Aug 8, 2018

AI for Everybody

Artificial intelligence has so far been mainly the plaything of big tech companies like Amazon, Baidu, Google, and Microsoft, as well as some startups. For many other companies and parts of the economy, AI systems are too expensive and too difficult to implement fully.

What's the solution? Machine-learning tools based in the cloud are bringing AI to a far broader audience. So far, Amazon dominates cloud AI with its AWS subsidiary. Google is challenging that with TensorFlow, an open-source AI library that can be used to build other machine-learning software. Recently Google announced Cloud AutoML, a suite of pre-trained systems that could make AI simpler to use.

Microsoft, which has its own AI-powered cloud platform, Azure, is teaming up with Amazon to offer Gluon, an open-source deep-learning library. Gluon is supposed to make building neural netsa key technology in AI that crudely mimics how the human brain learns, as easy as building a smartphone app.

It is uncertain which of these companies will become the leader in offering AI cloud services.  But it is a huge business opportunity for the winners. These products will be essential if the AI revolution is going to spread more broadly through different parts of the economy.

Currently AI is used mostly in the tech industry, where it has created efficiencies and produced new products and services. But many other businesses and industries have struggled to take advantage of the advances in artificial intelligence. Sectors such as medicine, manufacturing, and energy could also be transformed if they were able to implement the technology more fully, with a huge boost to economic productivity.

Most companies, though, still don't have enough people who know how to use cloud AI. So Amazon and Google are also setting up consultancy services. Once the cloud puts the technology within the reach of almost everyone, the real AI revolution can begin.