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Breaking the glass ceiling – a view into the future of AI in India

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By Deepak Jha, General Manager (AIPF), NEC Corporation India

Artificial Intelligence is one of the most influential technologies in the world today. It has come a long way from being a nascent ideology to having permeated across a myriad of industries ranging from manufacturing to e-commerce, affecting change at the most fundamental level, setting exponential growth in motion, and solving complex business challenges. Artificial intelligence is when machines think, learn and make decisions similar to humans. Today, it has gone from being a niche tool used for financial enterprises and large technology implementations to being more democratized. Personnel from non-technological backgrounds adopt AI processes in their functional roles as it assists in elimination of “Human error” with deeper data analysis alongside maintaining equilibrium and scalability

According to a report State Of Artificial Intelligence In India 2021 by AIM & TAPMI, the Indian Artificial Intelligence market as of July-August 2021 is valued at $7.8 billion, representing a 22% increase in market size from 2020. Further, it also states that approximately 109K AI Engineers are working in India across organizations, denoting a 20% rise from last year. The writing on the wall is clear – AI is here to stay and India is shaping up to be a competitive player in the global market! At this juncture, with the foundations of a future being laid with AI, it is prudent to ask how it percolates down to our everyday lives. Ultimately, how is AI benefiting the common person?

Here are a few sectors that AI is benefitting, with scope for more profound impact as we advance.

The Banking and Financial Services industry has been undergoing a revolution, transforming into a digital-first and paperless industry. We find more and more solutions available today to make banking easier and safer for consumers, starting with transactions and payments to KYC processes being enabled digitally. AI and ML-powered solutions have the potential to take this a notch further, wherein not only is the customer’s protection ensured, the banks and financial institutions are also protected from frauds, malpractice, and so on. These solutions can use biometric and AI solutions to help banks and FIs to verify customer identities better, detect fraudulent transactions from a sea of transactions, detect non-performing assets (NPAs), and much more. Furthermore, with these institutions requiring sensitive and personal data from its customers, these tools serve as powerful means to ensure that customer data is dealt with utmost care and privacy at any given moment.

Further, in the Insurance sector, the phrase ‘insurance fraud’ is one that has been heard too often, everywhere, whether it is medical or auto or any other kind of insurance. Committing insurance fraud had probably gotten too easy at one point, which harms insurance companies and their credibility and unfairly diverts resources. AI/ML tools have proven effective in a variety of ways. Not only can it detect specific claims as being false, it also can predict possible claim value. Further, these tools can also be used to help build insurance models using predictive analytics, thereby saving time and reducing knowledge capital.

The importance of a robust healthcare system for any nation cannot be stressed enough. No doubt, this has been magnified immensely since the outbreak of the pandemic. Furthermore, the pandemic brought the fissures in the Indian healthcare system into sharp focus, thereby demanding that all stakeholders swing into action and ensure smoother delivery of medical services, especially to those who need it the most. This intelligence will definitely be a game-changer in conferring better medical care to patients. With AI at the helm, patient journey can be mapped, with immediate effect, to create transparency across medical service providers, taking the cost of service lower and effectiveness higher. In a long run, we can expect a totally different future for healthcare as robots interact with patients, check on their health condition, and evaluate the further need for an appointment with a doctor.

An example for this is an effort to centralize patient records through a cloud-based health management system. This can help patients seek help across medical facilities without having to create a fresh file at said facility, and the doctors can be seamlessly updated with the patient’s profile. Moreover, this sort of integration can be a game-changer for critical care patients.

Marketing & Retail
E-commerce is booming in India today, leading to a massive increase in brands, each armed with differentiated product and service offerings. With the ecosystem teeming with a diverse consumer base and so many options to choose from, AI tools have become critical in helping brands be visible and helping consumers make more intelligent choices and break through the clutter. It is already being seen that AI-powered marketing investments are being leveraged by brands to make smart, data-driven product recommendations through intelligent target marketing, getting a deeper view into consumer behavior and influencing the decision-making process. With the world slowly moving towards a new reality of a potentially hybrid way of life, lived both ‘online’ and ‘offline’, gathering this kind of consumer insights through AI can also help impact offline marketing strategies.

Agriculture Sector
Agriculture, one of the oldest professions globally, is a foundational element of the Indian economy and is one of the largest livelihood providers globally. Agriculture today is the product of centuries of evolution in terms of mechanization, technique, and application of digital technology (Agriculture 4.0) to make agriculture more sustainable and profitable.

Despite contributing to nearly 15% of the national GDP and employing over a quarter of a million people, this sector continues to face significant challenges, including farmers not getting their returns, crop wastage due to infestation, erratic climatic conditions, to name a few. Further, the average farmland in India is smaller than many other countries, and the yield per hectare of land is only approximately 60% of the developed world. ‘Agri-tech’ has become a game-changer in mitigating these challenges and augmenting the workforce that agriculture demands. AI-powered tools (along with IoT, Automation, etc.) have a crucial role. It is possible to leverage these technologies to provide fairly automated sensors around water levels, pesticides, fertilizers, etc. Moreover, using these technologies can help make predictions about the weather, rain forecasts, etc., which allow farmers to a great degree.

Smart Cities
‘Smart Cities’ trajectory in India can be directly linked to technological advancements. The concept has become a reality, poised for tremendous growth in the coming years. In the Indian Smart Cities today, we find that several cutting-edge technologies that deploy AI, among other things, have contributed significantly towards keeping cities safe, managing traffic, and making transportation smooth and seamless. For instance, smart cameras fortified with facial recognition technology can be used to understand movement patterns in a residential area over time and help in unusual discerning activity. The same kind of technology can be applied in traffic management, and in several cases, has been used to aid state police departments in keeping crime rates in check. Over the next few years, we expect that there will be a proliferation of several more smart cities, making sure that cities become comfortable, connected, inclusive, and safe!

Technology is powerful, and as we embark upon a new phase of intense tech growth, one must be careful to use it responsibly. To quote Dr. Otto Octavious from the famous Marvel movie franchise Spider-Man, “Intelligence [artificial too] is not a privilege, it’s a gift. And you use it for the good of mankind“. We look forward to a new chapter in India’s growth story where technology is cutting edge, with endless possibilities, is responsible, serves every single person, and is inclusive!

Manufacturing sector
Artificial Intelligence with computer vision can rationalize how information gets apprehended. It helps machines to gather and extract data, acknowledge patterns, learn and adapt to new things or environments through machine intelligence, learning and speech recognition.

Secondly, AI impact is with the Internet of Things (IoT). Now AI IoT will give a way to deliver supplies and services to customers who might not comprehend that they are required. Additionally, it can send in-depth telemetry back to Manufacturers to scrutinize quality and factors that might drive failures.

By 2035 AI technologies have the impending to rise in production more than 40%. AI will boost the economic growth an average of 1.7% across 16 industries by 2035. Thus, AI’s proponents claim that the technology is only an evolutionary form of automation, a predictable result of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Implementing AI-powered manufacturing solutions can help automate processes, allowing manufacturers to build smart operations that can reduce cost overheads and downtime. AI systems use predictive analysis and combine it with human intelligence to forecast the demand for products and pricing efficiently.

Electricity, gas and water demand is growing at rapidly in India with the advancement of infrastructure, EV adaptation, supply availability and rising income. With de-carbonization targets and changing customer expectations, utilities in India need radical transformation in existing business processes and digitalization of infrastructure to meet all challenges.

Recently pandemic has not only compelled everyone to work remotely but made us a lot more environmentally cautious. Survival for utilities will depend on their ability to develop new capabilities, different business models and a mindset centered around agility and collaboration.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to cut energy waste, lower costs, and accelerate the use of clean renewable energy sources in power grids, along with improving the operation, maintenance, control, planning and plan execution of power systems. Similarly, AI can be leveraged to build efficient water plants and optimize water resources to reduce energy costs in the long run

Implementing AI can also be used to spot discrepancies in usage patterns if any, payment history of the consumer, and other data to detect any inefficiency or lack of transparency. It can also help to optimize costly and time-consuming physical inspections

The overall outcome will result into a cleaner environment and satisfied customer!!!

In effect, what has been briefed above is but a speck of possible impact AI can have on the evolution of business and operating models across sectors and of all economies, with the potential to touch every single life on this planet. As mentioned earlier, AI is here to stay… and evolve!

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