April 11, 2017
Recently, Microsoft software that integrates machine learning spotted a temperature problem in a massive beer vat at Deschutes Brewery, and automatically fixed it, saving the company from a big loss. Deschutes Brewery accesses the software via Microsoft’s cloud computing service, a growing trend among all kinds of businesses relying on such tools from Amazon and Google as well as Microsoft. Use of AI is becoming more widespread as it becomes available as software in the cloud, rather than a huge hardware expenditure.
Bloomberg describes how C-SPAN uses Amazon image recognition to identify people in its broadcasts; insurance company USAA “is planning to use similar technology from Google to assess damage from car accidents and floods without sending in human insurance adjusters”; and the American Heart Association relies on Amazon voice recognition for a chat bot registering people for a charity walk.
Amazon is the “public cloud leader,” but not the only choice; the company, along with rivals Google and Microsoft, are vying to see which one will dominate in a market valued at $25 billion this year, according to IDC.
“There’s a new generation of applications that require a lot more intense data science and machine learning,” said startup Algorithmia chief exec Diego Oppenheimer, whose company is “a marketplace for algorithms that do some of the same things” as the tech behemoths. He believes that each of the three major tech companies has its own competitive advantage.
“Google has the most credibility based on tools they have; Microsoft is the one that will actually be able to convince the enterprises to do it; and Amazon has the advantage in that most corporate data in the cloud is in AWS,” he said. “It’s anybody’s game.”
Such tools can replace time-consuming work. C-SPAN, for example, used “a combination of closed-caption transcripts and manpower” to identify speakers in its broadcasts, a task that took so much time it was only used for half of the events covered. Now, says C-SPAN’s archives technical manager Alan Cloutier, the network relies on the AI tool to “match all speakers against a database it maintains of 99,000 government officials,” and has plans to enter all the data into a searchable system.
IDC predicts that, “spending on such cognitive systems and AI” will grow 55 percent a year for the next five years and, according to IDC analyst David Schubmehl, the cloud delivery will grow even faster. Amazon Web Services’ general manager for deep learning and AI Matt Wood agrees, saying that, “in the fullness of time deep learning will be one of the most popular workloads” on the company’s flagship cloud service, Elastic Compute Cloud.