We are in the middle of a technological revolution. Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to fundamentally transform the world around us -- the way we communicate, work, and conduct our daily lives.
While artificial intelligence has made significant advances in recent years, its inception goes back more than six decades. Put simply, “Artificial intelligence is the activity devoted to making machines intelligent, and intelligence is that quality which enables an entity to function appropriately with foresight in its environment.”
Artificial intelligence encompasses deep learning, computer vision, robotics, collaborative systems, machine learning and natural learning process among other things. Today, for example, when you upload photographs on Facebook, it can recognize faces and suggest tags with nearly 98% accuracy or take Spotify, which offers personalized playlists curated on your music preference.
The interaction between machines and people will become more fluid and personalized as artificial intelligence becomes more advanced and adapts to individual needs. While the applications based on AI are already visible in healthcare diagnostics, targeted treatment, transportation, public safety, service robots, education and entertainment, it will inevitably gain prominence in other fields in the years ahead.
According to CB Insights data, the year 2015 witnessed a new high in terms of deals and dollars related to artificial intelligence ventures with 397 deals and $2,388 million in funding vis-à-vis 67 deals and $282 million in 2011. During Q1 of 2016, $602 million has already flown in via almost 145 deals with investors such as Goldman Sachs and IBM Watson Group.
Adhering to Bank of America’s dictum, “Early adoption will be a key comparative advantage, while those that lag in investment will see their competitiveness slip,” leading technology companies such as Alphabet, Inc. (GOOG, GOOGL), Facebook, Inc. (FB), International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), Microsoft Corporation (MSFT), Salesforce.com, Inc. (CRM), Apple, Inc. (AAPL), Baidu, Inc. (BIDU), Intel Corporation (INTC), Qualcomm, Inc. (QCOM), Tesla Motors, Inc. (TSLA), NVIDIA Corporation (NVDA) are scaling up their investments in artificial intelligence.
IBM is deeply involved in the field with Watson, a technology platform that uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data. IBM Watson is being used to diagnose diseases, run college courses and analyzing books and records. Now, IBM and KPMG LLP will be working together to deliver a cognitive-powered insights into immense volumes of auditing and similar knowledge data by employing Watson.
Although Apple is notoriously secretive about its acquisitions and projects, it has been buying AI start-ups. Siri was one such buy in 2010, which is now integrated in its products. The most recent one being Turi (for approximately $200 million) which has diverse features, services, algorithms and platforms – thereby offering great potential for being used across Apple’s various applications and products (photographs, apps store).
Less than two months ago, Baidu and NVIDIA joined forces to use artificial intelligence in the creation of a cloud-to-car autonomous car platform for global car makers. A report by IHS, Inc. suggests that “unit shipments of artificial intelligence systems used in infotainment and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) systems are expected to rise from just 7 million in 2015 to 122 million by 2025.” Further, it is assessed that while only 8% of new vehicles used AI-based systems (with majority focusing on voice recognition) in 2015, the number is forecast to rise to 109% in 2025, with multiple AI systems installed in cars.
In other developments, Salesforce has introduced “Salesforce Einstein” – which integrates advanced AI capabilities into its core platform services, making its Customer Relationship Management (CRM) much smarter while Microsoft has recently formed its artificial intelligence arm – Microsoft AI and Research Group -- to accelerate the delivery of new AI capabilities to customers across agents, apps, services and infrastructure. Amazon.com, DeepMind/Google, Facebook, IBM and Microsoft have all announced the creation of Partnership on AI with an objective to address the opportunities and challenges with AI technologies to benefit people and society.
Google, a pioneer in AI, is actively focusing on machine earning algorithms and artificial intelligence for many of its projects – starting with self-driving cars, search engine, e-commerce, games, spam-mail blocking by Gmail and its app assistant. Google/DeepMind which developed AlphaGo are now working on health-related project.
As applications based on artificial intelligence are becoming popular in hospitals, homes, certain industries and schools, its adoption raises some social concerns such as unemployment and privacy issues. While AI technologies and robots will potentially enhance the quality of human life and open new horizons, it also has the potential to shrink the jobs market by over five million by 2020.
Bank of America Corporation (BAC) expects the current robots and artificial intelligence solutions market at $153 billion by the year 2020 including $83 billion for robots, and $70 billion for AI-based analytics. It further suggests that these disruptive technologies will yield $14-33 trillion in the annual economic impact by the year 2025 through cost reductions and efficiency gains. Adoption of these technologies has the potential to boost productivity by 30% across many industries while trimming manufacturing labor costs by 18-33%.
Overall, although the future of AI-based technologies will be determined by weighing its benefits against risks and costs which these AI-based technologies present, technology giants are already positioned‘to bring and be a part’ of these transformational changes.