A gigantic shark that spreads terror in the Hollywood film "Meg", an app for the recognition of textiles on mobile phone photos and product suggestions on shopping platforms like Amazon have little in common with one another at first glance. And yet they do have one thing in common: they are based on artificial intelligence. This technology means that computers can solve problems independently and develop an understanding for human actions, and even attempt to imitate them. In order that computers can learn, algorithms that recognise patterns are required.
The rapid further development of artificial intelligence (AI) is based on two factors: the availability of affordable and high-performance hardware and the enormous amounts of data that provide the foundation for any AI application. The machines can only continue to develop independently when adequate material is available. AI has also long since found its way into the personal realm: the US corporation Amazon uses it for its speech-activated assistant service Alexa, as well as for the automatically generated suggestions for further products seen by customers in the web shop.
Fashion app with AI
However, those are only modest beginnings in comparison with what AI can mean for the economy in coming years. An example from the fashion industry shows how AI can be used in daily practice: the British company Cortexica has developed a technology with which the clothing of people in photos can be recognised and a search for similar products initiated in the Internet. Making this possible is an AI application for visual analysis that is used in a targeted fashion in the fashion industry; major traders like Zalando are already using the Cortexica development in their own app.
However, AI can also provide enormous advantages in the logistics segment. At the Rotterdam airport in the Netherlands, a system from Vanderlande, a provider for warehouse automation, is currently being tested for the transport of luggage from the check-in to the boarding gates: instead of using large conveyor belts, small, autonomously driving vehicles that each convey only one or two suitcases are used. They automatically seek out the best route and should thus save time and resources. AI will generally be of significance in combination with new logistics approaches and growing e-commerce. The Click-and-Collect concept, with which goods are ordered in the Internet and can then be picked up in the outlet, will require changes to ERP systems. In the process, the technology can help to automatically register the stock in the warehouse or in the outlets; RFID tags, among other things, are used in the process. Customer wishes can be reacted to rapidly in this way. Future changes in customer behaviour, such as the demand for certain goods at certain times, can also be better predicted with the help of AI.
Finding and analysing data
Enormous amounts of data are required for AI to carry out its work. This means that not only the hardware for this has to be available, but also the legal prerequisites for collecting and analysing this data. However, these are only the hard facts revolving around AI. The closer the technology is to the customer, meaning to human beings, the more soft factors will come into play: can and should machines replace people? While chat bots have provided advantages to date with regard to customer contact (somewhat accelerated communication), the advance of the machines in some areas is sometimes frightening: banks have had some experience in this context. Not all customers are so enthusiastic that personal contact with the adviser is increasingly being replaced by machines and online processing. This should be met with understanding.
In the context of the Space10 project, a research lab with an exhibition in Copenhagen, the Swedish furniture corporation IKEA has determined what Internet users expect from AI, and what they fear. The most important findings: the machines should act like human beings to the greatest extent possible, react to emotions and, in particular, provide assistance services instead of acting autonomously.
AI was also a theme at Digility. At the B2B conference organised by Koelnmesse, it's about the use of digital technologies like 3D, augmented reality or even AI. This year, Digility will take place as part of DMEXCO in September. In a video, Julie Choi, expert for artificial intelligence at Intel, explains practical applications of AI in the economy, including the software platform Taboola, which automatically suggests appropriate content to Internet users, or with the Chinese Internet corporation Baidu, for the automated recognition of building transports.