Artificial Intelligence has become a buzzword in recent years, but do you really know what it can and can’t do? Business2Community recently caught up with Abdumalik Mirakhmedov, Founder & CEO of Powerry, to learn more about these emerging technologies.

BW: When did you first become interested in A.I.? How does it play a part in your career at Powerry? Anything else we should know?

AM: It is my life’s mission to always stay ahead of worldwide business trends, identify new challenges, and develop solutions that improve the marketplace. While most of my career was spent in traditional management in the tech industry, when I discovered the emergence of artificial intelligence (A.I.), I knew it was the start of something big. Robots help to increase business efficiency and in an increasing number of cases robots can replace humans completely. I suppose that in the not long term perspective the world will be profoundly transformed by AI technology.

My predictions served me well and in 2018 my datacenter partners and I decided to diversify our business and launch production of AI-based products. We researched the industry, intensely studying AI projects best practices and case studies, built up a talented team, and joined several A.I. projects as financial investors.

In 2019 we defined our vision and developed a strategy for the A.I. business division of the Powerry company. It is our key division and its target is to reach at least 40 percent of the company’s revenue in three years. Within our business development strategy we acquired the Neuro.Net in October 2019. This company produces A.I. conversation solutions. Powerry is the major shareholder of Neuro.Net. By the end of this year we are planning to visit several other A.I. companies and continue our upward growth trajectory.

BW: Why is artificial intelligence (A.I.) so important right now?

AM: The concept of A.I. came about in the 1960s and was actively developed in the 1990’s. But the actual “A.I. boom” has really only taken off in the last five to 10 years.

We have seen incredible results of A.I. algorithms in many different spheres, like instant speech recognition. Google reached 95% of speech recognition accuracy (comparable with human accuracy) earlier than 2017. Nowadays we face speech recognition everywhere including voice assistance, voice identification, and automated subtitles on YouTube. Our company Neuro.Net develops conversational AI-based solutions to transform conventional call centers into fully automated systems. The voice robots of Neuro.Net never get tired and are capable of working 24/7 with human-like efficiency in some cases and exceed human capability entirely in others.

A.I. algorithms are also applicable in healthcare, as they allow the identification of cancer with higher accuracy than doctors. AI analysis of real-time road traffic helps to eliminate car accidents. The modern world faces numerous challenges which we can overcome by means of AI and we can already see AI aiding us in our daily needs.

BW: There are a lot of industry buzzwords, like cybersecurity, blockchain, big data, automation, etc… Are they all related? If so, how? What do businesses need to know from a comprehensive view of all of these things?

AM: All of these are more or less occurring in our lives. Some are more important than others with continuous technical progress. There is one thing in common for all of these technologies – they consume and generate a numerous amount of data.

The current efficiency of data usage is high, however, 80% of the generated data which can be useful for humanity remains unused. As soon as businesses will learn how to use at least 50% of available data there will be a giant leap in industrial efficiency. We are already answering this challenge by launching new powerful data centers and procuring the highest-end equipment.

BW: If there were an A.I. “quick guide” to help people understand what A.I. is, what are three things everyone should know (and can understand)?

AM: Artificial Intelligence is a set of technologies to produce machines and algorithms performing certain functions with higher quality when compared to a human in comparison with a human. One of the criteria of AI is that it is virtually impossible to tell if a work is the result of a human or machine nature.

These types of algorithms are taught by real data to the extent that it becomes capable of answering with a high degree of accuracy questions it has not faced before.

In many industries AI algorithms perform on the same level as humans and sometimes even better. It is a common practice that the algorithms have a much better throughput that algorithms are more efficient and human beings are not capable of the same. Hiring those algorithms allows one to employ them as a workforce indefinitely and one can rest assured that they are acting purely on the basis of insights from data that they receive for self-learning.

BW: What are some current examples of A.I. already being used in everyday life that people might not think about or be aware of as A.I.?

AM: I mentioned earlier voice assistants which are used for voice recognition. When you enter a turnstile in an office building cameras can identify your personality, when you go shopping online special algorithms can recommend certain goods which you may be interested in, giving you an incentive to purchase the shopping suggestions. The list of AI applications is endless.

BW: What are some of the larger implications of A.I.?

AM: The most interesting industries going through a massive AI transformation are:

  • Communications. Speech recognition and synthesis algorithms: NLP algorithms give the opportunity to communicate with machines as if they were humans. It gives the industry the potential to expand by cutting costs on call centers and answering customers’ inquiries faster and better streamlining them. The customers, on their side, save the most precious resource which is their time and they can get help as soon as they require.
  • Healthcare. Computer Vision algorithms help to screen and detect diseases in the earliest stages, they help doctors analyze masses of data and adjust medical prescriptions more accurately. Automated assistants can make the life of medical personnel easier by giving them more time to cope with the most complicated cases where the art of human touch is precious and irreplaceable.
  • Bioengineering and agriculture. With a rapidly growing population and the increasing demand for food supplies, humanity faces a great challenge due to stop factors such as soil fertility and scarcity of arable land. The tools which allow an increase of soil fertility per arable land and the development of sustainable agriculture will be in high demand in the next 50 years.
  • Self-driving cars. You can already see cars equipped with sensors that are self-driven even though so far an engineer must stay inside the car to prevent a car accident when the situation is extraordinary and at the same time teaching the system to react properly in the future. Almost all the leading car producers together with large internet companies are investing into the development of self-driven cars. There is also the untapped potential factor due to all but one company, Tesla, using mere lasers for their self-driving technology, which is rudimentary and can greatly be improved by AI (as shown by the case example of Tesla).

BW: From a business perspective, how will A.I. (or does it already) have an impact on management and leadership?

AM: AI is already helping management to make business decisions based on big data analysis. For instance there are tools that generate insights on employee satisfaction with different aspects of business processes allowing the implementation of changes that are most desirable. The so-called Decision Support Systems help to analyze financial losses and take decisions to improve business growth, such as the defining of potential budget costs to cut and finding the customer segments with the biggest growth potential.

BW: Is A.I. the true future of business growth? Why or why not?

AM: AI is certainly one of the key drivers for business growth for the coming decades. Various researchers demonstrate that only 5-10% of AI potential is applied in business and the application share will continue to increase. AI can influence our economy tremendously by contributing to 15-20% growth of world GDP in the next 10 years. At the same time we will have new challenges, which would require more computing capacity, more electrical power, and a larger scale of technological research.

BW: There are fears that A.I. will “replace humans,” “take jobs” or “take over” in some capacity (a simple Google Trends search shows people search this). Are these fears unfounded? What advice would you offer to both consumers and businesses that doesn’t create sensationalism?

AM: These fears come from a strong artificial intelligence theory. This theory assumes that computers will learn to act as personalities and become mindful. This seems quite possible in the long-term perspective. The regulatory function of governments will play an important role in this process. A few years ago several countries launched their regulatory policy for AI application. Among these countries are the EU states, the USA, and China. This process must be regulated to assure that people will live successfully in a new reality.

However, we know about the times when people were scared to be replaced by machines and become jobless. At the beginning of the 19th century the Luddites protested against the machines. As we can see now their fears were groundless because technological progress didn’t leave them without jobs, on the contrary it gave them more working opportunities. The same is happening with AI, as we can see that new jobs are emerging in the labor market. For instance a huge and well-trained workforce is required to teach neuro nets with structured and properly tagged data, we are talking about millions of man-hours.

BW: What are some of the things A.I. cannot do?

AM: So far AI can’t independently pilot an aircraft and handle sophisticated surgeries though it can be used as a helping tool. You still can’t do your hair at a robot barbershop. Moreover creative processes such as music composition and movie filming are still can’t be performed by AI even though we have seen some good progress in recent years. The situation is changing rapidly and AI will grow more and more deeply into our business and personal lives.

BW: How will A.I. impact businesses in the next two to five years? What about beyond that?

AM: Most companies will transform their customer communications into fully automated systems, we will see self-driving cars in the streets, social networks will be inhabited by automatically generated personalities. The share of AI applications in business will crease 1.5-2 times (from 5-10% up to 20-25%).

BW: Do you think A.I. will have an impact on the workforce? Are there new jobs that will be created because of A.I.?

AM: AI will certainly influence the labor market. The trend of old-school jobs vanishing is not new. In the ’20s readers were replaced by radio speakers and telephone operators were replaced by automated commuting systems in the ’80s. At the same time new jobs are popping up such as cybersports coaches, professional pilots for drones, neuro interfaces engineers. There is a big demand for data scientists, software developers, content managers, entertainment and marketing specialists, etc. I am sure there will be absolutely new jobs which we can’t even predict now.

BW: What are the types of people, firms, and others currently investing in A.I.? Are they more prevalent in certain geographic locations? Business verticals?

AM: AI is the top much-in-demand technological field for investors. The most active funds and private investors and the biggest number of tech start-ups are located in the USA. Europe and Asia are also active in this field. Big AI investment deals in China are often supported by the national government since considerable investments often come from funds and companies affiliated with the Chinese government.

Development of AI is not only defined by the amount of investment, as it also requires high-level professionals and scientists. Universities around the world are launching AI programs and they are actively supported by governments. For example, Abu-Dhabi announced the opening of the first graduate-level AI university in the world at the end of October 2019. The Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI) will open its doors for the first students in September 2020.

BW: Money aside, what types of A.I. should businesses be investing in or planning for right now? How will it make a difference?

AM: Every business has peculiarities and there is no common success formula. If you run a retail business you would definitely benefit from automated cash desks and supplies systems. AI can help farmers to control crop harvesting and irrigation adequacy. Digital transformation is happening everywhere now, which is the reason why digital transformation leaders are in high demand now. They will define areas of business for digital optimization to maximize business efficiency on a long-term run.

BW: What about you? Where are you focusing your A.I. efforts, including investments?

AM: I will repeat that AI is a strategic division of our business. We believe in the forthcoming AI market growth and will continue investing a considerable part of our resources into development of AI.

The most interesting business verticals within AI are voice recognition, predictive analysis and recommendation engines. These markets demonstrate 20-40% of annual growth. In regards to voice recognition, we have invested 5.3 million USD into the Neuro.Net company in October 2019. At the moment we are adding our value to this company by helping to develop different types of products (box and cloud solutions), launch complementing services such as voice biometrics and analytics.

We are in constant contact with promising teams and projects and are looking for companies in which we can contribute by eliminating barriers and limitations occurring in the life cycle of companies. By the end of this year we plan to invest in several more AI companies and we’ll continue to develop this approach in further years to come.