical role in the bank’s middle office.
The primary uses include mitigating fraud by scanning transactions for suspicious patterns in real-time, measuring clients for creditworthiness, and enabling risk analysts with right recommendations for curbing risk.
Trading and Securities
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) plays a key role in security settlement through reconciliation and validation of information in the back office with trades enabled in the front office. Artificial intelligence facilitates the overall process of trade enrichment, confirmation and settlement.
Lending is a critical business for banks, which directly and indirectly touches almost all parts of the economy. At its core, lending can be seen as a big data problem. This makes it an effective case for machine learning. One of the critical aspects is the validation of creditworthiness of individuals or businesses seeking such loans. The more data available about the borrower, the better you can assess their creditworthiness.
Usually, the amount of a loan is tied to assessments based on the value of the collateral and taking future inflation into consideration. The potential of AI is that it can analyse all of these data sources together to generate a coherent decision. In fact, banks today look at creditworthiness as one of their everyday applications of AI.
Banks are increasingly relying on machine learning to make smarter, real-time investment decisions on behalf of their investors and clients.
These algorithms can progress across distinct ways. Data becomes an integral part of their decision-making tree, this enables them to experiment with different strategies on the fly to broaden their focus to consider a more diverse range of assets.
Banks are focussed to leverage an AI and machine learning-based technology platforms that make customised portfolio profiles of customers based on their investment limits, patterns and preferences.
Banking and artificial intelligence are at a vantage position to unleash the next wave of digital disruption. A user-friendly AI ecosystem has the potential for creating value for the banking industry, but the desire to adopt such solutions across all spectrums can become roadblocks. Some of the issues can be long implementation timelines, limitations in the budgeting process, reliance on legacy platforms, and the overall complexity of a bank’s technology environment.
To overcome the above challenges of introducing and building an AI-enabled environment. Banks need to enable incremental adoption methods and technologies. The critical part is ensuring that the transition allows them to overcome the change management/behavioural issues. The secret sauce of successful deployment is to ensure a seamless fit into the existing technology architecture landscape, making an effective AI enterprise environment.
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The excitement around artificial intelligence is palpable. It seems that not a day goes by without one of the giants in the industry coming out with a breakthrough application of this technology, or a new nuance is added to the overall body of knowledge. Horizontal and industry-specific use cases of AI abound and there is always something exciting around the corner every single day.
However, with the keen interest from global leaders of multinational corporations, the conversation is shifting towards having a strategic agenda for AI in the enterprise. Business heads are less interested in topical experiments and minuscule productivity gains made in the short term. They are more keen to understand the impact of AI in their areas of work from a long-term standpoint. Perhaps the most important question that they want to see answered is – what will my new AI-enabled enterprise look like?
The question is as strategic as it is pertinent. For business leaders, the most important issues are – improving shareholder returns and ensuring a productive workforce – as part of running a sustainable, future-ready business. Artificial intelligence may be the breakout technology of our time, but business leaders are more occupied with trying to understand just how this technology can usher in a new era of their business, how it is expected to upend existing business value chains, unlock new revenue streams, and deliver improved efficiencies in cost outlays. In this article, let us try to answer these questions.
AI is Disrupting Existing Value Chains
Ever since Michael Porter first expounded on the concept in his best-selling book, Competitive Advantage: Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance, the concept of the value chain has gained great currency in the minds of business leaders globally. The idea behind the value chain was to map out the interlinkages between the primary activities that work together to conceptualize and bring a product / service to market (R&D, manufacturing, supply chain, marketing, etc.), as well as the role played by support activities performed by other internal functions (finance, HR, IT etc.). Strategy leaders globally leverage the concept of value chains to improve business planning, identify new possibilities for improving business efficiency and exploit potential areas for new growth.
Now with AI entering the fray, we might see new vistas in the existing value chains of multinational corporations. For instance:
- Manufacturing is becoming heavily augmented by artificial intelligence and robotics. We are seeing these technologies getting a stronger foothold across processes requiring increasing sophistication. Business leaders need to now seriously consider workforce planning for a labor force that consists both human and artificial workers at their manufacturing units. Due attention should also be paid in ensuring that both coexist in a symbiotic and complementary manner.
- Logistics and Delivery are two other areas where we are seeing a steady growth in the use of artificial intelligence. Demand planning and fulfilment through AI has already reached a high level of sophistication at most retailers. Now Amazon – which handles some of the largest and most complex logistics networks in the world – is in advanced stages of bringing in unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) for deliveries through their Amazon Prime Air program. Business leaders expect outcomes to range from increased customer satisfaction (through faster deliveries) and reduction in costs for the delivery process.
- Marketing and Sales are constantly on the forefront for some of the most exciting inventions in AI. One of the most recent and evolved applications of AI is Reactful. A tool developed for eCommerce properties, Reactful helps drive better customer conversions by analyzing the clickstream and digital footprints of people who are on web properties and persuades them into making a purchase. Business leaders need to explore new ideas such as this that can help drive meaningful engagement and top line growth through these new AI-powered tools.
AI is Enabling New Revenue Streams
The second way business leaders are thinking strategically around AI is for its potential to unlock new sources of revenue. Earlier, functions such as internal IT were seen as a cost center. In today’s world, due to the cost and competitive pressure, areas of the business which were traditionally considered to be cost centers are require to reinvent themselves into revenue and profit centers. The expectation from AI is no different. There is a need to justify the investments made in this technology – and find a way for it to unlock new streams of revenue in traditional organizations. Here are two key ways in which business leaders can monetize AI:
- Indirect Monetization is one of the forms of leveraging AI to unlock new revenue streams. It involves embedding AI into traditional business processes with a focus on driving increased revenue. We hear of multiple companies from Amazon to Google that use AI-powered recommendation engines to drive incremental revenue through intelligent recommendations and smarter bundling. The action item for business leaders is to engage stakeholders across the enterprise to identify areas where AI can be deeply ingrained within tech properties to drive incremental revenue.
- Direct Monetization involves directly adding AI as a feature to existing offerings. Examples abound in this area – from Salesforce bringing in Einstein into their platform as an AI-centric service to cloud infrastructure providers such as Amazon and Microsoft adding AI capabilities into their cloud offerings. Business leaders should brainstorm about how AI augments their core value proposition and how it can be added into their existing product stack.
AI is Bringing Improved Efficiencies
The third critical intervention for a new AI-enabled enterprise is bringing to the fore a more cost-effective business. Numerous topical and early-stage experiments with AI have brought interesting success for reducing the total cost of doing business. Now is the time to create a strategic roadmap for these efficiency-led interventions and quantitatively measure their impact to business. Some food for thought for business leaders include:
- Supply Chain Optimization is an area that is ripe for AI-led disruption. With increasing varieties of products and categories and new virtual retailers arriving on the scene, there is a need for companies to reduce their outlay on the network that procures and delivers goods to consumers. One example of AI augmenting the supply chain function comes from Evertracker – a Hamburg-based startup. By leveraging IOT sensors and AI, they help their customers identify weaknesses such as delays and possible shortages early, basing their analysis on internal and external data. Business leaders should scout for solutions such as these that rely on data to identify possible tweaks in the supply chain network that can unlock savings for their enterprises.
- Human Resources is another area where AI-centric solutions can be extremely valuable to drive down the turnaround time for talent acquisition. One such solution is developed by Recualizer – which reduces the need for HR staff to scan through each job application individually. With this tool, talent acquisition teams need to first determine the framework conditions for a job on offer, while leaving the creation of assessment tasks to the artificial intelligence system. The system then communicates the evaluation results and recommends the most suitable candidates for further interview rounds. Business leaders should identify such game-changing solutions that can make their recruitment much more streamlined – especially if they receive a high number of applications.
- The Customer Experience arena also throws up very exciting AI use cases. We have now gone well beyond just bots answering frequently asked questions. Today, AI-enabled systems can also provide personalized guidance to customers that can help organizations level-up on their customer experience, while maintaining a lower cost of delivering that experience. Booking.com is a case in point. Their chatbot helps customers identify interesting activities and events that they can avail of at their travel destinations. Business leaders should explore such applications that provide the double advantage of improving customer experience, while maintaining strong bottom-line performance.
The possibilities for the new AI-enabled enterprises are as exciting as they are varied. The ideas shared in this article are by no means exhaustive, but hopefully seed in interesting ideas for powering improved business performance. Strategy leaders and business heads need to consider how their AI-led businesses can help disrupt their existing value chains for the better, and unlock new ideas for improving bottom-line and top-line performance. This will usher in a new era of the enterprise, enabled by AI.
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The year 2018 will be remembered as the year that artificial intelligence stopped being on the periphery of business and entered the mainstream realm. With increasing awareness and capability of AI among the numerous stakeholders, including tech buyers, vendors, investors, governments, and academia, I expect AI will go beyond just tinkering and experiments and will become the mainstay in the business arena.
With an increasing percentage of these stakeholders professing their commitment to leveraging this technology within their organisations, AI has arrived on the world scene. We are sure to see transformative business value being derived through AI in the coming years. As we come to the close of 2018, let us gaze into the crystal ball to see what 2019 will hold for this game-changing technology:
The rise of topical business applications
Currently, we have a lot of general purposes AI frameworks such as Machine Learning and Deep Learning that are being used by corporations for a plethora of use cases. We will see a further evolution of such technology into niche, topical business applications as the demand for pre-packaged software with lower time-to-value increases. We will see a migration from the traditional AI services paradigm to very specific out-of-the-box applications geared to serve particular use cases. Topical AI applications in this space that serve such use cases will be monumentally useful for furthering the growth of AI, rather than bespoke services that require longer development cycles and may cause bottlenecks that enterprises cannot afford.
The merger of AI, Blockchain, cloud, and IoT
Could a future software stack comprise AI, Blockchain, and IoT running on the cloud? It is not too hard to imagine how these exponential technologies can come together to create great value. IoT devices will largely be the interface with which consumers and other societal stakeholders will interact. Voice-enabled and always connected devices – such as Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa – will augment the customer experience and eventually become the primary point of contact with businesses. AI frameworks such as Speech Recognition and Natural Language Processing will be the translation layer between the sensor on one end and the deciphering technology on the other end. Blockchain-like decentralised databases will act as the immutable core for managing contracts, consumer requests, and transactions between various parties in the supply chain. The cloud will be the mainstay for running these applications, requiring huge computational resources and very high availability.
Focus on business value rather than cost efficiency
2019 will finally be the year that majority of the executive and boardroom conversations around AI will move from reducing headcount and cost efficiency to concrete business value. In 2019, more and more businesses will realise that focusing on AI solutions that reduce cost is a criminal waste of wonderful technology. Ai can be used to identify revenues lost, plug leakages in customer experience, and entirely reinvent business models. I am certain that businesses that focus only on the cost aspect will stand to lose ground to competitors that have a more cogent strategy to take the full advantage of the range of benefits that AI offers.
Development of AI-optimised hardware and software
Ubiquitous and all-pervasive availability of AI will require paradigm shifts in the design of the hardware and software that runs it. In 2019, we will see an explosion of hardware and software designed and optimised to run artificial intelligence. With the increasing size and scale of data fueling AI applications and even more complex algorithms, we will see a huge demand for specialised chipsets that can effectively run AI applications with minimal latency. Investors are showing heavy interest in companies developing GPUs, NPUs, and the like – as demonstrated by Chinese startup Cambricon, which stands valued at a whopping $2.5 billion since its last round of funding this year. End-user hardware such as smart assistants and wearables will also see a massive increase in demand. Traditional software paradigms will also continue to be challenged. Today’s novel frameworks such as TensorFlow will become de rigueur. Architectural components such as edge computing will ensure that higher processing power is more locally available to AI-powered applications.
‘Citizen AI’ to be the new normal
One of the reasons we saw widespread adoption of analytics and data-driven decision-making is because we built applications that democratised the power of data. No longer was data stuck in a remote silo, accessible only to the most sophisticated techies. With tools and technology frameworks we brought data into the mainstream and made it the cornerstone of how enterprises plan and execute strategy. According to Gartner, the number of citizen data scientists will grow five times faster than the number of expert data scientists. In 2019, I expect Citizen AI to gain traction as the new normal. Highly advanced AI-powered development environments that automate functional and non-functional aspects of applications will bring forward to a new class of “citizen application developers”, allowing executives to use AI-driven tools to automatically generate new solutions.
Policies to foster and govern AI
Following China’s blockbuster announcement of a National AI Policy in 2017, other countries have rushed to share their take on policy level interventions around AI. I expect to see more countries come forward with their versions of a policy framework for AI – from overarching vision to allaying concerns around ethical breaches. At the same time, countries will also be asked to temper their enthusiasm of widespread data proliferation by releasing their own versions of GDPR-like regulations. For enabling an ecosystem where data can be used to enrich AI algorithms, the public will need to be convinced that this is for the overall good, and they have nothing to fear from potential data misuse and theft.
Speech Recognition will revolutionise NLP
In the last few years, frameworks for Natural Language Understanding (NLU) and Natural Language Generation (NLG) have made huge strides. NLP algorithms are now able to decipher emotions, sarcasm, and figures of speech. Going forward, voice assistants will use data from voice and combine that with deep learning to associate the words spoken with emotions, enriching the overall library that processes speech and text. This will be a revolutionary step forward for fields such as customer service and customer experience where many bots have typically struggled with the customer’s tone of voice and intonation.
The growth of explainable AI
And finally, with numerous decisions powered by AI – and specifically unsupervised learning models – we will see enterprises demand “explainable” AI. In simplified terms, explainable AI helps executives “look under the hood” to understand the “what” and “why” of the decisions and recommendations made by artificial intelligence. Development of explainable AI will be predicated on the need for increased transparency and trust. Explainable AI will be essential to ensure that there is some level of transparency (and potentially, learning) that is gleaned from unsupervised systems.
Convergence of AI and analytics
This is a trend that is a logical consequence of the decisive power of data in business today. In 2019, we will see a merger of analytics and AI – as the one-stop for uncovering and understanding insights from data. With advancements in AI seen so far, the algorithms are more than capable of taking up tasks that involve complex insight generation from multi-source, voluminous data. This convergence of AI and analytics will lead to automation that will improve the speed and accuracy of the decisions that power business planning and strategy. AI-powered forecasting will help deliver faster decisions, with minimal human interventions and create higher cost savings for the business.
Focus on physical and cybersecurity paradigms
Two of the domains ripe for an AI transformation are the fields of physical and cybersecurity. As intrusions into physical and virtual environments become commonplace and threats become hugely pervasive, AI will be a massive boost to how we secure these environments. Advances in fields such as ML-powered anomaly detection will drastically reduce the time required to surface potential intrusions into secure environments. This will enable organisations to better protect user data. When combined with Blockchain, AI will give cybersecurity a huge boost through decentralised, traceable databases containing valuable client and strategic information. On the physical security side, Computer Vision is rapidly gaining currency in the fields of physical intruder detection. Surveillance cameras, originally manned by security guards, will soon be replaced by AI-powered systems that will be able to react faster and more proactively to intruders that pose a threat to physical premises. When you combine that with face recognition, working with a database of known offenders, we will see a quantum drop in the time required to adjudicate and address cases of theft and unauthorised entry by law enforcement agencies.
In summary, the broad directions that I predict AI will take include interventions to make it more embedded, responsible, and explainable; convergence with other exponential technologies such as cloud, Blockchain, and IoT; cybersecurity; a greater proliferation and development of use cases; and great strides in the technology and its supporting infrastructure. Enterprises would do well to adopt this revolutionary technology and ensure a strong availability of talent to conceptualise, develop, and unleash value from AI applications.
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Artificial Intelligence will deliver revolutionary impact on how enterprises make decisions today. In the last few years alone, we have rapidly moved beyond heuristics-based decision-making to analytics-driven decision-support. In the VUCA phase, businesses globally are now pivoting to an AI-led, algorithm-augmented style of decision-making. With huge computing power and ever-increasing data storage and analytics prowess, we are entering a new paradigm, a probable and interesting scenario wherein, Artificial Intelligence will play a huge role in augmenting human intelligence and enabling decision-making with complete autonomy. The big hope is that this new paradigm will not only reduce human biases and errors that are common with heuristic decisions, but also reduce the time involved in making these critical decisions.
Here, I’ll attempt to focus on how we moved from simpler data driven decision-support to AI-powered decisions. The evolution of this technology has been breathtaking to behold and just might provide clues as to what we can expect in the future. Further, I’ll cover a few critical aspects that need to be inculcated by organizations on the AI transformation journey, and provide a few insightful cues that will make this journey exciting and fruitful.
Transformation of Decision-Making: From Analytics to AI
First, let us look at how we got here. Some truly pathbreaking events happened along the way while we were trying to make more accurate business decisions, leading us to reimagine how decisions will be made in the enterprise.
Organizations are Becoming Math Houses
With data deluge and digital detonation, combined with the appreciation of the fact that robust analytical capabilities lead to more informed decisions, we are witnessing AI savvy organizations rapidly maturing into ‘math houses.’ Data science – the ability to extract meaningful insights out of data has become de rigueur. Why? Because we now know that data, when seen in isolation, is inherently dumb. It is the ability to process this data and identify patterns and anomalies – using sophisticated algorithms and ensemble techniques – that makes all the difference. These self-intuitive algorithms are where real value resides – as they define the intelligence required to uncover insights and make smart recommendations. Organizations today are evolving into algorithm factories. There is a real understanding today that by enabling continuous advancement in mathematical algorithms, we can deliver consistent decisions based on prescribed as well as evolving business rules.
It is now an established reality that companies with robust mathematical capabilities possess a huge advantage over those that don’t. Indeed, it’s this math-house orientation that separates companies like Amazon and Google from the ones they leave in their wake, with their ability to understand their customers better, identify anomalies and recognize key patterns.
AI: From Predictive to Prescriptive
We saw a similar evolution in the age of analytics – wherein the science and value veered from descriptive analytics, providing diagnostics of past events to prescriptive analytics, helping see and shape the future. We are seeing a similar evolution in how AI gets leveraged in the enterprise and where its maximum value lies.
In early implementations, it was common to see AI as just a tool to predict and forecast future conditions, while accounting for the dynamism seen in the external environment. Today, AI-enabled decision-making is more prescriptive, with AI providing enterprises not just a look into the future, but also key diagnostics and suggestions on potential decision options and their payoffs. Such evolved applications of AI can help businesses make decisions that can potentially exploit more business opportunities, while averting potential threats much earlier.
Mr. Algorithm to Drive Decision Making
The culmination of this AI-era advancement would be the introduction of smart algorithms in every walk of life and business. Algorithms will become further mainstream leading to what will be the most sweeping business change since the industrial revolution. Organizations – those that already aren’t – will start developing a suite of algorithmic IP’s that will de-bias most enterprise decisions.
If Mr. Algorithm is going to drive most enterprise decisions of tomorrow, we need to create some checks and balances to ensure that it does not go awry. It is more critical today than ever before that the algorithmic suite developed by enterprises has a strong grounding in ethics and can handle situations appropriately for which explicit training may not have been provided.
How to Enable this AI Era of Change
Ushering into an AI-centric era of decision-making will require organizational transformation from business, cultural and technical standpoints. The following facets will be the enablers of this change:
Developing an Engineering Mindset
Instrumenting AI in the enterprise requires a combination of data scientists and computer scientists. As AI matures in the enterprise, the users, use cases and data will increase exponentially. To deliver impactful AI applications, scale and extensibility is critically important. This is where having an engineering mindset comes in. Imbibing an engineering mindset will help standardize the use of these applications while ensuring that they are scalable and extensible.
Learning, Unlearning, Relearning
The other critical aspect to a culture where AI can thrive is creating an environment supporting continuous unlearning and relearning. AI can succeed if the people developing and operating it are rewarded for continuous experimentation and exploration. And just like AI, people should be encouraged to incorporate feedback loops and learn continuously. As technology matures it’s important that the existing workforce keeps up. For one, it’s critical that the knowledge of algorithm theory, applied math alongside training on AI library and developer tools, is imparted into the workforce – and is continuously updated to reflect new breakthroughs in this space.
Embedding Design-Thinking and Behavioral Science at the Center of this Transformation
Finally, given the nature of AI applications, it’s critical that they are consumed voraciously. User input very often activates the learning cycles of artificial intelligence applications. To ensure high usage of these applications, it’s very important that we put the user at the center while designing these applications. This is where the application of behavioral sciences and human-centered design will deliver impact. By imparting empathy in these applications for the user, we will be able to design better and more useful AI applications.
As we augment decision-making with algorithmic, AI-centered systems and platforms – the big expectation is that they will bring untold efficiencies in terms of cost, alongside improvement in the speed and quality with which decisions get made. It’s time to reimagine and deliver on enterprise decision-making that is increasingly shaped through artificial intelligence. These aspects – how the AI is progressing and how to exploit its potential are of paramount importance to keep in mind for an AI transformation.
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The AI Race is fast heating up. While private enterprises tend to view this through a lens of achieving competitive advantage through breakthrough business and process innovation, there is a much larger play between nations competing to achieve supremacy in the domain of Artificial Intelligence. Across the globe – from Japan in the east to United States in the west – every major industrialized nation is ramping up their efforts (and rhetoric) to build indigenous AI capability. These economies have shown great interest, from the federal to the local levels, to achieving the much-vaunted status as the world leader in Artificial Intelligence. While the approaches by each country may differ – the end goal is some variation of achieving a preeminent position as the single distinguished player in the field of AI.
At this point, it is natural to ask – why? Why are entire economies and governments frantically organizing themselves to win in this race? The answer lies mainly in the size of what is at stake. According to a recent report by global consulting company PwC, AI’s contribution to the global economy is expected to be $15.7 trillion by 2030. The nation that serves the largest portion of this need will not only have the highest revenue, but also the highest number of in-demand professionals, the lowest dependency on other nations in this massive field of work, alongside being the singular force to reckon with in the future of the world.
This might explain why, today, the US and China are at the forefront of this technology. According to the same report, China and North America will see the largest part of the global value-pie ($7trillion and $3.7 trillion respectively). When the stakes are this high, you probably do not want to depend on the benevolence of others. You ought to ensure that every capability you require is available within your own shores. In China, the government stands strongly behind AI adoption, announcing their intention to become “a principal world center of artificial intelligence innovation” by 2030. On the other hand, the US has the highest number of AI startups and one of the deepest wells of venture capital to fund the startups’ endeavors. Not to mention, they are also home to larger tech corporations – Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, IBM etc. – which are also pioneering AI research in their own way.
While the US and China have taken a quantum leap ahead over their other competitors, the field of AI is not exactly a duopoly. While these two are clearly the leaders across any measurement criteria that you would employ, there are several others in the fray – Japan, South Korea, Germany, France, the UK, Canada, Israel, Russia and India – who are all in various stages of launching their visionary plans and developing on-ground leadership through either private enterprise, public support – or both.
With the size of the prize outlined, the next logical question would be – how is India doing in this space? What steps is India taking to ensure that we do not fall by the wayside as the world runs to win this monumentally important race?
There’s some good news and some not so good news on that front. For one, India is not yet considered among the absolute top rung of AI superpowers today. While we do have significant numbers of STEM graduates passing through academia each year, most of them are currently involved in the so-called lower end of the IT value chain – infrastructure services and maintenance etc. On the bright side, India is uniquely positioned to deliver strong AI leadership, assuming we take steps in the right direction on the policy side, as well as in industry-academic collaboration.
Why do I feel India is uniquely positioned? Consider the following:
- India continues to have a strong continuing focus on STEM education. As AI enters the mainstream curricula of our universities, we will realize the benefits of having a robust intellectual capital in this arena.
- Typically, it is data that powers an AI application. India, with the second largest population in the world (and increasingly connected to smart devices) has the potential to not only generate massive data sets, but also one of the most diverse set of data due to the inherent diversity across class, language and other cultural aspects – which can power the most enriched applications of AI
- There is a strong impetus on the policy front in India for AI – with Digital India, Skill India programs started by this government, in addition to constituting NITI Aayog – a national-level think-tank to execute on a vision rich with emerging technology
So how can we combine India’s inherent advantages, with some strong moves already made in the AI space, to possibly achieve AI supremacy in the near future? Here are three clear areas that require a high degree of attention and action to fulfil that vision.
- Lead with Policy
With a strong, forward-looking government, India is already making the right noises on the development of AI. NITI Aayog – the think-tank I had mentioned earlier – has constituted a committee to study and deliver a National AI Strategy for India. In their June 2018 discussion paper, they identified 5 areas where India is uniquely poised to deliver AI leadership due to our intrinsic advantages – healthcare, agriculture, education, smart cities and smart mobility and transportation. While the Aadhar program has had its critics, it is likely to be instrumental in building a massive training set of citizen data, enabling India to build some thought-leading application in AI. The government has also pledged to put their money where their mouth is – with $480mn projected to be spent on the Digital India program in 2018. While this spending pales in comparison to the spending of other countries (China has committed $150bn up to 2030), it will be instrumental for founding a strong test-bed for incubating our AI vision. The government is also planning a national data and analytics platform in collaboration with private players to utilize the huge amount of data with the help of AI.
2. Facilitate through Academia
Close to 2.6mn students graduated out of STEM fields from India in 2016. While I mentioned that these graduates have anywhere between no to a rudimentary understanding of AI today – it does represent the huge footfall seen in these fields, who would be well-served through a healthy training in AI-centric technologies.
The more pressing problem can be seen in core AI research. While India is ranked 5th in the world today terms of number of papers published (14,864 between 2010-16), we are still a fair way behind the US (63,344) and China (39,820) on this metric. Worse still, India ranks a distant 19th on the metric of H-Index (measured between 1996 and 2016), which leads to a concern on whether our current research is citation-worthy or rooted in business applicability. So, while the appetite for research exists, the contribution to the overall body of knowledge still needs some upgrading.
To address this, the aforementioned NITI Aayog discussion paper, recommends the set-up of a 2-tier integrated approach for boosting research in both core AI and applied AI. The first – COREs (Centers of Research Excellence in Artificial Intelligence) will be focused on developing a better understanding of existing core research and pushing technology frontiers through creation of new knowledge. The second – ICTAI (International Centre for Transformational Artificial Intelligence) will have a mandate of developing and deploying application-based research through Private sector collaboration. This framework would also consist an umbrella organization addressing issues relating to access to finance, social sustainability and the global competitiveness of the technologies developed. This body would be similar to the Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE), Singapore program or Innovate UK.
3. Implement through Private Industry
While the first two points deal with strengthening the backbone of AI research and education, this final aspect deals with building high-class industry-grade IP with wide applicability. Due to a huge democratization in information, both large tech corporations and startups are aware of the challenges that can be solved through AI and are building solutions to address these challenges. Behemoths IT and consulting players are already investing in academic partnerships to set up a base for IP development and workforce training. Startups too, while not similarly endowed, are looking to build visionary products that will transform the industry through collaboration with academia. Through such an industry-academia collaboration, Indian technology companies would be able to foster synergy by developing bleeding edge research in India which can be gainfully employed to solve global challenges. Extending the Make in India initiative would be crucial to ensure that the intellectual property of the work done by Indians stays in the home country, boosting our credibility in this space.
In conclusion, while India is already among some of the top nations in the world today in the field of Artificial Intelligence, there still is a long way to go to hit the absolute pinnacle in this space. However, given that AI is still is in a nascent stage, there is significant scope for India to still emerge as the leading light in this space. With this sustained and rapid pace of progress, I am certain that India will soon emerge as the preeminent leader in the field of AI.