Technology has the potential to make the world a better place. The ambition of Dell Technologies is to create solutions that drive human progress. We see our role in bringing innovation to people so they can thrive in the digital economy. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of these innovations that truly have the power to reshape the way we live and work. Service Providers, together with us and the entire ecosystem, should look at this technology as a true positive force, rather than a threat.
Sometimes it is thought that AI is still way off in the future, but already today, both public institutions and enterprises are benefitting from the advantages AI and Machine Learning (ML) have to offer. One astonishing example and Dell Technologies customer is Aerofarms – a notable player in the agriculture industry, Aerofarms exploits the largest vertical farm in the world, in New Jersey. Aerofarms uses 95% less water than traditional farming, and increases productivity per field farmer by 130 to 390 times. Aerofarms is not just a farm, they are in essence a technology company, using sensors to measure everything. One implementation of Machine Learning enables Aerofarms to find the optimal light to encourage photosynthesis. Read the Aerofarms Story. Aerofarms leverage multiple solutions of Dell, notably our Edge Gateway 3000 series.
Another example, closer to home: the University of Pisa – one of the oldest universities in the world – uses AI and ML for research in diverse fields as machine translation, image captioning and cancer treatment response prediction. The IT of the University has turned into a true AI-as-a-Service provider, not only for internal research institutes but also for the local ecosystem of companies in Pisa. The focal point of this development is the Dell/Intel Competence Centre for Cloud and High Performance Computing (HPC) at the University of Pisa.
AI is for real
Although these examples are real and already provide Return on Investment, we are barely scratching the surface of what is possible. AI is a technology that empowers other innovations to blossom and has an accelerator effect. Business leaders understand the transformative power of AI. At the end of last year, Forrester research confirmed that 70% of enterprises will implement AI in the next 12 months. That is huge if you take into account that it is still considered an ‘emerging technology’.
Some still doubt the beneficial effects of AI on our society. Indeed, this new wave of automation will cost jobs, but at the same time it will also create new jobs. The overall impact on the workforce will be positive, Gartner says. And it cannot be denied that job satisfaction can be increased if workers can offload repetitive tasks to machines and focus on higher order pursuits that focus on creativity, education and strategy.
AI is bound for the cloud
For Service Providers, it’s high time to explore the opportunities AI has on offer. It is obvious the cloud will play a huge role in delivering AI, which is a very compute intensive application. Companies that want to unleash its power, will either build a full infrastructure themselves or use the cloud for some of the processing. Especially mid-sized companies will turn to the cloud, probably using a mix of public and private cloud. If these companies are using highly sensitive personal data to build a model, they will not upload this information in a public cloud. On the other hand, the public cloud can be the right place to develop a model using large amounts of public data.
AI is also driving the further development of edge computing: when used in customer facing applications, it is wise to perform the processing as close to the customer as possible. Putting all the processing in the cloud will not work if response times are critical, so data will likely reside on the edge. The architecture of edge computing reduces the amount of data sent to the cloud and decreases network and internet latency. As I discussed in a previous blog, edge computing offers huge opportunities to the Service Provider community, with a CAGR of well over 30%.
Data form the basis of any AI project, and in many cases, personal data will be used. This will automatically direct customers to European Cloud Service Providers who offer a safe, European haven for these data. I actively encourage Service Providers to explore the possibilities of setting up an offering of AI-as-a-Service for this type of customer.
Eat your own dogfood
As this is a relatively new technology, for many services companies there will be a learning curve. I see two possibilities of learning faster: by engaging in an ecosystem where knowledge can be exchanged and by using AI themselves. I specifically think of ecosystems with partners like startups that have a vertical offering around AI or ML, Hadoop vendors or distributors who can help build powerful databases for analytics, and of course a vendor like Dell EMC who can deliver specialized infrastructure. A second way of learning faster: eat your own dogfood – start using AI internally. For instance to diagnose your infrastructure, learn from this experience and pass on know-how to customers. A specific area where you can deploy AI is in the domain of cybersecurity where Machine Learning can shorten the reaction time to external threats.
Looking at the future, I see lots of opportunities for us to work together with Service Providers that build out expertise around Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. No artificial intelligence needed to make that prediction, just plain common sense…