A few years ago, most people would have taken their cues with respect to artificial intelligence (AI) from the 2001 Steven Spielberg movie A.I. or Christopher Nolan’s 2014 sci-fi flick Interstellar. Today, we know that we don’t necessarily need super intelligent robots to access AI in our everyday lives.
Rather, AI is now all pervasive and integrated into most software that we use, its most usual form being chatbots such as Google’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, or simple applications that are integrated into our smartphones, smartwatches and even cars.
Indeed, 2019 saw AI rise to the top of its hype cycle, much like big data was the buzzword in the early part of this decade or BI (business intelligence) was a few years later. AI now is the natural extension of big data and BI. The difference is that it is finally backed by the computational power and processing environment needed for it to be deployed at scale.
The most widespread method of deployment is through AI algorithms being integrated into every available software to collect data, interpret and learn from the same, and derive and provide actionable insights. The use cases for such AI algorithms is more than exhaustive.
It may be interesting to note here that the first few AI algorithms were built as far back as the 1960s. John Delk, general manager (security and information management and governance product groups) at Micro Focus, a British enterprise software company, told TechCircle earlier this year, “Having taken PhD courses in AI about 34 years ago, I chuckle when somebody says that the technology is new. The underlying algorithm and math have been the same for a long time.”
“The biggest change however is the computing power at our disposal on which the math can be run. Data is at a scale where previous algorithms can be deployed in predictive analytics to derive good insights,” he said in the interview.
AI in 2019 has seen tremendous momentum in sectors such as BFSI (banking and financial services), government, retail, business process outsourcing, automotive and healthcare.
Let’s take a closer look at how this technology has become intrinsic to some of these sectors that form the backbone of the Indian economy.
Changing the retail game
A paper by researchandmarkets.com stated that AI in the global retail market would grow at a CAGR of 35.4% during 2019-2024. The main driver will be the automation of work processes, studying consumer behaviour and capturing relevant data through NLP (natural language processing) and machine learning, two terms and technologies that are synonymous with AI today.
An interesting case study was how Bosch used AI to enable Indian retail chain SPAR to take its game further. Digital companies such as Bosch have even built their own AI personalization engines that could be customized to the needs of clients in specific industries. SPAR used Bosch’s AI based analytics engine to accurately predict consumer behavior, inside and outside of the store, a tactic that is used across industries today, including ecommerce and OTT providers.
‘We can figure out individuals who might like ice-cream in cold weather and can provide in-store recommendations for the same,’ said Hemant Sheelvant, business head -- AI personalization technologies (IERO) at Robert Bosch Engineering & Business Solutions, as an illustration of how accurate and personalized retail could become in the future.
2019 also saw AI blur the gap between online and offline retail stores. Retail giant Tesco, for example, is deploying a similar strategy out of their Bengaluru technology center.
AI for better governance
Governance is one area where AI holds the potential for direct impact on the lives of the common man. “Every country is developing an AI strategy and India too is working on developing a strategy for the use of AI for the common good,” Suresh Prabhu, union minister of commerce and industry and civil aviation said earlier this year.
The government plans to use AI to predict weather patterns, manage traffic better and to create a record to be used by the National Crime Records Bureau for an automated facial recognition system in order to make security more efficient.
The 2019 union budget did mention the creation of an AI portal to digitize villages along with the creation of AI centers of excellence. Irrespective of the government in power, AI should see widespread adoption in governance to better the everyday lives of citizens.
Chatbots in BFSI, other sectors
Make no mistake, chatbots now form an integral part of the banking experience, although the Indian audience has been a little slow in the adoption of chatbots for banking purposes. This year saw how souped up AI chatbots took over the BFSI sector. The sector has always been at the forefront of AI adoption and will continue to be an area where the technology will be deployed widely.
The BFSI chatbots of today combine human intent, knowledge processes and collated data to provide the most accurate response to a customer query.
“Tomorrow, it could be a bot built for the individual, which integrates banking, food orders, redressal systems and all service interactions. This is how the future will work,” said Sridhar Marri, CEO and co-founder of Senseforth and a PhD scholar in conversational AI.
Meanwhile, Ritesh Pai, chief digital officer of Yes Bank, feels that we are only at the tip of the iceberg. “We are only scratching the surface of AI and machine learning based technologies, and as these technologies evolve and more data is accumulated, we will see a higher success rate,” he said.
Driving better automotive solutions
AI-based systems could be the trump card for automotive players in gauging customer sentiments and also help in collecting vast amounts of data. The data collected and insights derived hold the key to providing users with a personalized customer journey.
“Beyond sleek leather interiors and sun roofs, customers now expect digitally connected experiences. The race is on. Automakers and retailers need to deliver digital, personalized services if they want to win in our connected world,” said Kalki V Yasas, senior director at Salesforce India.
Chipmaker Nvidia has dedicated a large resource pool to work on the autonomous car revolution. This is made possible through a combination of AI and deep learning technologies. NVIDIAs AI solutions help in areas ranging from data collection, model training and simulation to providing self-driving cars that could eventually be used in tough geographies such as India.
AI will augment human workforces
While there were concerns across sectors that AI could lead to job losses, many experts are of the opinion that it would not take away jobs, but would only help augment the workforces of today.
A recent Gartner report stated that AI augmentation could create $2.9 trillion in business value and save 6.2 billion hours of worker productivity globally. Gartner defined augmented intelligence as a human centered model where people and AI work in tandem towards better cognitive performance, including learning, decision making and new experiences.
TechCircle also spoke to PV Kannan, CEO of 24 ai and author of the book “The age of Intent” where he clearly mentions that India would only benefit from AI implementations.
The biggest roadblock in India currently in terms of AI adoption however is not its growth, but in framing the right type of compliance laws to ensure that the entire ecosystem benefits from its adoption and its misuse is avoided. However, India remains positive about AI adoption and growth. A recent PwC survey found that 71% of Indian CXO respondents believe that AI would help humans solve complex problems and live richer lives.
With the right regulations, proper compliance standards combined with a skilled AI workforce and a market for AI deployments, 2020 could might just be India’s turn at the helm of AI technology.