“There is a global accord that A.I. technologies have the potential to revolutionise production and contribute to addressing global challenges.” (Economic Impacts of A.I. – European Parliamentary Research Service).
Outside my house as I write this there is a team of workmen laying fibre optic cable connecting every house in my neighbourhood to a high-speed broadband service. The city (pop. 100,000) has plans to connect every house over the next few months. It is a jointly funded program involving the government owned electricity company and a private telecommunications provider. This got me thinking about how much the 4th Industrial Revolution is making progress across the land (for more on the 4th Industrial Revolution see: http://ow.ly/LOdV30qh4Dq).
When the first industrial revolution happened in the 100 years leading up to the middle of the 19th century, driven by the invention of steam power and new technology that could harness that power, how many people realised their world was undergoing a radical restructuring? Swept away by this revolution where the cottage industries and labour-intensive production techniques of the past, to be replaced by the “Dark Satanic” factories of Dickensian lore of machine-driven production.
Well, our generation is in the throes of an equally transformative revolution. This time it is being driven by the emergence of a maturing and dynamic artificial intelligence (A.I.) technology. For the first time in human history A.I. is allowing mankind to create machines with “human-like cognitive processes”. (Source: EU’s EPRS report, http://ow.ly/mWRn30qh5WI).
This ability is bringing about a transformation in our technical infrastructure, changing the means of production and fostering the invention of many more end-user products. It was not so long ago that the Internet of Things (IoT) was a vague term in our lexicon, but IoT products are proliferating at an unbelievable rate. All driven by our new A.I. abilities. Examples of these IoT products are: smart surveillance, automated transportation, smarter energy management systems, water distribution, urban security and environmental monitoring. A new technological eco-system is being created around us and it will continue to expand.
Companies across the globe have identified the phenomenal growth in A.I.-related technologies and many are adapting. Other companies are struggling to understand how they can best harness themselves to this revolution. The fiercest competition for mastery of this change is taking place in two world regions, the USA and Asia. Lagging behind, warns the EPRS report, is the EU. As a consequence, efforts are underway in the EU to find ways of exploiting the potential of the new technological opportunities for its region and its citizens.
The global expansion of A.I. can be tracked by looking at the increase in the number of registered A.I. patents. There has been a noticeable upsurge in the registration of such patents. This upsurge in patents is now eclipsing the number of theoretical papers being written. The movement is from the theoretical to the practical. (WIPO 2019) The problem, from the EU’s point of view, is that only 12% of such patents are coming from its region. The EU sees it as an imperative that it helps foster an environment that incentivises companies to pursue this avenue of growth.
The majority of studies on the economic impact of A.I. emphasise that adoption of the technological can be significant. The consulting company Accenture, in a study of 12 economies, estimate that by 2035 those economies will double their growth rates through the use of A.I. This will happen because, they say:
- It will lead to a strong increase in labour productivity (40%) due to A.I. technologies enabling efficiencies.
- It will create a new ‘virtual workforce’ – also known as ‘intelligent automation’. This is technology that will have the ability to solve problems and learn from the experience of those solutions (for more on Deep Learning see my blog: http://ow.ly/ytsZ30qh5jC).
- The drive for innovation will spread across new sectors leading to new inventions, new products, new markets and new revenue streams.
(See: Why Artificial Intelligence is the Future of Growth http://ow.ly/Xc8L30qh5kR).
The fuel for many A.I. innovations is the exploitation of ‘Big Data’ sources. According to IBM, there exists today 2.7 zettabytes of data online. A zettabyte is 1 billion terabytes. The growth of online business data is said to double every 1.2 years! (Source: Users Bring Real Value to Big Data Machine Translation, Wired). The volume of data available to industry today is mind-boggling. It is said that Facebook alone has in storage 250 billion images. It also has the data content of 2.5 trillion posts. Add to that one source of data that stored by other social media companies alone and the figure goes off the charts.
The data owned by private companies and government institutions is an incredible fount of knowledge on our world. Big Data is said to be valuable when it has volume (see above), it has variety (every subject matter under the sun now exists in data form) and it has velocity (the cloud and fibre optic solved that challenge). The consultants PWC say that there is now a virtuous circle of data, a perpetual loop, where new products create new consumers which creates new data giving better insights for the creation of new products – and on it goes.
As I noted earlier, the EU is determined to drive A.I. and the resultant economic gains over the next decade from this technology will increase. A McKinsey Global Institute report estimates that 70% of companies will adopt at least one form of A.I. and just under 50% of companies will adopt a panoply of A.I. technologies. The report predicts that by 2035 this adoption of A.I. will manifest itself in a $13 trillion boost to the EU’s economy.
One of the challenges the exploitation of Big Data sources presents is that of language. Needless to say, these repositories of information exist in multiple languages. For many companies this is the equivalent to having to decrypt a code in order to access a goldmine. However, A.I. has given companies the solution to this challenge in the form of Neural Machine Translation Networks (NMT). Machine translation now provides the way for companies to translate huge volumes of texts at very high speeds and at an affordable cost. NMT is also creating the means by which almost real-time translations can be provided for. This provides the means for companies to converse with end users and to learn the cultural nuances and sentiments of individual markets.
KantanMT’s KantanSkynet, a recent A.I. innovative technology, equips companies with both NMT married to a global of team of translators – a virtual workforce – that can supply 24/7 access to real-time translation services. This fusing of A.I. technology with expert human translators has created a potent solution to today’s language challenge. (To read more about KantanSkynet see my blog: http://ow.ly/yoPH30qh5Oz)
The 4th Industrial Revolution is happening all around us. It is pulling society in the definite direction of growth and massive change. It is a reality that should not be ignored by any business with an eye on innovation, expansion and longevity. Every company should be looking at the opportunities being created by A.I. Let there be no doubt, the front runners in this race will get a start that will leave them as market leaders in the years to come. They will get a jump on their counterparts who are slower to adapt. A.I. is not going away. It is true to say that it is a case of “if you snooze you lose”. You’ve been warned. (See my blog on Big Data http://ow.ly/bRfw30qh5ou).
Aidan Collins is Marketing Manager at KantanMT