We are living in an era where we carry the computing power that sent a man to the moon in our pockets. Computers have come a long way from glorified calculators to intelligent machines that will soon surpass combined human intelligence. Driven by enhanced connectivity, data availability, and computing prowess, the advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) are ushering in a new era of unimagined innovation and social upheaval.
According to a PwC report, by the year 2030, AI will have contributed approximately $15.7 trillion to the global economy. Southeast Asia’s adoption of AI has been especially evident in areas like transportation, financial services, and healthcare. Large millennial populations and regional-wide commitments from governments to advocate for Industry 4.0 are encouraging startups to invest in and develop innovative AI solutions, with the adoption rates for AI already grown from 8 per cent to 14 per cent over the last year.
With AI relentlessly transforming daily life and business operations, read on to find out five of the most significant and inspiring trends revolutionizing the digital ecosystem:
From artificial to augmented intelligence
When it comes to the future of the digital ecosystem, AI might be the final frontier. Rather than typecasting AI as a villain with the aim of replicating and surpassing human intelligence, companies like IBM are representing AI as an Intelligence Augmenter. For instance, IBM’s AI-enabled Chef Watson gives us a glimpse into how AI can morph into your very sous-chef in the kitchen. Google is even using AI to help combat social issues - empowering engineers to create a Global Fishing Watch that prevents illegal fishing.
For startups, there is tremendous potential in developing AI-driven systems and tools that can augment human potential to increase efficiency, accuracy, and productivity in a blended ecosystem. To help recruitment systems become smarter, impress.ai helps teams automate the hiring process, aid hiring decisions and most importantly helps them engage the right employee in a fraction of the time.
In countries like Japan, robots as caregivers will be responsible for 80 percent of elderly care by 2025. From AI enabled smart homes to initiatives such as the Thailand 4.0 campaign – AI is driving us towards an augmented digital future.
Re-writing the Ed Tech chapter
From automated grading to virtual facilitators – the education system is exploring uncharted frontiers. Enabling adaptive to truly personalized learning, AI can be a game changer in education, already starting to enrich the learning experience in corporate and school setups.
Research predicts that the use of AI in the education sector will grow by 47.5 percent through 2021 - we can even expect humanoid robots as teachers as early as 2027.
For startups, developing the use cases of AI in the education and training space could be a rewarding investment. In Southeast Asia, EdTech startups such as Indonesia based Ruangguru, a one-stop-learning startup - provides a mobile app with videos and practice tests across a plethora of subjects, in addition to a chat function for access to a standby tutor.
In Singapore, B2B firm XSeed, offers the educational equivalent of enterprise software to schools.
While AI may not be able to substitute person-to-person learning yet, it has opened a portal of possibilities for a non-traditional and blended education approach, with institutions such as US’s Carnegie Learning’s Mika integrating AI-based tutoring tools, that provide customized learning assistance to cater to students who need personalised attention.
Re-engineering the transport ecosystem
An ecosystem of intelligent vehicles is no longer a novel science fiction idea, but a reality in the near future, with Singapore leading the global race in autonomous vehicle (AV) development. Singaporean ride sharing app Grab has partnered with nuTonomy to develop, and test autonomous technology. Uber is also reportedly testing and using autonomous cargo trucks to deliver goods.
While AVs are expected to be commercialised soon, that is not the only impact AI can have on the transportation industry. GE Transportation is actively using AI to develop cognitive locomotives and improve efficiency of rail transport whereas Hitachi is using AI to reduce power consumption. Companies like Amazon are constantly working on automating the delivery of small packages by leveraging autonomous technology via drones or cars.
AI applications can make transport safer, ease traffic bottlenecks, improve predictive maintenance, prevent failures, lower operational costs, and improve service levels. Recognizing this potential, Grab and National University of Singapore (NUS) have opened AI Labs to transform transportation in Southeast Asia.
Designing a makeover for retail, e-commerce, and supply chains
AI and is gaining increasing popularity with today’s retailers – specifically merchandisers – amidst the radically changing digital marketing landscape.
Routine functions like supply chains is an area set for disruption by AI, with retail giants like Amazon using robots in its supply chain since 2012 and expanding to upwards of 80,000 robots across 25 distribution centres. It is estimated that 35 percent of all sales made by Amazon is generated by their recommendation engine.
AI and robotics are also automating several parts of the retail chain - from manufacturing, to last-minute delivery. In 2016, merchants selling on Alibaba’s 24-hour online sale, generated around 6.7 billion via personalized shopping pages. This delivered 20 per cent higher conversion rates compared to non-personalized pages!
On top of that, Gartner predicts that AI will answer 25 percent of customer questions by 2020 signalling a pivotal shift in customer service. Indonesian startup Snapcart’s AI driven analytics software is enabling FMCG companies to offer offline consumer data insights.
Boosting wellness and longevity
AI is poised to be the engine that drives innovation across the healthcare continuum, and may be the self-running healthcare growth engine in the not-so-distant future. At the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience, AI experts are trying to apply machine learning to health and bioscience and hope to identify the genetic cause of diseases like cancer and develop hyper-effective precision therapies to cure them. According to a report by Accenture - growth in the AI health market is expected to reach $6.6 billion by 2021 at a CAGR of 40 per cent and this in turn is predicted to drive the acquisitions of AI startups. AI driven healthcare applications like robot-assisted surgery, nursing assistants, and administrative workflow assistance are having a life-altering impact on the healthcare industry. Singapore based startup Healint facilities neurological patient treatments using deep analytics and AI and its app Migraine Buddy is the most popular condition-specific app in the world.
Microsoft’s Biological Computing Lab is working towards combating diseases by reprogramming cells.
As AI continues to become more ubiquitous and penetrate mainstream medicine there is tremendous opportunity for startups to help develop solutions that aid healthcare organizations create a disease free utopia.
These are just some of the areas where AI is gaining momentum. In every sector and industry, Artificial intelligence presents limitless possibilities as the Fourth Industrial Revolution unfolds.
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