Artificial intelligence (AI) and its subset, cognitive computing, have been subject to a fair share of debates, with concerns around machines overtaking, or maybe even replacing, the human workforce. However, today's realities suggest that the major concerns lie elsewhere: The real challenge that needs addressing is the acute shortage of both skills and data.
Need for talent and data availability to make AI a reality
One of the biggest roadblocks in the active adoption of AI across industries is the sheer scarcity of appropriately skilled professionals. There are simply not enough data scientists to interpret massive amounts of data being generated every day, a service that cognitive computing can offer. Further, since the skill set of a data scientist needs to constantly evolve along with the technology, the demand-supply gap is only growing further.
This is not to say that we will never have enough data scientists, but rather that the data scientists we do have will be able to engage in more meaningful work for AI, leaving the more repetitive data analysis to machines.
AI-based systems also require huge volumes of "raw material," which they use to learn from, and analyze, before they can predict or extract insights. Small and mid-sized companies often struggle to achieve this baseline availability of data to make their investments in cognitive technology seem worthwhile. For larger companies, which usually have huge data volumes, the challenge lies in the lack of data quality and integrity. Add to this the prohibitively high costs of implementing AI-based solutions, legal and privacy-related implications associated with data evaluation, and cybersecurity concerns, it‚??s evident that the AI journey has its work cut out.
However, the silver lining is in the statistics. IDC predicts that the worldwide AI software platforms‚?? market will grow from $1.6 billion in 2016 to $8.4 billion in 2021 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 39.7%. A recent Intel India report predicts that an overwhelming majority of Indian organizations -- nearly 70% -- have either adopted or have plans to adopt cognitive computing capabilities within the next 18 months; this includes a combination of pilot and enterprise-wide deployments. Currently, one in five organizations in the country has already deployed AI in some form, pointing to higher maturity levels as compared to their Asia-Pacific counterparts (where one in ten organizations have achieved the same level of implementation).
Technology, telecom and banking sectors are AI front runners in India
Though the AI market is still at a nascent stage in India, companies are beginning to realize the advantages that this game-changing technology brings to today's hyper-competitive business scenario. All major industry verticals are experimenting with these third platform technologies, with IT & ITES and BFSI organizations leading the pack in India. Infosys, one of the key players in the $150 billion IT industry, has retrained 3,000 employees taking into account the value that AI brings to its business. BPO company Intelenet has implemented Robotic Process Automation for process efficiency and reduction in manual errors, leading to a 35% reduction in errors and a 10% increase in both revenue and employee productivity.
India‚??s largest public-sector undertaking, State Bank of India, recently announced its plans of using AI for its integrated platform, YONO (You Only Need One). This one-of-its-kind digital banking platform gives users access to banking as well as a host of lifestyle services through a single sign-on. Then there is Lakshmi, India‚??s first "humanoid banker" and a shining example of how intelligent assistants can augment the work of employees in an organization, expanding the possibilities available to the human workforce. Born in a Coimbatore lab and powered by AI, this robot response service can be seen at select branches of the City Union Bank in Chennai. Lakshmi can converse in English and Tamil, perform life-like gestures, and provide information on over 125 topics, including account balances, loan rates, credit card payments and fixed deposits. And she is smart enough to know that sensitive account-related queries are only to be displayed discreetly on screen, and not voiced in public.
The healthcare industry is relying on AI to fine-tune the accuracy of medical predictions and choose a fitting line of treatment accordingly. Retail and e-commerce, including Indian e-retailers such as Flipkart and Snapdeal, are increasingly using AI for personalized recommendations and better optimization of their supply chain networks.
Get set for AI budget increases and expanded industry adoption
The time for cognitive and AI has truly come, and India is leading this technology revolution from the front, especially with the government‚??s keen interest in pioneering the country into a technologically competitive economy. Living in such an era of disruption, organizations can no longer afford to rely on traditional business models. With the advent of digital technologies in the last two to three years, data has become the new oil. Organizations are now expanding their boundaries to capture, manage, assess, and derive value out of the data residing in their systems. Adopting AI helps organizations in this journey -- presenting actionable insights, driving business revenues, boosting efficiencies, helping think through complex problem areas, and transforming customer experiences.
New sectors are expected to experience the AI magic in the near future -- with digital shopping assistants in retail, carefully curated teams in sports, and factory automation systems in manufacturing. Going forward, states the Intel India report, AI-powered systems are expected to achieve mainstream adoption among Indian enterprises, with around 30% of companies planning to expand their AI budgets by more than 10% over the next 18 months.