Technical advancements in the fields of data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) are driving innovation in many parts of the world. Accenture has identified three primary job categories that will emerge with the growing uptake of AI applications. These will be trainers, who will teach the bots how to perform a task; explainers who will help bridge the gaps between technologists and business leaders by simplifying the complexities of AI; and sustainers, who will ensure the ethics and compliance of AI systems.
India is still catching up with this trend. Only 0.7 per cent of the country’s GDP is contributed to research and development, which is well below 2.7 per cent in the US and 2.15 per cent in China. Some of the key areas where AI is finding adoption in India are discussed below…
- Speech recognition and natural language: Neural networks are used in virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google voice, which enable them to come alive to the sound of “Hello Siri” or “Ok Google”. These virtual assistants include algorithms that are well equipped to manage large data sets in order to decode queries and generate a suitable response to help semi-automate various tasks.
- Google Photos: With the help of machine learning and neural networks, Google Photos detects faces and backgrounds in pictures to classify them into groups such as people, places, videos.
- Travel and navigation: AI is rapidly transforming transportation in India. Mobility-on-demand services such as Uber and Ola are using AI to match a vehicle and find the best route, thus enabling a fast commute. AI also detects traffic congestion and calculates the delay it might cause in travel. Further, it is used in carpooling to align people travelling on the same route. Logistic companies are widely using AI to optimise the shortest routes for the quickest delivery. AI also evaluates the demand-supply condition to determine the surge in cab prices.
- Smart features of Gmail and social media websites: With the help of AI, Gmail classifies incoming emails based on their content into primary, social, promotions and spam categories, and also suggests smart replies. Further, social media sites like Facebook and Instagram observe past activities, interactions, behaviour and web searches to display targeted ads on the user’s page. LinkedIn uses machine learning to provide the right job recommendations and suggest connections based on the user’s workplace, expertise and interest.
- E-commerce: AI enables e-commerce search engines to think the way humans do. With machine learning, the software automatically tags, organises and virtually searches content enabling customer-centric search. Recently, a visual search engine was introduced, which can generate appropriate results of the desired product on the basis of the image provided by users. AI assistants and chatbots help brands respond to customer enquiries and also provide product recommendations. Amazon uses AI to identify products that are in demand to provide customised recommendations based on customer search, whereas Alibaba’s customer service chatbots process 95 per cent of customer enquiries. AI not only facilitates transactions and provides an institutional infrastructure but also matches buyers and sellers in the best possible manner in an automated way.
While the scope of AI in banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) is tremendous, its implementation in India is at a nascent stage. That said, the banking sector is now turning to AI, which is benefiting both employees and customers. Many banks have introduced chatbots backed by AI abilities. They are capable of understanding customers’ emotions by analysing their voice and facial expressions and conversing with them accordingly. The State Bank of India (SBI) uses AI-powered chat assistant SIA (SBI intelligent assistant), which addresses customer enquiries and helps in performing everyday banking tasks, while HDFC Bank uses EVA (electronic virtual assistant).
- Fraud detection and risk management: With the help of AI and machine learning, irregular activity in the account can be tracked, which enables banks to detect credit card fraud and abort money laundry. Tailored products can be offered to clients after analysing historical data. This eliminates human error. With advanced AI techniques, ATM frauds and crimes can be detected and prevented through face recognition using real-time camera images. AI also uses optical character recognition software to capture data and generate insights, which cuts down back-office processing time and enables more digitalised and automated processing.
- Investment predictions: AI is used by analysts, investors and other key players in predicting market movements. These advancements eliminate human bias and sampling restrictions while making predictions and recommendations, thus benefiting financial institutions as well as customers. AI adoption in the financial sector is likely to have a significant socio-economic impact, as it will not only help provide better customer experience, but will also create investment opportunities and improve risk management.
AI is bringing significant transformation not only in civilian activities, but is also impacting the way military operations are being conducted. In India, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has established the high-level Defence AI Council for providing strategic direction towards the adoption of AI in defence. The Centre of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics (CAIR) has developed probes like snake robots, hexa-bots and sentries. It has a library for AI-based algorithms and data mining toolboxes, which could potentially be used for image/video recognition, natural language processing and swarming. AI engines can also pick out particular words used for social media posts to understand and further analyse users’ sentiments; these technologies are likely to amplify counter-terrorism. AI is not limited to the armed forces and the aviation sector, but is also being incorporated in the Indian navy.
CAIR has developed a software network, NETRA (Network Traffic Analysis), an internet surveillance system, which is used to keep a check on all internet traffic inside India. NETRA will be used by the Intelligence Bureau and the Research and Analysis Wing to analyse internet traffic. The Airborne Early Warning and Control System of the Defence Research and Development Organisation controls the security systems of the Indian Air Force and warns if any suspicious activity is cited.
AI is helping the sector eliminate manual testing processes. There are several domestic companies in India that provide AI solutions. Gridbots has developed a SCARA (selective compliance assembly robot arm) robot, which is used for activities requiring high speed and precision. Panasonic has opened a plant named Technopark in Jhajjar, Haryana, which manufactures air conditioners and washing machines using AI-controlled production and testing processes.
The sector is developing smart factories through the adoption of AI, natural language processing and machine learning. For example, Brilliant Factory by General Electric uses industrial IoT, AI, big data analytics and cloud computing, which support decision-making with real-time visibility and operational intelligence.
The video game industry is probably one of the earliest adopters of AI. Today, its applications have increased manyfold. AI helps predict the future behaviour patterns of human gamers, making the computer opponent more sophisticated and challenging. In games like CS GO, Fortnite, PUBG and FIFA, the gamer first plays against AI-powered bots before moving to real players. For instance, in DOTA 2, a strategy-based game, players have to make decisions every second to beat the pro players. Further, some AI opponents in first-person shooter games can detect player movements, look for footprints or even take cover when a human opponent fires on them.
Net, net, with the rise of AI and its applications, the line between virtual and real has started to blur. Going forward, AI has the potential to become a widely used technology used in all sectors and occupations.