AIBusiness recently interviewed Kalyan Kumar, Executive Vice President and CTO for ITO and Digital at HCL Technologies. HCL Technologies are a thriving multinational IT services company, with offices in 32 countries and operations across a wide range of industries.
At The AI Summit in London on 5 May, Kalyan will join three fellow AI experts on the Closing Keynote Plenary Panel to discuss the practical challenges of implementing AI in business organisations. The panel will also address the issue of bad publicity and ethical dilemmas behind the development of AI technologies, ultimately answering why we can’t forfeit the future benefits of AI due to concerns and temporary challenges.
As The AI Summit approaches, AIBusiness spoke to Kalyan to find out his views on AI’s broad impact on business, as well as his vision for HCL specifically, looking ahead to 5 May.
- How do you believe AI will impact business overall and in what ways?
The impact of artificial intelligence on business will grow significantly over the next five years because of two major factors. First, the performance of these technologies has improved substantially in recent years and we can expect continuing R&D efforts to extend this progress. Second, billions of dollars have been invested to commercialise these technologies. Many companies are working to tailor and package AI and cognitive technologies for a range of sectors and business functions, making them easier to buy and easier to deploy. While not all of these vendors will thrive, their activities should collectively drive the market forward.
Technology companies are using AI and cognitive technologies such as computer vision and machine learning to enhance products or create entirely new product categories like the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner or the Nest intelligent thermostat. The potential overall business benefits of AI and cognitive technologies are much broader than cost savings that may be implied by the term “automation”.
Faster actions and decisions
AI and cognitive technologies help in making faster actions and decisions. Areas like automated fraud detection, planning and scheduling further demonstrate this benefit
AI based technologies like computer vision help in achieving better outcomes through improved prediction. Areas like medical diagnosis, oil exploration and demand forecasting further demonstrate this benefit.
AI-based techniques help in extracting more useful work performed by resources such as high-skilled people or expensive equipment when compared to a non-AI environment. This greatly improves efficiency.
AI and cognitive technologies like speech recognition help in reducing labour costs. For instance, automated telephone customer services like Domino’s pizza ordering mobile application further demonstrate this benefit.
Various large-scale tasks which are impractical to perform manually are performed with ease using AI. This helps in achieving economies of scale.
Product and service innovation
AI fosters product and service innovation by adding new features or enhancing already existing products (embedding AI) to creating entirely new class of products having their own market potential.
Examples of the strides made by AI and cognitive technologies are easy to find. The accuracy of Google’s voice recognition technology, for example, improved from 84 percent in 2012 to 98 percent less than two years later. Computer vision has progressed rapidly as well. A standard benchmark used by computer vision researchers has shown a fourfold improvement in image classification accuracy from 2010 to 2014. Facebook reported in a peer-reviewed paper that its DeepFace technology can now recognize faces with 97 percent accuracy.
Artificial Intelligence will likely become pervasive in the years ahead. Technological progress and commercialisation should expand the impact of these technologies on organisations over the next five years and beyond. A growing number of organisations will likely find compelling uses for these technologies; leading organisations may find innovative applications that dramatically improve their performance or create new capabilities while enhancing their competitive position. IT organizations can start developing awareness of these technologies, evaluating opportunities to pilot them and presenting leaders in their organisations with options for creating value with them. Senior business and public sector leaders should reflect on how AI will affect their sector and their own organization and how these technologies can foster innovation and improve operating performance.
- Where are we at the moment in terms of ready-to-implement technology versus wishful thinking?
Artificial intelligence will disrupt businesses and industries on a global scale, and we see this shift going well beyond deploying analytics, cognitive computing or machine learning systems in isolation. Analyst firm IDC predicts that the worldwide content analytics, discovery and cognitive systems software market will grow from US$4.5 billion in 2014 to US$9.2 billion in 20191, with others citing these systems as catalyst to have a US$5 trillion – US$7 trillion potential economic impact by 2025.
We believe AI in various forms is already being implemented across organisations to serve their clients and operations. HCL is also involved in similar projects across the globe. Going forward we expect more and more AI based solutions and services being produced and adopted across organisations. With all this happening, we are sure that all this will lead to deeper debate on Man Vs Machine and few people may very soon predict machines taking over men sooner that predicted.
- What do you think are the main challenges in adopting AI technologies, from machine learning through to image recognition, in business?
Recent and ongoing progress in the development and commercialization of AI and cognitive technologies is creating new opportunities for organizations. But these opportunities come with challenges and risks. Some examples:
Unpredictable costs and timelines
AI technologies are evolving rapidly. Highly customised or innovative applications, such as automating the screening of patients for clinical trials or the provision of financial advice, are closer to research projects than systems integration projects. These will involve unpredictable costs and timelines. This is not the case for all uses of AI technologies, though. Some packaged applications for purposes as diverse as forms processing, email marketing, sales forecasting, and customer service are embedding AI technologies, shielding organizations from their complexity while improving functionality and performance.
Scarcity of technical talent
Demand for expertise in some AI technologies, such as machine learning, computer vision, and natural language processing has been on the rise in recent years. Knowledge of rapidly changing landscape of cognitive technology vendors is likely to be in short supply. Organisations may struggle to staff teams with the talent required to pilot and build systems using these technologies.
Managing staffing and organisational impact
Organisations may need to redesign tasks, jobs, management practices, and performance goals when they implement AI technologies. These technologies may be used to eliminate jobs or curtail growth in staffing levels. They may also be used to automate specific tasks, changing how workers allocate their time and require them to interact with systems in new ways. Workers may spend less time performing routine tasks, handling only exceptional cases and spending more time focusing on work that requires high-end involvement. For all these reasons, we believe AI technology deployments are different from traditional IT deployments and their impact on organisations requires greater thought.
- Which industries do you believe will be the pioneers in broadly adopting AI technologies?
There has been a lot of buzz around AI in almost all major industry segments. However we believe that Media/Publishing/Advertising and BFSI will be the front runners in adopting the AI technologies, closely followed by healthcare, life sciences and TTL verticals.
- What is the key proposition of HCL in enabling an AI-empowered business?
HCL is investing early to drive more innovation and infuse more intelligence across our global business to help clients accelerate the integration of intelligence and automation to transform their businesses. HCL has committed to infuse artificial intelligence across the technology landscape for its clients.
HCL has developed a framework called DryICE. HCL DryICE comprises Automation and Orchestration bonded as a single service which enables the 21st Century Enterprise to be “Agile as a startup” while delivering like a “lean enterprise”.
Made up of 25+ components, DryICE consists of a well-proven Monitoring layer (MTaaS), Machine learning components (on proven supercomputing systems), Automation Modules, Orchestration components, Knowledge Management and a Reporting layer – all tied together in a real pragmatic ITSM based framework, the HCL Gold Blue Print. The modular structure of DryICE means that we can deploy the right modules depending on the process maturity and requirements of the customer – while ensuring that he pays for only what he needs. Also the layered architecture ensures that customers get the benefit of an end-to-end system – while the ITSM binding ensures that the benefits or Automation are aligned with actual IT processes that IT organisations understand.
“HCL DryICE comprises Automation & Orchestration bonded as a single service which enables the 21st Century Enterprise to be “Agile as a startup” while delivering like a “lean enterprise”
The Pragmatic approach of DryICE implementations ensures that we establish the foundation IT systems; to make Enterprise IT “Automation Ready”. And the modular architecture ensures that the right components are deployed at the right time and place, to ensure real-world benefits without any risk of performance loss.
- What new products & solutions can we expect from HCL in the immediate future?
HCL is focused on investing in new products and develop long-term plans with incremental milestones to benefit from the technology’s future progression. Based on experience with clients and extensive research, we have identified multiple opportunities across verticals and service lines for innovative application of AI and cognitive computing, as well as examined how the technology might evolve in the future. There are multiple solutions that HCL is working on in the AI and cognitive computing space. These solutions cover areas around Next Generation Workplace Services, Next Generation Data Centre Services, and Security Intelligence.