With 650 partners including Ola and Flipkart, Microsoft India wants to make AI accessible to allHarshith Mallya
At its 'Artificial Intelligence (AI) for All' conference in Bengaluru, Microsoft India on Wednesday showcased some of its recent AI solutions aimed at improving lives and transforming businesses. Microsoft India also shared that it is helping 650 India-based partners use Microsoft's cognitive services, Internet of Things (IoT), AI and machine learning platforms to build solutions for India.
In his recent book Hit Refresh, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft had spoken about three technologies that he is bullish about. Going in-depth about one of them—AI—he had noted that going forward the success of startups and enterprises would depend on how good they are at creating data feedback loops and leveraging AI around them.
The AI for All conference in Bengaluru saw participation from industry representatives from across healthcare, automotive, IT and IT-enabled services, among others.
The event featured discussions about the benefits of AI, and how it could be used to augment human ingenuity. The one-day conference also included a design thinking workshop around AI. Addressing the participants at the conference, Peggy Johnson, Executive Vice President, Business Development, Microsoft, said,
We are working to democratise AI and make it available to all. As a company, we have been working with AI for over 25 years. As humankind discovers new challenges and refocuses on old ones, AI can help us find better and more sustainable solutions.
f L to R- Anant Maheshwari and Peggy JohnsonIn September 2016, Microsoft created the global Artificial Intelligence and Research (AI & R) group with the goal of bringing AI to every person, organisation and company.
Over the last year, Microsoft and its partners had deployed AI solutions in areas such as healthcare, education, agriculture, retail, e-commerce, manufacturing and financial services.
“We are working closely with our partners to bring AI to all sectors in India,” said Anant Maheshwari, President, Microsoft India. “The intersection of AI with people and society presents an incredible opportunity to create a lasting, positive impact on the world and in India. Our partners are creating inclusive solutions designed to solve local societal and business problems.”
Partnership with Forus Health
Microsoft announced a partnership with Forus Health, a Bengaluru-based technology company focusing on retinal imaging devices, to leverage AI capabilities for early detection of diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration, and help reduce instances of avoidable blindness.
Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common complications of diabetes population due to lifestyle changes, and accounts for up to 10 percent of cases that experience loss of vision.
As part of Microsoft AI Network for Healthcare, Microsoft and Forus worked together to integrate AI-based retinal imaging APIs into Forus Health’s 3Nethra devices using Microsoft Azure IoT Suite.
This will help Forus technicians identify eye fundus images as well as disease conditions better. 3Nethra devices, which can be operated by minimally trained technicians, are deployed across over 20 countries and the company estimates that it has impacted more than two million patients.
This partnership aims to help doctors better assist diabetic patients in rural clinics in India as well as other emerging economies such as Mexico. K. Chandrasekhar, Founder & CEO, Forus Health said,
This would help in potential early identification and treatment for problems like diabetic retinopathy.
How Microsoft is working with Flipkart, Ola and others
Microsoft partners and customers in India are using and/or offering AI-based solutions across scenarios including customer segmentation and lifetime value assessment, demands forecasting, multifactor customer identification system (face, biometric and speech), omnichannel analytics, fraud detection and credit risk assessment, and remote monitoring, amongst others.
A few examples include:
Addressing the gathering, Amar Nagaram, VP – Engineering, Flipkart noted that Flipkart had been working closely with Microsoft in the field of image recognition to ensure that photos of listed products on their platform are acceptable and accurate.
Flipkart currently has an estimated 50 million product listings on its platform. So the company uses technology to solve issues at such scale. Amar noted that sellers generally have the bandwidth to add only three to four attributes to a product. So leveraging image intelligence, Flipkart is able to automatically add more attributes to the product and make lives of sellers and customers easier.
To summarise, Flipkart leverages AI, machine learning and analytics capabilities in Azure, such as Cortana Intelligence Suite and Power BI, to optimise its data for merchandising, advertising, marketing, product discovery, content moderation, pricing and customer service. Amar noted that with such insights about its business and new, intelligent services, Flipkart can deliver increasingly relevant and personalised experiences to its customers. Citing a simple example, he noted,
If products are getting delivered to a remote pincode, we actually have the data to realise that roads at the location may not be good or broad and hence a two-wheeler is more suitable for delivery, instead of a four-wheeler.
2. Ola Play
Ola Play, touted to be the world’s first connected car platform for ridesharing, will leverage Microsoft AI and IoT to enhance driver experiences with telematics and navigation guidance; passenger experiences with cloud-based infotainment and productivity, and provide auto manufacturers with custom digital experiences for their customers. Talking about the philosophy behind Ola Play, Kaushik Mukherjee, Senior Director - Engineering, Ola, said,
“Historically, cars have been geared towards the driver's needs. We wanted to pass control to passengers in the backseat. There haven’t been any real innovations on that front.”
Apart from providing rider comfort, he noted that Ola's advanced telematics platform will transform the car into a high-performing, intelligent vehicle, capable of assessing fuel efficiency, engine performance, and driver performance. It will also enable smarter navigation and predict breakdowns, enhancing safety and security while creating new business models and opportunities. Kaushik noted,
We have close to nine lakh cabs on the road and we get a lot of data like streets, road conditions, accident prone areas, network blackout data, which could be used for infrastructure development in the country.
3. Others and Microsoft's cognitive offering
Microsoft has also partnered with companies like WittyParrot, Hitachi Micro, BrainifAI, Nihilent Technologies and others to help them better leverage AI.
Microsoft offers practice resources to partners to help develop new in-house capabilities and reach more customers. Resources are available to partners in the field of business analytics and AI, data platform modernisation and data warehousing and big data, among others.
The company also helps upskill partners using training and hackathons on AI, machine learning, Microsoft Bot framework, cognitive APIs and Machine Learning Studio. In line with the overall theme of 'AI for All', Microsoft also shared that its coginitive capabilities in the areas of vision, speech, knowledge and search is available for free for anyone to try out.