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AT&T expert discusses preparing for the future of AI

10 Nov 2017
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Article by Jason Yu, director of Strategy & Innovation for Australia and New Zealand at AT&T

No longer just a sci-fi concept, artificial intelligence (AI) is already part of our data-driven world. Consider the intelligent personal assistant on your smartphone, the music or movie recommendations that introduce you to a new favourite, or your bank’s credit card fraud detection system: AI technology enhances our lives every day.  

But despite the impressive growth of AI over the last few decades, the sector is still in its infancy. This is good news for Asia Pacific. With massive and rapidly urbanising populations, rising living standards and a generation of mobile-empowered tech savvy youth’s, our region is on track to drive the future of AI.

What could our AI future look like?

The first step toward advanced AI is smart automation and predictive analytics. This will help make drones, connected cars, connected appliances and robots an everyday reality. We see a future where you’ll be able to communicate with your home appliances to make shopping requests to prepare a meal, where your self-driving car will take itself for repairs without you lifting a finger, and where AI will improve our lives at home, school and work.

  • Support for an aging population: Asia's elderly population is likely to reach nearly 923 million by the middle of this century. As a result, the region is set to become one of the oldest in the world in the next few decades. AI-enabled devices could help older adults keep track of safety matters and provide an avenue for social connection.
  • Better healthcare for everyone: Going beyond heart-rate monitoring and step counting, smart devices may soon be able to collect advanced vital signs from blood tests, glucose measurements and more. AI could help identify abnormalities and early signs of illnesses, perhaps even faster than through routine check-ups, to improve patient outcomes and reduce hospital visits. It could even suggest the best course of personalised treatment based on billions of data points.
  • Personalised hands-on learning: Bringing AI into the classroom could make education more interactive and personalised. We might use AI-enabled learning companions to direct the learning experience in real-time, guiding and supporting children at their own pace. Truly customised courses and immersive virtual reality experiences could make education more meaningful and effective, not to mention more fun.
  • Enhanced business systems and services: As cyber criminals become more sophisticated, AI is becoming crucial to identifying network threats and keeping information and communications secure. Some businesses are also exploring the use of AI to improve the customer experience. While resolving issues more quickly, AI systems can predict customer behavior and provide proactive recommendations of offers and services to uniquely appeal to them.

Making AI accessible

More broadly, AI is expected to impact product development and innovation across all industries. This starts with making AI more accessible to entrepreneurs and businesses.

AT&T has been building AI and machine learning systems for decades, using algorithms to automate operations such as common call center procedures, and to analyse and correct network outages. We’re now using AI to help make our global network more secure, self-healing and self-resilient. AI is also vital to improving traffic flow as we evolve toward 5G and manage the rapid growth of video traffic on mobile networks. And as the adoption of the Internet of Things continue to rapidly scale up, generating large volumes of data, AI will form a key building block to enable organisations to quickly analyse, gather insights and make dynamic decisions.

At the same time, we’re working on tools that will make the development of machine learning and AI systems as easy as creating a website. Our aim is to make it simple for people without programming experience to develop AI apps.

For example, we recently announced that we’re collaborating with Tech Mahindra to build an open source AI platform, Acumos, hosted by The Linux Foundation. The Acumos platform will make it easy to build, share and deploy AI applications by providing a marketplace for accessing, using and enhancing those applications.  Our goal is to continue to research and create intelligent systems that can adapt, learn and mature over time.

While AI is already a part of our lives now, the future possibilities are endless. The power of machine learning and AI, allied with the incredible volumes of data generated on our networks today, and the power of human imagination, will enable Asian innovators to create new solutions to the world’s challenges.

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