Artificial intelligence rides the wave of cloud computing

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The effect of Artificial intelligence on our future is still unclear.

Will we end up in a Matrix-inspired dystopia where machines rule the world? Will humans work in perfect harmony with their robot creations to deliver a perfect future?

In reality, the relationship between AI and cloud computing is still in its infancy. The potential for their interaction is enormous, however, and combining the huge data sets of AI platforms with the sheer processing power of decentralised computing engines could realise some concepts usually restricted to Sci-Fi.  

Take the example of American TV network C-SPAN and its work with the sheriff’s office of Washington County in Oregon. Using AI image-recognition software combined with cloud technology, C-SPAN can identify unknown Congresspeople speaking on the floor of the Senate, while Washington County quickly processes photo tips to find background data on them.

And IT industry leaders are beginning to become aware of the huge scope of these developments.

A Cowen and Company study into how AI could revolutionise enterprise software found that 81 per cent of IT leaders are currently investing in – or plan to invest in – AI and machine learning.  The report, which collects the opinions of 146 leading AI researchers, entrepreneurs and VC executives around the world, identifies digital marketing and marketing automation, CRM refinement and data analytics as the top three areas for adopting the AI revolution.

Emerging players

It seems that some of the world’s biggest tech companies are also starting to get excited about the potential of combining AI and cloud computing.

In June, Microsoft  penned a deal with file sharing and cloud content management firm Box which will see the two firms share go-to-market investments. For example, Microsoft’s Azure platform will be used to sell Box storage capabilities to enterprises, or to store Box content on Azure.  

The deal will also have both firms deepen their collaborative work, setting a path for possible integration between Azure’s AI and machine learning capabilities and Box’s cloud content management platform. Possible applications include technologies like video indexing, a process that uses natural language processing to generate metadata or to enable advanced search capabilities.

Even before this deal, Wall Street giant Morgan Stanley described Azure as “a public cloud winner” and reiterated its high valuation of Microsoft’s stock, raising its target price from $72 to $80 per share. Its analysts cited how the growing “machine learning” and AI trend will spur demand and increase Microsoft’s market value to $110 billion.

Early Adopters

A short way behind Microsoft in the cloud computing stakes is Google and its parent company, Alphabet. Back in 2015, the tech giant’s AI researchers created a piece of software called TensorFlow which allowed engineers to translate new AI approaches into practical code. TensorFlow helped to improve Google Services such as search or the accuracy of speech recognition.

A few months later, Google made the unprecedented decision to release TensorFlow to the world’s coding community... for free! and today, it’s one of the most popular building platforms there is. The AI element helps to make the software compatible with any platform – though it’s particularly easy to transfer projects to Google’s cloud platform.  

The head of Google’s cloud business, Diane Greene, said earlier this year that she has high hopes for TensorFlow and AI in benefiting customers as well as Google’s own internal infrastructure. But perhaps the biggest sign of its success is the fact that Microsoft and Amazon have both released or started supporting their own free software tools to help coders build machine-learning systems.

Who ends up leading the field remains to be seen.

Changing times

Oracle’s executive chairman and CTO, Larry Ellison, once famously described growing interest in cloud computing as “complete gibberish” and “insane” in a 2008 call with analysts.

But now, even Oracle is working towards becoming a dominant force in the cloud computing arena. However, their focus is less on AI and more to do with mobility, bots and the internet of things.

But is this enough?

In a world where companies are constantly grappling with cutting edge business models in order to stay competitive, can firms really afford to ignore the inevitability of AI.

As Microsoft and Amazon seem to have already realised, don’t wait to be left behind when it comes to huge, multi-industry changing developments like AI.

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