Artificial Intelligence (AI): Turning Science Fiction into Reality?

  • Published Date: December 23, 2020

Be it self-driving cars, voice-activated interfaces or chatbots, or intelligent virtual assistants, artificial intelligence (AI) continues to make great strides in the world as we know it. This is because rapid advancements in technology have today enabled humans to think the unthinkable and do the undoable. Science fiction stories, which were earlier perceived as a piece of wild imagination, have turned into a reality with human ingenuity and dexterity. AI is one such product of human imagination that has made inroads and touched our lives with the power of computer intelligence witnessed never before. The technology has, indeed, transformed operations in every line of work today with its novel applications across sectors such as e-commerce, transportation, cybersecurity, and healthcare, while laying the very cornerstone of smart city development.

Artificial Intelligence
AI: An Extension of Human Intelligence

As the phrase itself suggests, artificial intelligence or AI is intelligence that is not natural and, thus, centers around the simulation of human intelligence by machines or robots through reasoning, learning, and self-correction. The technology enables special computer systems to learn from and improve on experiences and behave in real-world situations in a rational manner. Among the several applications of AI, image recognition, speech recognition, and machine vision form the core aspects. Machine learning, also an important facet of AI, is primarily concerned with the use of algorithms to study and understand data patterns through both supervised and unsupervised learning. Companies around the world are, therefore, fast capitalizing on this technology to create unique customer experiences and integrating it as a secret ingredient to the recipe of their success.

Basing itself on the principle of “think and act humanly and rationally,” AI, today, has come a long way and finding applications in all walks of life. This principle lays the cornerstone of smart development through the technology’s various facets, which also include language processing, statistical learning, and decision intelligence. The technology’s immense scope of dealing with real-world problems and learning from past experiences is what makes its human-like in every way.

With AI, which is designed in a way to stimulate human reactions to real-life situations, systems constantly evolve themselves through a self-learning model by recording, processing, and responding to data inputs. With each aspect of AI inspired by the human brain, neural networks function at the core of the technology to support deep learning and machine learning. A very interest example of machine learning is Apple’s Siri, a virtual assistant that helps the users book appointments and responds to all their queries in an interactive manner. Although the program is limited in terms of its independent thinking and decision making, efforts are being taken in the domain of AI for is enhancement.

AI Applications Disrupting Major Industries

Healthcare: Right from data mining and drug discovery to disease diagnosis and robotic surgery, AI has been revolutionary in healthcare in more ways than perceived. For instance, AI tool IBM Watson can analyze both unstructured and structured data besides helping study medical records of patients to identify the best treatment possible. The tool functions like a real doctor but learns from its own.Similarly, Artificial Intelligence for Drug Discovery (AIDD), a platform by NuMedii, leverages big data and AI to identify the link between drugs and diseases at the system level. Besides, AI-supported virtual assistants help reduce unnecessary hospital visits and manage heavy workflow in the system. Thus, the technology works wonders in facilitating proactive healthcare management.

Retail and E-Commerce: The technology’s application is most noticeable in this domain, wherein companies are extensively deploying it in their processes to streamline workflow and align their strategies. For instance, e-commerce companies are widely using AI algorithms to study consumer behavior to facilitate product recommendations on a real-time basis. Besides, companies deploy chatbots on their websites for quick and real-time customer query handling.

Banking and Financial Services: The industry is undergoing a massive transformation with the implementation of AI and automation, with human agents being replaced by AI-enabled robots for processing loan applications and generating bills. Besides, robo-advisors help sieve a massive amount of customer data to identify patterns and guide customers with best financial solutions. Another important area is fraud detection. For instance, Mastercard employs the Decision Intelligence technology to detect fraudulent transactions by analyzing data points and improve risk management.

Manufacturing: AI is undoubtedly touted as the most powerful technology revolutionizing the industrial space. From product design and product development to predictive maintenance and production optimization, AI has made inroads in every line of work in the manufacturing sector. The technology is employed across all stages of operations to drive efficiency along the process. Machine learning is widely employed for the predictive maintenance of critical equipment and prediction of asset malfunction. This further allows companies to take timely measures to prevent unplanned downtime. Moreover, robots have become an indispensable part of production. Collaborative robots or cobots are widely being deployed across the production lines to enhance productively. Besides, AI is being used in quality control to notify potential faults that may lead to quality issues.

Entertainment and Gaming: AI, in this industry, helps make recommendations for programs on the basis of preferred content by the consumers. OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon are leveraging the technology to offer personalized experience to consumers by utilizing machine learning tools to study their consumption patterns. Besides, in movies, the technology is employed to enhance digital effects in the production process. Natural language processing, an AI facet, is used in storyboarding and script structuring, and managing data for film scheduling. For instance, IBM Watson was used as a creative tool for the making of the trailer of the movie Morgan.

Besides, companies like Spotify employ AI tools to study engagement patterns and recommend the right music content to the listeners. In the gaming industry, the impact of AI has been profound on the user experience. The technology is widely used in behavior modeling to control the actions of characters that further plays an important role in advancing the game’s storyline.

Apart from these industries, the technology finds application in cybersecurity, primarily driven by factors such as rapid digitization, increasing penetration of mobile internet, and shift to digital banking. For instance, F5 Networks Inc., in January 2020, acquired Shape Security Inc., an AI-powered cybersecurity and abuse protection solutions provider, for an estimated $1 billion to realize its plans of offering AI services to customers for better management, visibility, and orchestration across its applications.

The technology is also making inroads in the agriculture sector with the increasing adoption of the internet of things or connected technology and rising focus on high crop yield and predictive maintenance. For instance, in April 2019, IBM Corporation entered into a partnership with chemical company Yara International ASA to develop a digital farming platform that would offer agronomic advice and digital services to farmers. Under this partnership, the two companies have already set up digital hubs in the U.S., Singapore, few European countries, and Brazil and are working toward the development of new capabilities, including machine learning and visual analytics, which would facilitate insights into crop production.

Global Outlook: AI Shaping the Regional Landscape

Globally, the AI industry is being driven by advancements in technology and the demand for AI-enabled solutions across key sectors such as automotive, healthcare, retail, and manufacturing. From life-sustaining medical wearables to self-driven vehicles, AI has transformed the way world was perceived a few years ago and has proved to be a revolutionary weapon in the digital world that we live in. Technology giants operating globally, such as Facebook, IBM, Google, Microsoft, and Apple, are investing heavily in the technology to make their business processes more efficient and customer experience more interactive and personal.

North America continues to lead the market, globally, and this can be majorly ascribed to the consistent government efforts to encourage the adoption of AI across various industry verticals. For instance, in February 2019, the former U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order, announcing the American AI Initiative, the country’s strategy to protect and promote AI. The strategy involves collaboration and engagement with the private sector, academia, the public, and like-minded international partners to boost technology innovation and adoption.

Besides, the AI market is projected to witness notable growth in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region on account of factors such as the growing investments in the technology by regional companies and the growing support of the government to boost technology adoption in the region. For instance, Japan’s Artificial Intelligence Technology Strategy is focused on developing AI and harnessing it for use in manufacturing and South Korea has locked a budget of $21 billion for the development of science and technology and the use of AI in this field. Similarly, China is currently working on the first phase of its New Generation of Artificial Intelligence Development Plan and has planned the beginning of its second phase in 2025 and that of its final phase in 2030.

India too is working on its National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, which is focused on five key areas: mobility, transportation, healthcare, agriculture, and urban/smart-city infrastructure. Thus, it can be well established from these facts that APAC will eventually emerge as a major market for AI, since several countries in the region are demonstrating a strong commitment toward creating national AI strategies for a better future.

AI Changing the Industrial Milieu

With AI being implemented across all sectors, industrial transformation is inevitable. AI is constantly evolving and helping businesses and organizations around the world to improve their processes, governments to improve administration, and people in general to do daily chores with ease. Thus, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that AI is setting the course for future transformation and is, indeed, demonstrating ample scope to change the face of the technology for the betterment of human life.

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