Last month, I was one of the lucky ones attending the O’Reilly Artificial Intelligence (AI) Conference in NYC. Billed as a “rare opportunity to bypass the hype and discover how emerging developments can be applied into practical and profitable AI you can implement in your business today,” the line-up of speakers was impressive, and the content did not fail to provide attendees with some great first-hand looks at what is happening in the world of AI today.
Presented in conjunction with Intel AI, the event featured such powerhouse speakers as Stanford University’s Chris Ré; Olga Troyanskaya, professor of computer science at Princeton University and deputy director for genomics at the Flatiron Institute; Ruchir Puri, CTO and chief architect, IBM Watson; and Danielle Dean, principal data scientist lead at Microsoft (pictured above). One of the biggest takeaways from the conference was the sheer magnitude of impact that AI is having on the industry group that was present. Even more, the presentations and discussions made it clear that AI’s ability to transform is continuing to accelerate faster than ever.
Also featured were more than a dozen business leaders who presented their own enterprise use cases and demonstrated the very real value of using AI to plow through their data to drive revenue growth and to gain greater intelligence from every customer interaction. I was surprised to find that so many organizations already have clearly defined plans for using AI capabilities to achieve their business goals. What seems to have shifted in the past 18 months or so is that enterprises are finally recognizing the need for a new playbook to take advantage of the emerging business models that are being driven by AI.
Much of the content of the conference was aimed at educating business leaders about the current trajectory of AI and its potential impact on the enterprise. The results of the latest survey of enterprise spending intention by O’Reilly Media left no doubt that companies who fail to invest now will be at risk in the years to come. While it was clear that the level of spending is dependent on the maturity of an organization, the survey showed that 43% of organizations that are relatively established plan to invest at least 20% of their IT budget in AI during the next 12 months. Ben Lorica, Chief Data Scientist at O’Reilly Media, stated that he believes the gap between leaders and laggards will widen further due to lack of investment in AI by the less mature companies.
Another interesting survey finding was that the “lack of skilled people” remains one of the key factors that may inhibit AI adoption within many organizations. 57% of all survey respondents signaled that their companies were in need of machine learning experts and data scientists. Ben pointed out that this is likely not the only major skills gap. As with any new technology, he said that companies also need people who are able to identify use cases that lend themselves to AI solutions.
Some of the key innovations that were touched on included:
The enterprise use cases were an exciting part of the conference, as some of today’s leading AI thought leaders painted vivid pictures of the near-term future of artificial intelligence:
Every presentation at the conference made it clear that the latest AI advancements are pushing the boundaries of everything we dreamed AI would be capable of achieving. New AI-based systems are already combing through data 24/7 to complete the tedious analysis and other data-driven tasks that are required to fuel the next wave of innovation. Healthcare. Autonomous vehicles. Precision medicine. Consumer goods. Manufacturing and logistics. The O’Reilly Artificial Intelligence Conference did a spectacular job of not only showing us all what has been achieved in these and myriad other industries to date, but also of illustrating the incredible potential for AI to transform the world of tomorrow. For business leaders and for investors, it was a worthy wake-up call to take action now.
By Lisa Chai, Senior Research Analyst, ROBO Global