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Don’t fear AI; here are a few Indian companies learning to benefit from it

Vishal Krishna
12th Feb 2018
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The AI era is real, but it has ushered in the fear that livelihoods will be lost. However, businesses must ensure that this doesn’t happen.

“We can tell secrets to each other,” says a voice on the phone. You can tell her anything. She can sing you a song and store your deepest, darkest secrets. And then she can also do your digital chores. That everyday deluge of unwanted emails can be avoided with her showing you only those that you need to see. Wondering who this lady is? She is the digital voice assistant on any device.

The world has taken baby steps in the form of Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, and some of these technologies are rapidly getting intelligent. Will they replace assistants? Of course, they will.

Srinivas Prasad, CEO of Philips Innovation Centre, Bengaluru, remarks, “The world can be a better place with adaptive learning technologies.”

While some of us may think AI does not help, it does change your life. Let’s see how.

Healthcare

Deep in the labs of Philips, folks are piecing together millions of data points of patients, and making sense out of them. They are working on tracking critical diseases at the earliest. As biology and software come together, the latter needs to crunch millions of scans of patients for doctors to provide timely treatment. So, where does AI come in? Sometimes doctors go wrong and get into “false negatives”. Say, a patient gets scanned but the doctor misses identifying something in his scan report. Later, it turns out the patient has cancer.

Each radiologist looks at thousands of scan every day and the chances of them missing something crucial is very high. It puts the patient’s life at risk and costs them a lot of money when they eventually find out the truth. It happened with famous rock musician and classical music composer Frank Zappa whose prostrate cancer showed up as normal, but he was diagnosed with it, a year later, when the disease was in an advanced stage. In this YouTube video, in the 7th minute of the video, Zappa expresses his discontent with the healthcare system.

If the disease doesn’t get spotted in the scan, the patient remains unaware for weeks. AI can help avoid this. “It helps doctors and radiologists save lives,” says Srinivas Prasad. With AI, the hospital revenues can also increase as access to healthcare is proliferated faster.

The Philips Innovation Centre is working on using AI for TB Scanning and MRI scanning. Its objective is to make healthcare providers accountable for care and help them reach to many more people.

Several companies, including MNCs such as Philips and GE, are in the race to provide better healthcare with AI by increasing reach and creating positive outcomes. The question to ask is whether healthcare costs will reduce thanks to AI, or will it get expensive.

Retail

Donald Trump loves the “Average Joe” and Narendra Modi loves the “Aam Admi”. While the former believes jobs are going away, the latter wants to create more jobs. What these gentlemen need to understand is how technology can enhance jobs.

With the power of AI, the average Joe in Big Box retail is empowered to serve customers faster and better. AI is also helping them in targeted marketing promotions. For example, Manthan’s Alexa-based platform Maya, built in India, is helping stores in the US to identify their high-value customers based on their preferences and habits and thereby are proving shoppers with the relevant shopping experience. Millions of patterns, for example, data from loyalty systems, POS systems, e-commerce purchases are all available to a retailer and they can use machine learning to figure out patterns of buying based on the season, individual preferences, and tastes. This results in a change in the stocking method in a store and its servicing. It even changes the relationship of the retailer with vendors as it becomes more dynamic.

“Machine Learning mimics the human brain and we are working towards a cognitive revolution. Technology is changing jobs and businesses. Millions of opportunities will be created for people. Technology is always at the forefront of human evolution. We have moved from manual to electric to artificial intelligence, so we cannot stop the tide,” says Atul Jalan.

Everyone from Walmart to Lowe’s Labs to Target are thinking of e-commerce strategies and enhancing them with AI.

Amazon Go is a prime example of how AI and other sensor technologies are deployed, where you don't need store associates. These store associates are instead used in jobs such as customer support and stock keeping, rather than for walking around in aisles leading the customer. “Our education system must let people use AI and teach them its benefits. It is not right to say AI will take jobs away, it enhances jobs and we must have a way to bridge the two,” says Andy Jassy, CEO, Amazon Web Services.

Manufacturing and facilities

The barren lands, huge offshore rigs and smoke surrounding an oil and gas plant drill give you just the faintest idea of the high-end technology being used. The drill bits, for example, have sensors close to them to predict their rate of failure. These sensors take data of vibrating motors and gears, to predict rate of failure. They don't do this only for one machine, but on a massive scale for multiple plants around the world. Companies such as Petasense in this space have helped 200 plants in the US to predict failures in machines. Then there is Cattleya Technosys which uses machines learning and AI in computer vision to predict security breaches in ATMs and banks. It acts as an early warning system for the protection of bank’s security systems.

Abhinav Kushraj, Co-founder of Petasense, says “There is no doubt that AI impacts everyone today. It not only drives efficiency, but also saves organisations millions of dollars.”

AI generates jobs

In 2020, AI will create 2.3 million jobs, while eliminating 1.8 million. 2020 will be a pivotal year in AI-related employment dynamics, according to Gartner, Inc., as AI will become a positive job motivator.

The number of jobs affected by AI will vary by industry — through 2019, healthcare, the public sector and education will see a continuously growing job demand, while manufacturing will be hit the hardest. Starting in 2020, AI-related job creation will cross into positive territory, reaching two million net-new jobs in 2025.

Svetlana Sicular, Research Vice President at Gartner, remarks, "Many significant innovations in the past have been associated with a transition period of temporary job loss, followed by recovery, then business transformation, and AI will likely follow this route.” She adds that AI will improve the productivity of many jobs, eliminating millions of middle and low-level positions, but also creating millions more new positions of highly skilled, management and even the entry-level and low-skilled variety.

"Unfortunately, most calamitous warnings of job losses confuse AI with automation — that overshadows the greatest AI benefit — AI augmentation — a combination of human and artificial intelligence, where both complement each other."

IT leaders should not solely focus on the projected net increase of jobs. With each investment in AI-enabled technologies, they must take into consideration what jobs will be lost, what jobs will be created, and how it will transform the way workers collaborate with others, make decisions, and get work done.

"Now is the time to really impact your long-term AI direction," says Sicular. "For the greatest value, focus on augmenting people’s jobs with AI. Enrich people's jobs, reimagine old tasks and create new industries. Transform your culture to make it rapidly adaptable to AI-related opportunities or threats."

Gartner identified additional predictions related to AI’s impact on the workplace:

AI has already been applied to highly repeatable tasks where large quantities of observations and decisions can be analysed for patterns. However, applying AI to less-routine work that is more varied due to lower repeatability will soon start yielding superior benefits. AI applied to nonroutine work is more likely to assist humans than replace them as combinations of humans and machines will perform more effectively than either human experts or AI-driven machines working alone will.

Think about it — while the world grapples with AI, it has already begun to change lives. Are we ready to adapt to it? That is the real question.

 

 

 

 

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