Artificial intelligence (AI) has arrived on the cloud. Raw compute power has been moving to virtual environments for some time, but the opening of their AI APIs by the likes of Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and IBM means that cutting-edge technology will soon be available at low or even zero cost to developers and programmers. Welcome to a new era of self-service AI.
For the sellers of physical hardware, the arrival on the open market of AI APIs, AI bots and machine learning is not good news. As scaleable storage, IT infrastructure, analytics and business intelligence have gone to the cloud in recent years, a new wave of business has become possible; cue disruptive startups like Netflix, WhatsApp, Spotify and Uber all becoming examples of normal, everyday businesses. Now come powerful cognitive platforms on tap that add transformational AI and machine learning. With data scientists and app developers now able to use the very latest in information processing just by accessing the cloud, it’s all change for the IT industry.
Probably the best known AI engine is IBM’s Watson, a cognitive computing platform on the cloud whose API has been available to developers for a few years. About 80,000 programmers, data scientists and app developers have so made use of its power. Now able to process natural language, IBM is soon promising online text analytics and machine learning via its new Knowledge Studio.
However, IBM’s cognitive engine has lost out on headlines of late to the AI plans of Facebook. The social media app wants to promote its ambitious M platform, which will allow third-party app developers to create task-performing apps and bots for Facebook’s Messenger. The goal, of course, is for people to use Facebook rather than Google’s search engine, but the end-game is the Facebook M virtual assistant.
Microsoft has similar plans. Microsoft Cognitive Services and the Microsoft Bot Framework allows app and bot developers to harness AI on the cloud that work across Microsoft’s Skype as well as within its Office 365 suite. Recently in the news for beating a man at the Chinese game of Go, Google’s DeepMind is a neural network has been open-source since last last year. It’s the star turn in Google’s TensorFlow deep learning library, and it looks destined to do battle with another tech giant, Amazon. Given the runaway success of Amazon’s AWS cloud platform, Amazon’s purchase of artificial intelligence company Orbeus. Expect Orbeus to become available on a pay-as-you-go basis pretty soon. Another key player could be OpenAI, an open-source project backed by tech billionaire Elon Musk as well as Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, and Ilya Sutskever, an icon in the machine learning world.
High power cognitive platforms like these are likely to mean better and better apps, but for all the wonders of open-source AI, this is a revolution that won’t happen overnight. Able to convert data into knowledge and actionable insights, the key ingredient for businesses won’t be open-source AI on the cloud per se, but rather the data scientists and developers that know how to use AI properly. In a computing world that’s about to move from mobile-first to AI-first – according to Google CEO Sundar Pichai – it’s those that can harness AI and build AI platforms most effectively and simply that will create new businesses and business models not even dreamed of yet.
The cloud has already made scaling-up for startups a relative breeze. Now it’s about to put huge computing power and the very latest in artificial intelligence open to anyone with a credit card. Entrenched players in the IT, data analytics and tech worlds, beware; the AI-powered knowledge economy is coming for you.