In a highly competitive and rapidly changing business environment, digital transformation is a must-do for organisations to deliver value to their customers. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has emerged as one of the main enablers of this technological transformation, helping companies become more efficient, innovative, flexible and adaptive.
To understand how AI-led solutions are helping businesses, Moneycontrol’s Technology and Startups Editor Chandra R Srikanth in a fireside chat with Dr Colin Parris, Senior Vice-President & CTO, GE Digital, discussed the nuances of the revolutionary technology and how companies can make the digital shift.
An organisation looking to hop on to the AI bandwagon should begin with putting customer value at the centre, then optimise operations, building insights from data, and use them to make smarter processes, Dr Parris, who has worked extensively in the digital industrial space, said.
He also shed light on GE’s Digital Twin framework that finds use across sectors—aviation, energy, healthcare and manufacturing— with the focus on early warnings, continuous predictions and dynamic optimisations to reduce operational costs, streamline processes, and boost productivity.
While AI has been in use since the 1960s, industrial AI is of recent vintage. “In Industrial AI we take the physics and the finance that we know and combine that with the data and AI capabilities to figure out a way to use the AI in a zone where we do not make the mistakes. And as you blend physics and AI with the right constraints and things like Humble AI, you have the ability to deliver value,” said Dr Parris, who has done some inspiring work in Humble AI, said.
For adopting Industrial AI, companies must focus on three things—digital maturity of the industry in terms of data collection, the processes in the industry (if they are organised and laid out in workflows), and the industry’s access to talent that can make the digital transformation happen.
Speaking about the AI talent pool in India, Dr Parris said, “India has a wealth of talent and it is constantly growing. When I look at some of the work coming out of India, not just in terms of papers but also in terms of the startups, I think it is amazing.”
India’s AI ecosystem also came up for discussion at a roundtable where Abhishek Singh, CEO, National e-Governance Division; Vinod Bhat, Chief Information Officer, Vistara Tata-SIA Airlines; Dr Rimjhim Agrawal, co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, BrainSight Technology Pvt Ltd and Prof Mausam, Founding Member, School of AI, IIT-Delhi, delved into the country’s AI readiness and ways to strengthen it.
Sharing the perspective of the aviation industry and changes brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, Bhat said, “The customer touch-points were hugely impacted and a lot of data was generated. This data had to be used from a digital point of view, a customer experience point of view and also giving them personalised offers.”
Vistara Tata-SIA is focused on leveraging AI to incorporate it into the fabric of the enterprise. The company has a centre for digital excellence that looks at collaborating with startups and technology partners to streamline processes, employ technological solutions to solve business problems and shift from a reactive model to a proactive one.
In the healthcare domain, too, AI is revolutionising processes and diagnosis. “Since India is a country where the population is huge and there are very few healthcare professionals who can assist those people, AI becomes a necessity and in the future, every system in healthcare will be assisted by AI,” said Dr Agrawal.
BrainSight Technology has been focusing on training employees and inculcating subject-matter knowledge through a continuous learning mechanism and peer-coding sessions for developing better diagnostic platforms.
India’s position in AI compared with Southeast Asian countries has been a topic of debate. When asked about how prepared India is to be an AI superpower, Prof Mausam said the country is in a good position as far as AI companies and jobs are concerned but “we lack an AI-ready talent pool and the quality and quantity of AI research publications”.
Stressing the need for upskilling students as well as teachers and bringing AI training into academia, Prof Mausam talked about learning through experimenting. Specialisation programs should be designed to encourage people from diverse fields to have a thorough understanding of AI.
While the adoption of AI is growing rapidly in the industrial space, the Indian government, too, has been keen on leveraging emerging technologies with the Digital India and Start-up India programmes.
“Where India’s real strength lies is in having an AI-ready workforce and start-ups working in the space. Stanford’s Index had ranked India as number two in the AI-readiness index and the key strengths that helped India reach this level was having engineers who are trained in AI, ML (machine learning) and deep learning, who can do jobs specialising in AI,” said Abhishek Singh.
It needs acceleration. “The national programme on AI will ensure that sufficient funds are allocated towards it and sufficient incentives are given to professors, institutions and early-stage start-ups,” Singh said.
Along with encouraging research and infrastructure, India should also focus on scaling up AI adoption. Singh emphasised the need for defining data standards and data protocols, making them publicly available, and building a data-sharing platform ecosystem for researchers.
Excited about an AI world, our experts spelt out the steps needed to foster smart businesses and make India an AI superpower. Encouraging investments in research and AI-ready infrastructure, building a talent pool, boosting data capabilities and encouraging data sharing were some of the factors they highlighted.
Watch the full discussion
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