Always 'Just Around the Corner,' AI Finally Arrives

AI has perpetually been tomorrow's technology, but now it has arrived, bringing opportunities for enterprises, cloud providers and service providers, says Heavy Reading Analyst Steve Bell.

Mitch Wagner, Executive Editor, Light Reading

February 15, 2017

4 Min Read
Always 'Just Around the Corner,' AI Finally Arrives

After years of being on the verge of arriving, the AI revolution is here, says Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Steve Bell.

"There's a saying that AI is going to be big in the next ten years, but they've been saying that for the last 20 years," the Heavy Reading man said in a wide-ranging interview with Light Reading.

Whenever there's a breakthrough in an aspect of computing -- storage, compute or programming -- pundits have predicted a breakthrough in AI would follow, only to be disappointed, Bell said. But this time it's happening -- not soon, but now -- driven by multiple compute breakthroughs at once: increased compute power, natural language processing, computer vision, Internet of Things and emerging software development kits and platforms.

And the emerging technology is driving adoption, Bell says. "More people are looking at AI, because of the fact that visual recognition and using voice as an interface makes processing data and commanding what you want that much easier." A combination of developments, rather than a single breakthrough, are driving adoption.

Bell sees tremendous opportunity in the combination of AI and the Internet of Things. Combining AI with robots, smart devices, autonomous vehicles, autonomous mines, utilities and gas and oil production, both now and in the future, can lead to reduced cost, improved efficiency and a safer workplaces.

"Although it's called the Internet of Things, it's an Internet of data intelligence. It's the data that's generated from wearables, devices and sensors, using the data for monetization services and to enhance lifestyles and business operation, that is really the crux and value of the Internet of things," Bell says. "And that is where utilizing artificial intelligence -- machine learning and deep learning -- is coming together."

Additionally, AI is valuable in improving threat intelligence, with machines learning to identify patterns and anomalies -- particularly anomalies -- to detect threats and problems with networks and systems much faster, Bell says.

A shortage of AI specialists and data scientists is a roadblock to implementing AI. That's where companies such as Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) come in -- they are providing tools and platforms so developers don't have to reinvent the wheel to take advantage of AI, Bell says. For example, Google bought DeepMind Technologies to provide AI technology, at a cost of more than $500 million, in 2014.

Similarly, AI services such as Amazon Alexa, Google's assistant, and Microsoft Cortana are available as platform interfaces that developers can build apps for, Bell says.

AI is a natural domain for cloud providers. "What do cloud providers have a lot of? Data," Bell says. AI can help cloud providers and their customers mine data, and combine unstructured data. "Humans are good at finding patterns, but they are not good at using vast amounts of unstructured data, sifting it and creating patterns and connections that aren't obvious," Bell says. Google and Bing search engines have been doing that for years, and AI is a natural extension.

Want to know more about the cloud? Visit Light Reading Enterprise Cloud.

But telcos don't have to be left behind. AI creates an opportunity for service providers to create business value for customers -- or to get overtaken, if cloud providers end up making all the advances, Bell says.

Savvy operators can command the "virtual edge," combining AI-driven security with virtualization and software-defined networking connecting the operators' own networks with the enterprise.

AT&T is providing a model for success with its Threat Intellect program, where it's analyzing data flowing over the network to provide value-add service to the enterprise and cloud operators. AT&T is in deals with IBM, Microsoft and AWS to provide secure threat intelligence capability. (See AT&T Unveils Powerful New Security Platform.)

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About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

Executive Editor, Light Reading

San Diego-based Mitch Wagner is many things. As well as being "our guy" on the West Coast (of the US, not Scotland, or anywhere else with indifferent meteorological conditions), he's a husband (to his wife), dissatisfied Democrat, American (so he could be President some day), nonobservant Jew, and science fiction fan. Not necessarily in that order.

He's also one half of a special duo, along with Minnie, who is the co-habitor of the West Coast Bureau and Light Reading's primary chewer of sticks, though she is not the only one on the team who regularly munches on bark.

Wagner, whose previous positions include Editor-in-Chief at Internet Evolution and Executive Editor at InformationWeek, will be responsible for tracking and reporting on developments in Silicon Valley and other US West Coast hotspots of communications technology innovation.

Beats: Software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), IP networking, and colored foods (such as 'green rice').

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