Big data and AI – Where is the digital highway taking us?

Photo by Joey Kyber on Unsplash
Photo by Joey Kyber on Unsplash

Big data and artificial intelligence are constantly discussed and were at the focus of Bitkom’s Big-Data.AI Summit. From February 28th to March 1st the town Hanau, Germany, was full of excitement as over 1,000 attendees came to learn about how the context of these two topics fit into not only their own work, but also how the market has changed or will change.

Today, we’re putting aside buzzwords and diving into the real meaning of these emerging technologies. What should retailers and manufacturers be paying attention to turn piles of information into substantial value?

Big data: Use the past to shape the future

We can’t go far with AI without having lots of information, AKA big data. Big data according to SAS is: “…is a term that describes the large volume of data – both structured and unstructured – that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis.”

An opening presentation by Dr. Christian Schlögel, CTO of KUKA Robotics, and Dr. Babak Farrokhazad of Device Insight provided information about the process of how algorithms are being run by an industrial analytics service. Through thousands, sometimes millions of pieces of information, sorted and processed, we can effectively make predictions about the future of an assembly line based on past patterns. Their example? Finding out when their robotic assembly lines will need maintenance performed, before equipment even breaks down.

Now robots might sound a little intense for the casual reader, but businesses can collect all sorts of data about their day to day life within the context of their own company and even data about their own customers.

Xiaoqun Clever, Chief Data and Technical Officer of the Ringier Group, points out that currently, if businesses stick with their business models and do not adapt, there is only an eight percent of change of survival. Adapting to the digital economy has put more power on the side of the consumer and that to be successful and achieve a higher profit, companies need to invest a higher amount in themselves both monetarily and non-monetarily speaking. Her beliefs: Form alliances keeping the motto “I can’t but we can” in mind, explore new business models, and embrace tech and data within your organisation.

What can we learn from all these talks on big data? In a world with all these IoT devices, endless amounts of information being constantly recorded, and the addition of a new digital economy, businesses now can claim their stake in an ever-evolving market by constantly innovating.

Generating added value with AI

Having all this data is only useful if you know what to do with it. Otherwise it’s comparable to a big pile of papers just sitting on a desk that your employees have to comb through to get all the tid bits from.

People get excited about AI because of the Hollywood sensationalism and its basic definition, that AI brings: “the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behaviour,” according to Merriam-Webster.

A presentation from KPMG Center of Excellence for Data and Analytics described a world of bringing AI into businesses, emphasising that it, right now, is not something you can just buy out of the box and have ready to go, but rather a tool you have to develop.

AI currently can learn, recognise images, patterns, and handwriting, as well as extract information. Years from now AI might have a conscious, but, they emphasised, would have no feelings as it is a machine. A real use for AI today is going through and appropriately sorting paperwork.

A client of theirs wanted to shorten the process of sorting through invoices that usually required 3 people and ten days to do. With the AI solution developed, the program can read scanned-in invoices, even if they’re formatted differently from another, create reasoning requirements, and learn from data that was in German and in English. This process was successfully shortened and now only takes a day or two to complete with the help of the AI software.

Big data and AI belong together

What the talks and workshops at the Big-Data.AI Summit did over the course two days was perfectly connect the, sometimes overwhelming, topic of big data to artificial intelligence, showing they naturally go hand in hand. What was often mentioned is that although AI and big data are thought of as the future, they’re already being used today and can be implemented in smaller scale rather than just in larger companies like Netflix, Apple, and Amazon.

We have all this data, like maintenance records, customer preferences, invoices, and maintenance requests, available digitally, but we don’t use it to its full advantage. With AI, its possible to make predictions and improve business processes, thus improving the customer experience.

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