A business future with artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence is impacting the future of virtually every industry and every human being. AI has acted as the main driver of emerging technologies like big data, robotics and IoT, and it will continue to act as a technological innovator for the foreseeable future. This is especially true in the past few years, as data collection and analysis has ramped up considerably thanks to maturing IoT connectivity, the proliferation of connected devices and ever faster computer processing.   

Some sectors are at the start of their AI journey, others are on their way, but both have a long way to go. Regardless, the impact artificial intelligence is having on our present day lives is hard to ignore. 

AI will potentially be the most transformative and disruptive technology the world of business has ever seen, helping us make insightful smart business decisions.  It can already automate the mundane tasks, or perform ever more accurate higher-risk surgery. Ultmately, it will help us realise the value of the data we are generating at an exponential rate.   

Cleansing, ‘learning’ and using these volumes of information at a rate that ‘keeps you ahead’ has, up to now, been a challenge.  The job requires munching through data and realms of algorithms and this requires huge amounts of compute and storage, and although both of these continue to fall in price, the costs can still be prohibitive for most businesses.  Public Cloud is the solution to this problem.  

With IDC predicting that the growth of Artificial Intelligence will see the market break the $500 billion mark by 2024, it is little wonder the Hyperscale public cloud providers, such as Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services have a plethora of ready-made solutions.  But that growth will depend on businesses having the courage and vision to invest in both the technology and more importantly the skills, to use AI to generate new revenue and make the use of artificial intelligence truly business viable. 

Public Cloud CEO’s purport to democratising IT, so we can expect them to do the same with AI.  Letting anyone create apps that run from any device. This is one of the biggest benefits of AI and the cloud today – Organisations, large or small, creating ‘Powered by AI’ products that previously only the financial powerhouses or enterprise scale businesses could have dreamed of bringing to market. 

Recently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the use of cloud has accelerated at a pace unseen in decades.  Organisations are progressing their cloud strategy seeing them choose to house their infrastructure and services, including their ‘crown jewels’, in the public cloud.  In some instances, businesses are using solutions such as Microsoft Azure Stack to create a hybrid cloud approach, enabling the ability to see the flashing lights and know exactly where their critical data is.  At Claranet we are seeing more of our customers look to a multi-cloud strategy, enabling them to use the ‘right cloud for the right services’ which we wholeheartedly support. 

So, what should companies actually do with AI in the cloud? 

  • Make ever more accurate market predictions 
  • Move towards real-time analytics 
  • Use natural language processing to create products that understand text, speech and unstructured data 
  • Enable software and devices to ‘see things’ through machine vision 
  • Augment your talent to prescribe an outcome or carry out the mundane 

Augmentation of humans I feel is a big challenge –  the issue of culture and buy-in across organisations that have ‘always done it this way’ and leadership teams that don’t see the appeal of delegating their decision making to machines.  For many companies, these challenges around culture, leadership, and skills are the biggest factors in determining success or failure – not the technology itself. 

Could we ever see the role of CEO or even country leader being taken by a machine? 

As Max Tegmark wrote is the eye-opening prelude of his brilliant recent book Life 3.0 being human in the age of Artificial Intelligence – ‘The tale of the Omega Team’. 

“Over a timescale of months, the business empire controlled by the Omegas started gaining a foothold in ever more areas of the world economy, thanks to the superhuman planning Prometheus.  By carefully analysing the world’s data, it had already during its first week presented the Omegas with a detailed step-by-step growth plan, and it kept improving and refining this plan as its data and computer resources grew.” 

Qualities that are essential for business leaders today include inquisitiveness about what AI in the cloud can do, concern over what their known competitors in the markets might do if they themselves sit still.  Finally, a willingness to try out new ideas, leaders with these qualities will be in the driving seat to guide their organisations toward the new digital world that is without doubt ahead. 

By Danny Nicholson, Principal Cloud Specialist, CLARANET

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