All Eyes on AI!

What we can expect to see at MWC 2019

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

In Barcelona, we will witness how artificial intelligence (AI) and intelligent technologies are becoming ingrained in peoples’ lives and jobs – and the growing interest in responsible AI.

What used to be “World Mobile Congress” is now officially rebranded as “MWC,” as it’s so much more than just mobile telecommunications. A key theme this year is AI, and for very good reason.

Last year, the Australian government committed $29.9 million over four years into artificial intelligence (AI) funding. Reflective of the fact that large businesses, start-ups and academic researchers alike have been busy experimenting with and pairing technologies such as machine learning, computer vision, and natural language processing with advanced forms of data analytics and automation techniques. Furthermore, major economies are heavily investing in AI, for example, President Emmanuel Macron wants to turn France into a major player of the artificial intelligence industry. At the Collège de France on March 30 the President announced that the French government's funding in AI should reach €1.5 billion over five years and €500 million in private funding to reach this objective.   

This has created a plethora of intelligent applications and devices, many of which companies and their leaders will showcase and debate at MWC 2019. In more and more situations, applied AI is now looking over our shoulders – figuratively and literally speaking. Look out for the following trends at MWC this year:

The societal impact: AI is helping us look after big issues

Adoption of AI technologies by the enterprise is relatively high in Australia. Of the ten countries surveyed in a recent Accenture study commissioned by SAS, Accenture Applied Intelligence and Intel, adoptions rates in Australia were the highest in the world.

Some 78 per cent of Australian businesses in the survey said they were using the technologies, chasing rewards including more reliable systems, a better security posture, higher productivity through the elimination of manual tasks and improved customer service.

Data61 reports that AI and related technologies’ growth could be worth $315 billion to the Australian economy over the next decade.

Credit: Samsung

The more sophisticated AI becomes, the more we see it being applied in a manner that doesn’t just serve individual companies and people but serves the common good as well. Accenture has completed a pilot program that uses AI and the ease of voice to help older people manage the daunting challenges of navigating their care delivery and well-being. The AI-powered platform can learn user behaviors and preferences and suggest activities to support the overall physical and mental health of individuals ages 70 and older.

Some of the AI and advanced analytics use cases we will see at MWC will even shed a light on the dark web. Take the trafficking of illegal drugs, for example, which is increasingly moving online. Technologies and techniques such as image recognition, text extraction, and deep embedded clustering give law enforcement agencies the opportunity to discover where specific narcotics are being sold on the dark web and in what quantities. This allows law enforcement to detect emerging “narcotics marketing” trends, such as purity of a drug, and compare global and local drug popularity.

The workplace impact: AI is providing humans new lines of sights

Credit: Sony

At MWC, we will see how people and intelligent technologies collaborate on complex tasks and reduce risk to employees.

We expect to see  examples of computer vision and video analytics being applied to keep workers out of harm’s way by monitoring dangerous work environments and alerting people in case of danger. We also anticipate seeing systems that rely on the combination of computer vision and deep learning classification models – allowing technicians to compare printed or handwritten labels on a spare part with the actual component by taking a picture of it with their smartphones.

Use cases for smart glasses will be much more advanced at MWC 2019. Take quality-testing in pharmaceutical laboratories which is more complex. Medications are being produced in increasingly smaller batches as drugs are being tailored made more to the individual. Smart glasses can guide lab technicians through the testing procedures, collecting data at each step, which is being analysed to detect and avert risks and glitches in work processes and identify bottlenecks.

It is easy to underestimate the positive effects that human-machine collaboration can have on the workplace. In a recent Accenture survey of Australian Boards, 92 percent said that new technologies such as AI and sources of workplace data can be used to unlock value that is currently trapped in the enterprise.

The customer impact: AI is zooming in on the shopper experience

Computer vision and image recognition are changing the world of retail. At MWC, we will see examples of how cameras can determine what ‘fashion types’ frequent a store, based on peoples’ clothing, gender, age and haircut. The data that is being collected and analysed helps retailers fine-tune the selection of their stores to customers.

AI isn’t just helping to guide the shopper journey, it is also providing consumers with assistance on how to use products. Imagine a vanity that recognises what lipstick and powder you put in it. Its intelligent mirror identifies your complexion and the colour of your hair and eyes and tells you how to apply them for the best effect – or maybe, recommends a more appropriate option.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

The ethical impact: We need to be on the lookout for AI’s unintended consequences

MWC is a testament to the impact AI and intelligent technologies have on our lives. These technologies are also starting to change companies from the ground up, enabling self-learning business processes that can adapt to the behaviours, preferences and needs of customers and workers at a given moment.

These developments come with an obligation to use these technologies responsibly – something which will also be recognised at MWC. Many companies, particularly those considered early adopters of AI are doing so with the help of internal AI ethics committees. A recent SAS/Accenture/Intel survey found that out of the Australian companies that have already adopted AI in some form, 72 per cent have established such a committee (slightly higher than the global average of 70 per cent). While some Australian companies have been open about who sits on their AI ethics boards, such as SAP and Axon, some have not. But how can we help stop discriminating AI outputs in the first place?

Responsible use of AI means, for example, pulling the plug immediately when we see human prejudice creeping into algorithms.

First, by not fooling ourselves into believing that it is the AI’s fault. Algorithms and models are developed by people; they learn and act upon the data that is generated by how we live, work, and do business. Second, by educating those who build and configure AI systems on the responsible use of AI. Third, by equipping them with tools and methods that discover blind spots and unfair results before they do harm. Not just the data scientists and developers, but also business users and leaders and all the way up to organisations’ supervisory boards.

An AI misstep can breach existing bonds and damage trust between companies and workforces, customers and societies. This means responsible AI is no longer a “nice to have.” It is imperative to build and reinforce the trust that organisations need to drive success and scale AI with confidence.

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