Machine learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) represent one of the biggest disruptions to your career according to John Roese, CTO of Dell Technologies. During the Dell Technology World keynote, Roese made this bold but accurate statement. Despite the hype, AI is real and can’t be ignored. Leading businesses are using machine learning to deliver quantifiable business value today. For example, Google used the AI knowledge gathered from its DeepMind acquisition to improve its cooling systems, saving the company of hundreds of millions of dollars.
3 Ways AI Changes Business
Roese shared a vision for how AI technologies would change every aspect of business through:
1. AI-enabled user experiences. Roese said many companies are focusing on applying human interaction interfaces, such as voice, to technology. Designing this type of interface requires learning skills in new areas such as natural language processing, visual sensing, and predictive analytics.
2. AI-Driven systems business processes. AI is the new toolset to help reimage business processes by embedding analytics and intelligence deeply into a process. This should enable companies to deliver frictionless insight by coordinating data from a variety of sources.
3. AI-optimized infrastructure (such as transportation, IT, Healthcare infrastructure). As we get a connected sensor-enabled infrastructure, AI can help a business make sense of the data and optimize the performance and uptime of equipment and services.
Roese described how a company can use AI to change interaction with systems that we take for granted, making these systems smarter. For example, companies can use voice control for everything from launching videoconferences in rooms to controlling smart connected equipment.
We’ve seen the rise of voice interfaces in the home but these could also become smarter. For example, a person’s alarm system could report that their child has come home from school versus someone has entered the house.
AI is part of the new digital transformation toolkit that enables companies to improve existing business processes with advanced analytics. The past ten years of the mobile, IoT and big data era have focused on connecting devices, collecting vast volumes of data and preprocessing it for advanced analytics. Various AI disciplines, such as machine learning and deep learning, are the next evolution of a corporation’s analytics journey.
By marrying vast compute with advanced mathematical models, we can move beyond data dashboards to actionable insights that can help a wide variety of roles. One interesting piece of advice from Roese is that IT and business leaders need to stop thinking of AI as a separate thing. A majority of business processes must embed AI functions for advanced analytics, such as pattern matching and data correlation. In fact, the more embedded AI becomes, the deeper the potential of its value.
Of course, AI is not without its challenges or its need for advanced infrastructure support. Companies need to design and run large mathematical models on vast volumes of data in the cloud or at a corporation’s data center. These models must be trained for tasks such as image and speech recognition, natural language processing, visual search, and creating personalized recommendations. These models, once perfected, run on a variety of devices such as PCs and smartphones. Dell aims to be the premier provider of server and storage infrastructure used to power the next generation of AI services.
New products for an Artificial Intelligence world
ML workloads require high performance and capacity to manage and analyze structured and unstructured data rapidly. As a result, Dell EMC launched two new four-socket servers. The PowerEdge R940xa, was designed to improve application performance by combining up to four CPUs with four graphics processing units (GPUs) in a 1:1 ratio, and deliver low-latency with direct-attached non-volatile memory express (NVMe) drives.
Additionally, these servers also support field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) to improve performance for data-intensive computations further. Intel, a maker of FPGAs, has touted FPGAs as an enabler of breakthrough performance that would surpass GPUs for AI applications. Recent announcements highlight that both Dell and Microsoft agree that FPGAs are desirable for at least of portion of high-performance AI applications.
Dell EMC also announced its next-generation PowerMax storage solution, built with a machine learning engine which makes autonomous storage a reality. Leveraging predictive analytics and pattern recognition, a single PowerMax system analyzes and forecasts 40 million data sets in real-time per array4, driving six billion decisions per day. PowerMax’s intelligent self-management capabilities allow organizations to refocus IT resources and personnel on more strategic business outcomes.
New ways to think about work
Many organizations start their AI Journey creating efficiencies in existing business processes. However, the real win for AI comes when companies use AI to perform tasks that were difficult or impossible to do in the past. For example, AI can be trained to recognize signs of specific diseases in Xrays and sort through thousands of resumes quickly to find potential job applicants. Moreover, autonomous driving can only happen with AI.
Roese and the Dell team are spot on with their assessment of how AI will impact individual jobs and overall business processes. AI hype around automation creates both doubt in the technology’s efficacy and fear that AI may eliminate jobs. It’s true that AI can replace certain repetitive aspects of a job, but that isn’t necessarily a person’s entire job.
The first level of AI algorithms, based in the field of machine learning, provide the opportunity to eliminate the undesirable, repetitive aspects of an individual’s job. This creates the opportunity for a company’s employees to focus on higher value, more complex and nuanced activities such as customer assistance in retail and designing new products. It’s a brave new world, but that doesn’t mean it has to be dystopian or Orwellian. To succeed in a new AI-empowered world, businesses need more than new technology. Companies must focus on retraining the workforce and designing ethical uses of AI.