Norderstedt, February 15, 2017 – Artificial Intelligence is nothing new, but this branch of informatics is gaining a new thrust. At its IT conference Symposium/ITxpo Gartner identified Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning as one of the ten most important strategic technology trends of 2017. Cognitive Computing is also one of the topics of the fifth Bitkom Big Data Summit being held in Hanau on February 16, 2017. At this summit, Dr. Lars Schwabe, Head of Smart Data Analytics and Machine Learning expert at Lufthansa Industry Solutions, and Carsten Breithaupt, Group Head of Enterprise Architecture at Deutsche Lufthansa AG, are speaking on the topic of “Artificial Intelligence at Lufthansa and in Industry: Operational Scenarios and AI Strategy.” We inquired of Dr. Lars Schwabe how business profits from AI.
Dr. Schwabe, following the euphoric expectations of twenty years ago and many setbacks, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are now once more at the center of attention. What are the reasons?
The comeback of Artificial Intelligence is due primarily to the successes of so-called Deep Learning. These are neural networks like those that have been studied mathematically since the 1960s, at least. In recent years, some advances in methods and the availability of mass data and computer power for training these networks have enabled us to make huge progress in statistical signal processing by means of neural networks, especially with regard to speech recognition, object recognition in complex visual scenes, and word processing. Increasing interconnectedness and nearly unlimited computing power in the cloud are creating the foundation for new services.
How can companies profit from AI?
In the course of the digital transformation, the methods of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are increasingly finding their way into companies. This is because machine learning lends itself particularly well to the analysis of large amounts of data. Using training and operating data, IT systems can recognize repeating patterns on their own. The recognition of complex patterns is now a part of nearly all Machine Learning applications.
The great potential of Artificial Intelligence for companies is clearly in automation, as well as in the personalization of products and sales approaches. Self-driving cars are a very visible example of automation in a way that would have been inconceivable only a few years ago. The interface between companies and end customers will also be strongly marked by Artificial Intelligence in the future. Chatbots are only one example of new, voice-based interfaces. Another important topic will be the use of IT for archiving and activating the knowledge that a company has collected over the years and that usually exists only implicitly in the heads of a few people – who are often about to retire, as well.
Whenever there is talk of AI pioneers, people particularly mention US-based companies, such as Google and Facebook. How is the situation in Germany?
First off, we must remember that German researchers in this field are some of the world’s best, and the training and education of our university students is good enough to enable them to take their place at the cutting edge. So in this sense, German companies are well set up.
While American companies have a strong offer of B2C services, many more companies in Germany are active in B2B commerce. This is where Germany has an incredible potential and many SMEs that are leaders in their niche. Of course, German companies have to defend the interface to their customers against American digital companies and, what is more, expand and make better use of their special strengths, such as those in B2B commerce. In addition, they should be a bit more courageous and not let themselves become paralyzed by fear of failure. This particularly includes building up their own AI competences and not outsourcing such a key technology entirely to American service providers, for instance.
If we can combine our enthusiasm for implementation and drive for precision with American speed, then Germany will have a bright economic future. If we can’t, it won’t be the fault of the younger generation.