AI: Not Just Science Fiction Anymore

Artificial intelligence (AI), used to be stuff of science fiction. But today, AI is part of many aspects of our everyday lives and it’s attracting a lot of investment interest.

Of course, we haven’t seen sentient human-like androids walking around like in movies. That is still a long way off, if it ever becomes a reality. What I am talking about is much more subtle. Make no mistake, AI is already all around us. Sometimes you probably aren’t even aware that you are interacting with AI.

The AI in Our Lives

If you use Google Maps for directions, that’s AI. If you use a face recognition to log into your phone, that’s AI. If you use Siri or Alexa, that’s AI. And the list goes on and on. Basically, AI is the driving force behind “smart” devices.

The application of AI goes well beyond use in consumers’ personal lives. It also impacts various industries. The following are some examples.

AI is used heavily in manufacturing. Robots powered with AI work alongside human workers everyday to perform a limited range of tasks. It can also perform quality checks and predict when machines and systems need maintenance. In health care, AI helps to monitor patient status and collects and analyzes data to create a better experience for patients.

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AI helps farmers improve their crop yields. AI even helps data service providers quickly scan through complex financial filings and provides streamlined reports for financial analysts such as myself.

As widely used as AI is, though, we are really only at the beginning. The possibilities seem endless.

Three Branches of Research

Ongoing AI research actually has three branches, trying to reach one of these goals: strong AI, applied AI, or cognitive simulation.

Strong AI refers to machines that think. This is the type of AI research that aims to eventually develop the human-like robots and androids I mentioned earlier. This is also the most difficult and still far from being reality.

Application AI, also known as advanced information processing, is the most common type of AI in the world today. All the examples I gave earlier are examples of application AI. Computers are able to “learn” and improve their functions based on analysis of data, all without needing programmers to input new code to tell them what to do.

The third kind of AI research, cognitive simulation, uses computers to test theories how the human mind works. This kind of research is useful in fields like neuroscience and psychology but doesn’t have the wide real-world usefulness of application AI.

Two Hot Areas

Driverless vehicles belong in this application-AI area. Currently, the AI technology isn’t good enough for fully autonomous cars (so-called “Level 5” capability) yet, but it’s an exciting area that could be one of the biggest changes to our everyday lives.

Another broad area where AI is bringing about major changes to the way we live is in the Internet of Things (ioT). Digital devices are becoming more and more interconnected. They communicate with users via connected devices without needing any direct human involvement. Without AI technology, this wouldn’t be possible.

An important industrial IoT application that we will be seeing more and more of is the smart grid. The grid allows real-time monitoring of electricity supply and demand data, and allows utility companies to better manage the distribution of power, resulting in greater efficiency and faster response to problems.

Related to the smart grid is the smart meter. Whereas the traditional meter only records how much resource (e.g. electricity) you consumed and had to be read by a person, a smart meter is connected to and communicates with the central system.

AI can analyze data from smart meters using machine learning to improve the way we consume energy. For example, AI can provide information about consumption patterns and recommend ways to use energy more efficiently. It can even provide information on how well an appliance is doing its job and even recommend upgrades.

The bottom line is that whether you are aware of it or not, AI is already all around us and its presence will only continue to grow. This is why companies and investors alike are seeking to seize the opportunity and get a piece of the expanding market.

Closely linked to AI is 5G (fifth generation) wireless, another area with enormous investment opportunity. Without the ultra-fast bandwidth of 5G wireless, AI and IoT wouldn’t be able to reach their full potential.

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