By Amit Midha
Amit Midha, President, APJ Commercial, Dell EMC.
According to Dell’s Realizing 2030: A Divided Vision of the Future report, by 2030 technology will be ingrained in all that we do and every organization will be a digital organization: powered by software, accelerated by analytics, and with human-machine partnerships an established ‘new normal’, teaming-up to conceive and achieve new possibilities.
At least 8 in 10 business leaders believe that emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) need to be at the heart of their transformation in order to be a contender in this next era.
In Singapore, establishing an AI-powered future is a high priority.
Take the launch of AI Singapore, the national initiative to cultivate local expertise around AI; the recent formation of an advisory council on the ethical use of AI; and the now-established understanding that AI technology will play a major role in the city-state’s future as a smart nation.
Across the Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) region, the opportunities presented by AI are considerable and still very much on the rise, and especially in countries like Singapore, Japan, China, and South Korea, which are fast becoming hotbeds of AI innovation.
In parallel with AI, companies are also looking at other emerging technologies including Machine Learning/Deep Learning (ML/DL) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to help them address business demands and to enable growth.
However, while there are already examples of these technologies in play today, it is important to realise that – currently – we are just scratching the surface: we have yet to understand the complete spectrum of new possibilities that these technologies will enable – let alone realise their full potential.
To start with, we need to rapidly shift our line-of-thinking from ‘what can the machine tell me’ to ‘what should I ask the machine’, in order to expand its ability to help us make better sense of the world, and allow human-machine partnerships to really flourish.
The AI story so far
The good news is that there are promising beginnings.
Nurturing environments are emerging, driving the necessary skillsets, and industry sectors are already exploring the potential of these new technologies in enhancing the customer experience, in limited capacities such as with chatbots.
There are also major investments in innovation hubs, notably in South Korea, Japan and Singapore, which are spurring fast progress in filing AI patents, and forecasting significant growth in commercial opportunities as a result of that innovation.
Singapore, for example, has opened up official data for development and research to make sure it stakes its claim in the region’s AI leadership.
At the infrastructure level, we are already seeing ML/DL – a part of AI – become part of our day-to-day with its ability to understand and learn from data and patterns for automation and make predictions. Businesses are using ML/DL to drive greater efficiency, productivity and personalisation, with online retailers, of course, deploying it to analyse our buying histories, and then to promote items that we will be interested in, in real-time.
Going a step further, using the same technology to capture data, derive insights and then make instant use of them is already enabling bespoke marketing campaigns. Likewise, in the workplace, ML/DL is being used to help in the on-boarding process of new employees: you can assign desks, phone numbers and email addresses automatically without the need for human involvement.
AI in the Smart Nation
Smart and digital cities provide a powerful example of integrated and successful human-machine partnerships, and one where Singapore is leading the way. A range of data and technologies are being used in order to drive continuous improvement to critical services to citizens: in healthcare and transport, and in other areas, too.
For instance, IoT and analytics have been deployed for preventive maintenance and municipal operations in public housing estates, enabling the city to become more ‘liveable’ and sustainable: households are making meaningful savings on utilities, and providers are able to do more timely maintenance.
The upcoming Punggol Digital District – located in Punggol North – is expected to serve as a test bed for a slew of new features and planning practices, including buildings cooled by ‘smart’ thermostats, and centralised systems for waste collection.
In this digital era, all forward-thinking governments must be asking: how do I make my city more safe and liveable for its citizens?
This will further accelerate the already burgeoning demand for AI in this region, with countries that have a strong focus on smart and digital cities, in particular, leading the way.
An AI-powered robot acting as a store greeter in Japan. (Photo: Unsplash, by Andy Kelly)
The next step
In this context, readiness will be key.
We are already witnessing impressive change in the way that organizations can mine, use and take advantage of data – but many remain unprepared to do so.
Those that are not digital-first and have yet to properly embrace digital transformation will find this shift – and the growing business need to use AI to their advantage – a major barrier to success.
According to a Gartner survey, 37% of CIOs in Asia Pacific – compared with 25% globally – have either deployed or are planning to deploy some aspect of AI.
For the remaining 63%, now is the time to focus on having the necessary digital infrastructure in place, and on determining the skills that will be needed in the future to reap the full rewards of AI and make it what it has the power to be: a genuine game-changer for their business.
Amit Midha is President, APJ Commercial, Dell EMC.