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AI and the cloud - a match made in heaven

Tue, 1st May 2018
FYI, this story is more than a year old

When it comes to technology trends, they don't get much bigger than cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI).

Together, they have the potential to deliver benefits to businesses that have previously been unimagined.

Separately, the two technologies are already well established.

The global AI market is expected to be worth almost $60 billion by 2025, up from $2.5 billion at the end of 2017.

Meanwhile, the cloud industry has shifted from hype to broad adoption. The public cloud sector alone already is worth more than $200 billion and forecast to top $1,250 billion by 2025.

The link between cloud and AI

It's 25 years since Richard Stallman wrote the GNU General Public License that spawned a generation of open source software projects.

Open source and free software enabled the likes of Google and Amazon to create vast server farms at a cost that would not have been possible had they had to pay licensing fees.

Now, AI is taking off and this is in no small part due to such cloud platforms.

The cloud is fundamental to the AI model in two ways. Firstly, the data sets these companies are using would not be accessible if it was not for the cloud.

Secondly, only the cloud can enable businesses to cope with the phenomenal scale required by providing such data-intensive services to multiple clients at an affordable cost.

Of course, one of the biggest factors holding AI back from reaching critical mass is the shortage of people within enterprises with the skills to program it.

This means that, while businesses may know how they want to use AI, they don't have the means of building an application or algorithm to produce the results they need.

The cloud changes this as it means that years of research and tools are available to developers tasked with creating AI solutions.

This can completely change the way businesses scale as those start-ups were founded by incredibly smart people that are building new and exciting AI functionalities and have infinite resources waiting to be drawn upon in the cloud.

Early success stories

There are already some success stories where start-up firms have used AI to find new solutions to existing problems.

For example, Veritone has developed an operating system for AI using a cloud-based cognitive computing platform that analyses a vast number of datasets from different sources.

The company believes the full potential of its “cognitive cloud” platform will only be unlocked when it is open to all businesses, institutions, and individuals.

Meanwhile, Quantifi is a company using analytics software based on AI and machine learning to optimise digital advertisement placements for brands.

As well as the ability to analyse datasets at a rate of knots, this model unleashes the ‘test and learn' capabilities of AI and the cloud.

Quantifi clients can harness the power of data which has been collected from thousands of other digital ad experiments, which means they can deliver results quickly and grow at scale.

This would not be possible without the cloud and enables Quantifi to continually add new information to its existing pool of data.

The big players

As well as start-ups creating new revenue drivers through AI and machine learning, the big four cloud platforms have all declared an interest in AI during the past couple of years.

AI requires a huge amount of compute power, so the public cloud - with its near-infinite computer and data processing power - is the ideal place for such applications to be built.

The aim of companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google and IBM is to create innovative AI applications that businesses can use and thus drive increased traffic through their public cloud ecosystems.

The explosion in investment by these ‘hyper-scalers' in AI is almost definitive proof that the technology is inextricably linked to the cloud.

IBM Watson's natural-language searches have been used to develop cognitive retail as well as DNA analysis in cancer patients.

At the same time, voice-recognition solution Amazon Echo has made the leap from the kitchen table to the enterprise R-D lab.

Partnerships with the likes of Hive and Nest mean that you can use Alexa to turn your heating up or down, and later this year Toyota drivers will be able to ask Alexa for new updates, build shopping lists and control connected smart home devices from their vehicle.

The number of companies innovating with these AI-based platforms demonstrates the desire to invest in the capabilities of cognitive technologies.

As the power of AI continues to evolve, its links with the cloud will continue to strengthen. Together, they will deliver business benefits for organisations of all sizes in coming years.

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