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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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We are on the definitive cusp of the 4th Industrial Revolution. Earlier industrial revolutions ushered mechanization of previously manual tasks, leading to a huge shift in production output and increased operational efficiencies while creating a new range of skills for the workforce to master. According to Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, the transformation driven through this technological revolution will be unlike anything that humankind has experienced before and will require an integrated and comprehensive response involving all stakeholders of the global polity – from the public and private sector businesses, academia, and civil society.
Industry 4.0 – defined by breakthroughs in emerging technologies such as Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, 3D Printing, Autonomous Vehicles and Quantum Computing – will yet again create a massive shift. It is increasingly common news that a manufacturing major is introducing robots on the production line. With smarter factories, smarter production and smarter supply chains, running autonomous production and delivery of manufactured goods, the question is bound to arise – what are the engineers supposed to do?
Engineering has long been a highly sought-after stream of education in India. Consider this – approximately 1.5mn students graduate out of 3,000+ AICTE-affiliated institutions in India, every year. [However, endemic problems surround their quality and technical output. Research after research confirms the disconnect between the education imparted to students, and the skills required on the job. According to the National Employability Report 2016, conducted by Aspiring Minds, 80% of engineers are considered unemployable. Even in India’s highly vaunted software industry, 95% of engineers are thought to be unfit to take up software jobs.
If the average Indian engineer is unfit to perform the tasks expected from him today, what hope is there for him to be able to perform the jobs of tomorrow? The 4th Industrial Revolution is only going to complicate matters by contracting the number of available jobs, while looking for specialized skills that Indian engineers most likely won’t have. One example, according to Talent Supply Index 2017 published by hiring startup Belong, there are only 8 data scientists for every 10 data scientist jobs in India.
It is undoubtedly a matter that needs urgent attention from educational institutes. The need for alignment between the skill-suppliers (colleges) and skill-consumers (businesses) is greater than ever before, and it is critical that educators stay in step with this new wave of industrialization, or risk falling by the wayside.
Embedding AI in engineering streams
Artificial Intelligence is the cornerstone of this new wave of industrialization. Embracing emerging technology areas will ensure that the engineering workforce is relevant for the jobs of the future and their knowledge needs to be embedded in traditional engineering syllabi. It is commonly assumed that AI only happens at the intersection of computer science and mathematics. While that is somewhat true at present, other streams too are looking at developing topical AI programs. Let’s look at these other engineering fields and how AI can be embedded into their existing coursework.
Civil or Construction Engineering is often considered to be far removed from AI disruption. However, AI is already making in-roads into this field. With geo-spatial intelligence and historical earthquake data, civil engineers can make better decisions on assessing the landscape available for projects, understand the materials required to withstand environmental conditions, or at times drop a risky project that might be too dangerous to develop. AI-driven predictive maintenance helps engineers optimally predict maintenance schedules for civil infrastructure developed – mitigating the risks posed by damaged infrastructure to civilians. AI can also help parse image data to detect damage to property, assess the extent of repairs required, and the costs of that repair work. Beyond these, AI can also help design smarter buildings – optimally utilizing electricity and water resources, while also bringing efficiencies to construction costs by automating inventory procurement decisions.
Another stream of engineering assumed to be immune from AI intervention is Chemical Engineering. Chemical Engineers with an understanding of AI can reduce the time for new chemical development, by modeling the impact of chemical combinations. AI can help predict and test the quality and resilience of new formulations. Chemical engineers with a knowledge of how to operationalize robotics technology for combining potentially dangerous chemicals – will again be an important intervention in this area of engineering.
Even across diverse engineering domains – metallurgy, oceanology and aerospace engineering, knowledge of artificial intelligence will be critical. Metallurgists with a knowledge of AI can run models to understand the properties of various metals and build stronger and more purpose-driven alloys. Oceanographers can leverage AI technology to parse geospatial information to better understand sea-beds and model the chemical and physical properties of oceans. In Aerospace Engineering, AI can bring untold efficiencies through robotics for assembling components. AI can predict failures and maintenance schedules required for aerospace equipment. In each of these domains, knowledge of AI, Robotics, Predictive Analytics, Computer Vision and Deep Learning will help ingest large volumes of unstructured disparate data, autonomously generating insights in a much lower time span – while improving the speed of the production process.
Finally, in certain streams within engineering – Mechanical, E&TC and Electrical – AI lends itself more naturally. Mechanical Engineers need to upskill themselves to develop and run autonomous robots that can do complex assembly and integration tasks. Education in Electronics Engineering needs to tend more in favor of developing Industrial IoT, Quantum Computers and advanced chipsets that can handle the large-scale processing required to run cross-platform AI applications. Electrical and Telecommunications engineers, given an education in Artificial Intelligence, can automate, monitor and improve the uptime and performance of their respective systems.
Leading the Way
A substantial chunk of upskilling needs of existing engineering graduates are handled by online courses. We are seeing an increased proliferation of AI, Machine Learning, cybersecurity, IoT, and Robotics courses delivered by online educational platforms: Coursera, Udemy, Udacity, UpGrad, while their programs are well serving the current crop of engineers, some of the other prominent academic institutions and academies – ISB , Manipal global education , Jigsaw Academy , IFIM , Institute of Product leadership (IPL) ,UPES, Praxis Business School , Shiv Nadar engineering school, IITD are few listed ones that have taken vantage position in imparting AI , Analytics programs . A structured learning and innovative pedagogy approach are needed from traditional educational institutes for skilling new engineering graduates, to be able to master these new means of learning. They need to alter their curriculum to ensure that the next generation of engineers is equipped to handle the next generation of opportunities. However, it is very important that other institutions also follow suit and promote the cause of AI education.AI will usher a new beginning in the education arena and the ones that have the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn will succeed in the professional spheres.
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Several pieces of research, studies and content have been published about the exponential growth witnessed in emerging technologies – AI, blockchain, RPA, cybersecurity, IoT, AR/VR. There is no doubt that these are the emerging technologies of the future, which will help catapult the next growth spurt of enterprises. Professionals across the information technology landscape are queuing up to upskill, reskill themselves across these mentioned areas to continue to be relevant in the workforce for tomorrow. But for those who already have learning, skills and experience in these emerging technologies, how can they take their career to the next level?
The flux of deployment-ready and value-generating use cases across industries suggest that a cross-technology expertise across these emerging technology areas would be the next big source of career growth for incumbent professionals. We witnessed few years ago, software developers were keen to reinvent themselves as full-stack developers. High performing technologists wanted to develop proficiency across the software architecture and the development life-cycle – from database to UI, and from infrastructure set-up to deployment. Similarly, IT professionals today should seek the synergistic benefits of combining areas across emerging technologies. This article will focus on what emerging technology areas are being effectively combined by enterprises.
AI + Blockchain
Artificial intelligence is the set of technologies that help machines mimic human functions. Blockchain is the emergent technology paradigm that helps build a distributed, immutable sequence of financial events and transactions. With a strong uptick in the dispersion of blockchain use cases, enterprises are also looking for a robust way to surface potential fraud and other anomalous events in real-time. The events of fraud attempt and security threats to blockchain systems are often very high-speed and require immediate attention and analysis to ensure that the perceived anomalies are rooted out. Using AI, specifically machine learning, we can rapidly parse through a log of events to find anomalous situations and flag them off in real-time, protecting the integrity of the blockchain.
Internet of Things is the network of physical devices that exchange data. This very definition makes the case for combining artificial intelligence and IOT plainly clear. IOT-enabled sensors usually are a source of multitudinous data – based on the use case employed – which is increasingly being sent to the central controlling server in real-time, rather than in batches. Picking out key inferences from voluminous data, sent in real-time by numerous sensors is a task that is again handed over to AI systems – typically machine learning systems. While IOT systems can ably sense, transmit and store data, ML systems are required for making sense of the data and providing input on whether any action is required to be taken, and potentially even suggesting what best-case action could be taken.
IOT + Smart Cities
While the concept of a Smart City is a sub-segment of IOT, it’s the other way around. IOT forms only one of the component of powering a smart city. In addition to IOT, the Smart City stack would typically also include cloud (for running processes and storing data), Artificial Intelligence (for data analysis and learning) and an element of urban planning (for deciding the what and how of a Smart City design). By combining knowledge of IOT with these other ancillary areas can help IOT professionals become valuable and irreplaceable resources in this fast-growing technology area.
AI + Behavioral Sciences
This final combination may sound surprising, but one of the most valuable and high-impact grouping of skills might just be the combination of data science and behavioral science. While AI and data science can provide the what (‘What happened?’ And ‘What should we do now?’) of a business scenario, behavioral sciences inform the how part. Consider the example of Amazon, which has numerous examples of the coming together of behavioral sciences and AI. The recommendation engine uses artificial intelligence to answer the what part of ‘what are other people buying’. But, the idea that it will lead to continued stickiness on the website, serve as a wide showcase of SKUs available on it, while promoting product bundling and larger cart sizes is a clear behavioral sciences intervention and contributes massively to the success of AI applications.
If you are a professional already conversant with one of the emerging technology areas, combining that with another emerging area can be hugely beneficial. IT professionals today in these areas should strongly consider leveraging synergies across multiple technology areas – which can help them be better-rounded, high-value practitioners in an ever evolving areas of technology.
How Rise of Exponential Technologies – AI, RPA, Blockchain, Cybersecurity will Redefine Talent Demand & Supply Landscape
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The current boom of exponential technologies of today is causing strong disruption in the talent availability landscape, with traditional, more mechanical roles being wiped out and paving way for huge demand for learning and design thinking based skills and professions. The World Economic Forum said in 2016 that 60% of children entering school today will work in jobs that do not yet exist.
While there is a risk to jobs due to these trends, the good news is that a huge number of new jobs are getting created as well in areas like AI, Machine Learning, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Blockchain, Cybersecurity, etc. It is clearly a time of career pivot for IT professionals to make sure they are where the growth is.
AI and Machine Learning upending the traditional IT Skill Requirement
AI and Machine Learning will create a new demand for skills to guide its growth and development. These emerging areas of expertise will likely be technical or knowledge-intensive fields. In the near term, the competition for workers in these areas may change how companies focus their talent strategies.
At a time when the demand for data scientists and engineers will grow 39% by 2020, employers are seeking out leaders who can effectively work with technologists to ask the right questions and apply the insight to solve business problems. The business schools are, hence, launching more programs to equip graduates with the skills they need to succeed. Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, for example, last week launched a nine-month program which provides recent college graduates with advanced data management, analytical and communication skills.
According to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, only 5-10% of labor would be displaced by intelligent automation, and new job creation will offset losses.
The future will increase the value of workers with a strong learning ability and strength in human interaction. On the other hand, today’s highly paid, experienced, and skilled knowledge workers may be at risk of losing their jobs to automation.
Many occupations that might appear to require experience and judgment — such as commodity traders — are being outdone by increasingly sophisticated machine-learning programs capable of quickly teasing subtle patterns out of large volumes of data. If your job involves distracting a patient while delivering an injection, guessing whether a crying baby wants a bottle or a diaper change, or expressing sympathy to calm an irate customer, you needn’t worry that a robot will take your job, at least for the foreseeable future.
Ironically, the best qualities for tomorrow’s worker may be the strengths usually associated with children. Learning has been at the centre of the new revival of AI. But the best learners in the universe, by far, are still human children. At first, it was thought that the quintessential preoccupations of the officially smart few, like playing chess or proving theorems — the corridas of nerd machismo — would prove to be hardest for computers. In fact, they turn out to be easy. Things every dummy can do like recognizing objects or picking them up are much harder. And it turns out to be much easier to simulate the reasoning of a highly trained adult expert than to mimic the ordinary learning of every baby. The emphasis on learning is a key change from previous decades and rounds of automation.
According to Pew Research, 47% of all employment opportunities will be occupied by machines within the next two decades.
What types of skills will be needed to fuel the development of AI over the next several years? These prospects include:
- Ethics: The only clear “new” job category is that of AI ethicist, a role that will manage the risks and liabilities associated with AI, as well as transparency requirements. Such a role might be imagined as a cross between a data scientist and a compliance officer.
- AI Training: Machine learning will require companies to invest in personnel capable of training AI models successfully, and then they must be able to manage their operations, requiring deep expertise in data science and an advanced business degree.
- Internet of Things (IoT): Strong demand is anticipated for individuals to support the emerging IoT, which will require electrical engineering, radio propagation, and network infrastructure skills at a minimum, plus specific skills related to AI and IoT.
- Data Science: Current shortages for data scientists and individuals with skills associated with human/machine parity will likely continue.
- Additional Skill Areas: Related to emerging fields of expertise are a number of specific skills, many of which overlap various fields of expertise. Examples of potentially high-demand skills include modeling, computational intelligence, machine learning, mathematics, psychology, linguistics, and neuroscience.
In addition to its effect on traditional knowledge workers and skilled positions, AI may influence another aspect of the workplace: gender diversity. Men hold 97 percent of the 2.5 million U.S. construction and carpentry jobs. These male workers stand more than a 70 percent chance of being replaced by robotic workers. By contrast, women hold 93 percent of the registered nurse positions. Their risk of obsolescence is vanishingly small: .009 percent.
RPA disrupting the traditional computing jobs significantly
RPA is not true AI. RPA uses traditional computing technology to drive its decisions and responses, but it does this on a scale large and fast enough to roughly mimic the human perspective. AI, on the other hand, applies machine and deep learning capabilities to go beyond massive computing to understand, learn, and advance its competency without human direction or intervention — a truly intelligent capability. RPA is delivering more near-term impact, but the future may be shaped by more advanced applications of true AI.
In 2016, a KPMG study estimated that 100 million global knowledge workers could be affected by robotic process automation by 2025.
The first reaction would be that in the back office and the middle office, all those roles which are currently handling repetitive tasks would become redundant. 47% of all American job functions could be automated within 20 years, according to the Oxford Martin School on Economics in a 2013 report.
Indeed, India’s IT services industry is set to lose 6.4 lakh low-skilled positions to automation by 2021, according to U.S.-based HfS Research. It said this was mainly because there were a large number of non-customer facing roles at the low-skill level in countries like India, with a significant amount of “back office” processing and IT support work likely to be automated and consolidated across a smaller number of workers.
Automation threatens 69% of the jobs in India, while it’s 77% in China, according to a World Bank research.
Job displacement would be the eventual outcome however, there would be several other situations and dimensions which need to be factored. Effective automation with the help of AI should create new roles and new opportunities hitherto not experienced. Those who currently possess traditional programming skills have to rapidly acquire new capabilities in machine learning, develop understanding of RPA and its integration with multiple systems. Unlike traditional IT applications, planning and implementation could be done in small patches in shorter span of time and therefore software developers have to reorient themselves.
For those entering into the workforce for the first time, there would be a demand for talent with traditional programming skills along with the skills for developing RPA frameworks or for customising the frameworks. For those entering the workforce for being part of the business process outsourcing functions, it would be important to develop capability in data interpretation and analysis as increasingly more recruitment at the entry level would be for such skills and not just for their communication or transaction handling skills.
Blockchain – A blue ocean of a New kind of Financial Industry Skillset
A technology as revolutionary as blockchain will undoubtedly have a major impact on the financial services landscape. Many herald blockchain for its potential to demystify the complex financial services industry, while also reducing costs, improving transparency to reduce the regulatory burden on the industry. But despite its potential role as a precursor to extend financial services to the unbanked, many fear that its effect on the industry may have more cons than pros.
30–60% of jobs could be rendered redundant by the simple fact that people are able to share data securely with a common record, using Blockchain
Industries including payments, banking, security and more will all feel the impact of the growing adoption of this technology. Jobs potentially in jeopardy include those involving tasks such as processing and reconciling transactions and verifying documentation. Profit centers that leverage financial inefficiencies will be stressed. Companies will lose their value proposition and a loss of sustainable jobs will follow. The introduction of blockchain to the finance industry is similar to the effect of robotics in manufacturing: change in the way we do things, leading to fewer jobs, is inevitable.
Nevertheless, the nature of such jobs is likely to evolve. While Blockchain creates an immutable record that is resistant to tampering, fraud may still occur at any stage in the process but will be captured in the record and there easily detected. This is where we can predict new job opportunities. There could be a whole class of professions around encryption and identity protection.
So far, the number of jobs created by the industry appears to exceed the number of available professionals qualified to fill them, but some aren’t satisfied this trend will continue. Still, the study of the potential impact of blockchain tech on jobs has been largely qualitative to date. Aite Group released a report that found the largest employers in the blockchain industry each employ about 100 people.