Why Artificial Intelligence is now serious business

Artificial IntelligenceArtificial Intelligence (AI) is increasingly impacting every part of our lives, says Dr Austin Tanney Director of Straylight Consulting

But by how much? Consider the following future-world scenario…

I’m awoken by Alexa at 7am – an alarm I verbally set last night. Alexa wakes me with an intelligently selected playlist of punk and metal music based on my tastes. I go into the kitchen and pour myself a cup of coffee perfectly brewed by a smart coffeemaker synced up to Alexa.

As I drink my morning coffee, I check my email and notice that Google inbox has pushed a few mails from over the last week that I haven’t replied to yet. I fire off a few quick responses, most of which are predictively suggested by Google. I then respond to a few more mails CC-ing in my virtual personal assistant that syncs with my calendar and schedules meetings for me.

Following the mails, I listen to my curated news feed for a while before leaving to get into my self-driving car. The car syncs with my android phone, determines where my first meeting is and I’m off. As I’m driven to my first meeting I go through some more mails, confirm the meeting requests sent by my virtual assistant and the next few days are scheduled and organised.

So starts a day of meetings. My calendar has been automatically scheduled ensuring I have enough transit time between meetings based on predictive analysis of traffic patterns in my location and everything runs smoothly. On the way home I tend to the mails that have arrived during the day, flick through my algorithmically generated twitter feed then arrive home.

After a dinner based on a recipe recommended based on analysis of my genome and lifestyle data, I hit the gym where yet another virtual assistant, this time a personal trainer, guides me through a workout.

Then it’s home to spend some time with the family, watching algorithmically generated recommendations on Netflix. Then it’s off to bed with a quick “Alexa, wake me up at 7 tomorrow.”

So how far is this from reality? Largely, it’s already here.

I don’t have a self-driving car. But autonomous car manufacturers like Waymo plan to bring the product to market within months.

I haven’t optimised my diet based on my genome, but not because it doesn’t exist yet. I just haven’t been interested enough to pay for it.

And I haven’t bought a smart coffeemaker yet, but mainly because these days I mostly drink green tea.

So other than that, this future-world scenario is pretty much here.

AI is pervasive across the personal and the professional spheres. I spend a lot of time with companies that use AI and it truly does span all sectors – from healthcare, finance and retail, through to customer experience, leisure and fitness, and more.

The UK industry strategy report has placed huge emphasis on AI, which is unsurprising due to the massive impact it is expected to have on the economy. The commonly cited statistic is that AI will lead to an additional £232 billion of economic growth by 2030.

In many cases, this will be as a result of large, established companies embracing this technology, but what is perhaps the most exciting thing about AI is the impact it can have on smaller companies and start-ups.

AI and machine learning (ML) are enabling small teams and companies to develop unique solutions to very real problems and providing the opportunity to develop products that previously would have been limited only to major corporations.

For those who are interested (and let’s be honest, with a technology so transformative everyone should be interested) Big Data Belfast this year has an excellent session on AI and ML with some very exciting speakers.

To find out more about what (the very near) future holds, log on to www.bigdatabelfast.com

Dr Austin Tanney is the Director of Straylight Consulting which provides strategic and management consultancy to companies that use AI. He is also the co-founder of the AINI group, which holds monthly meetups for AI experts and enthusiasts from across Northern Ireland.

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