One of the technology terms I have encountered most on my travels of the past couple of years has been artificial intelligence. AI has been around as a concept for a long time, but until recently it seemed always a little out of reach.
Today AI is a reality. It is present in our smartphones in the shape of intelligent assistants like Siri, and powers chatbots that deliver real-time customer service. It is my belief that AI will grow to become a mainstream element of digital transformation sooner rather than later.
Digital transformation is a continuous process rather than a one-off project. The smartest companies are always on the lookout for the next innovation or disruptive technology that can give them business benefits and a competitive advantage.
AI and cloud offer the next great leap forward. They can be combined to become both an engine for innovation and a mechanism for faster transformation. IoT provides vast levels of data, which can be stored and processed in the cloud. AI with its cognitive capabilities can use that data to create new products, services, revenue and value.
Already ninety percent of early adopters say “cloud will play an important role in their AI initiatives within two years” while further research has found that fifty-five percent of organizations prefer cloud-based services and use cloud tools to develop and deliver AI-based apps and solutions.
AI as the new disruptor
The cloud industry itself has invested heavily in AI. These include players like IBM with its Watson offering, Microsoft with Cognitive Services, and Google with Cloud Vision and its natural language APIs. Microsoft is now offering over 20 cognitive services within its cloud platform, while back in 2015 Amazon branched out into an AI service which lets users add analytical and predictive capabilities to applications.
Cloud is central to the continuing evolution of AI. The AI-cloud relationship powers two distinct areas: AI cloud services and cloud machine learning platforms. The former allows companies to enjoy the benefits of AI capabilities in applications without having to invest in the AI infrastructure – essentially “AI-as-a-service”. The latter are semantic machines that learn from massive data analysis and can offer automated analytical model building.
Early adopters already seeing benefits
The impact of AI is felt in many places and early adopter organizations are already achieving benefits from machine learning, pattern recognition and robotics. In addition, AI-based chatbots are being implemented in Rich Communications Services (RCS) apps, the next generation of immersive instant messaging. When you factor in the vast volumes of data generated in IoT, the potential for AI is clear. In particular, AI and cognitive systems are required to unlock value in the vast volumes of predominantly unstructured data. At a recent Orange event one of our customers, Cricket Australia, spoke about how they are even leveraging an AI-based coaching platform to improve performance and give their teams an edge.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai has stated his belief that we are moving from a mobile-first computing world to an AI-first world. While the cloud is already a key enabler for AI, how will it change in an AI-first world? I think the cloud will use AI capabilities to change and enhance existing services like computing and storage, and will integrate with Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (SaaS) to drive new benefits and possibilities from them.
An IDC report on the cognitive machine market predicts it will be worth $31 billion by 2019. At the same time, Forrester predicts that the public cloud market will reach $146 billion in 2017. At Orange we recently underlined our commitment to cloud providing the backbone to AI and so much else by signing a cloud acceleration deal with Huawei. I believe the future of AI and cloud is intertwined and they will complement each other to drive our digital future.
To read more about the race to AI and Orange’s role in it, please see: http://www.orange-business.com/en/magazine/the-race-to-ai
Helmut joined Orange Business Services in 2007 to head up Europe and Russia. He is now CEO of Orange Business Services.