Prioritizing Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in a Pandemic

Anke Conzelmann -
AI and ML
Illustration: © IoT For All

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) give companies the one thing humans can’t – scalability. Over time, humans limit a businesses’ ability to scale; they can only work so many hours at a given efficiency. On the other hand, AI and ML can work around the clock with the sole focus on a given project. As organizations navigate through COVID-19’s impact and the future of a remote workforce, scalability and efficiency can be the key to an organization’s successful recovery.

Implementation Challenges

The benefits of AI and ML don’t come without their own challenges; however, the top challenges are a lack of skills and time for proper implementation. In July, Deloitte found in a survey that 69% of respondents said the skills gap for AI implementation ranged from moderate to major to extreme. Simultaneously, many companies overlook the investment it takes to build the processes and infrastructure needed for successfully training, testing, deploying, and maintaining AI and ML in their enterprise.

Such challenges often cause companies to de-prioritize AI and ML projects, especially in times of uncertainty. That has been increasingly obvious throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. But while some organizations have drawn back on their efforts, the current global state demands the greater need for AI and ML to support critical business processes. This is especially true today given the growing remote workforce, considerations for returning to the workplace and work happening in silos worldwide.

Though challenging, it is not impossible to properly implement AI and ML. In this evolving COVID-influenced business landscape, four steps are key to effectively implementing a strong AI and ML system that helps streamline critical business processes despite uncertainty and limited resources.

Identify the Problem to Be Solved

Some companies mistakenly view AI and ML projects as a ‘silver bullet’ to solve all their problems. This often results in overinflated expectations, an unfocused approach, and unsatisfactory results. Instead, companies should identify those specific problems that will have the biggest impact from implementing AI and ML solutions and be hyper-focused on solving those problems.

Select Your Data

The second step in creating a strong AI and ML algorithm is to select the source data that your algorithm will be training on. There are two main options: training on your own data or training on a larger scale data set. Based on experience, training your algorithm on your own data puts you at a disadvantage. By training on a larger scale data set, the likelihood of success increases because your data is more representative and varied. Through advanced concepts such as transfer learning, companies can use semi-trained models based on larger data sets and then train the “last mile” using their own specific content unique to their business.

Clean House

The standby rules of data management apply here – garbage in, garbage out. Ultimately, the quality and accuracy of machine learning models depend on being representative. AI and ML – fed with the right data – can streamline operations and increase the benefit of companies’ DX and cloud migration journeys.

When you’re kicking off an AI or ML project, the most critical step is to clean up the data that your algorithm will be training on, especially if you’re using your own data or models.

Make Room for Training

AI and ML are all about probability. When you ask it a question, for example, “Is this a cat?,” the results you receive are the algorithm saying, “Out of the three buckets I was trained on, the likelihood of this image being a cat is .91, the likelihood of this image being a dog is .72 and the likelihood of this image being a bird is .32.”

This is why training on varied data is so important. If your training data only includes images of cats, dogs, and birds and you ask the algorithm to analyze the picture of a crocodile, it will only respond based on the buckets it’s been trained on – cats, dogs, and birds.

If you’ve properly selected and cleaned your data, training should be an easy last step, but it’s also an opportunity to go back to the first two steps and further refine based on your training.

The front end of training an AI and ML algorithm can be time-intensive, but following these four steps can make it easier to achieve significant outcomes. Across industries, AI and ML can quickly show ROI. For example, in the insurance industry, AI and ML can help insurers quickly search contracts, so employees aren’t sifting through contracts and repositories around the globe to answer simple questions. This means time efficiencies for an industry that COVID-19 has heavily impacted.

Even better, working with a SaaS provider with experience in your industry can make this process much easier and less costly. SaaS platforms allow companies to take advantage of having all of the infrastructure, security, and pre-trained models in place to reduce the overall effort and time to value. Many platforms allow users to uptrain the predefined models with unique customer data, reducing the training effort needed for model creation. Companies can then focus on integration with their ecosystem and workflows rather than model creation itself.

Bigger Picture

Overall, businesses can soften the impact of COVID by focusing on the bigger picture with AI and ML. Implementing AI and ML projects increase business productivity despite these times of uncertainty. As we continue on the road to recovery, we need tools like AI and ML to stay focused on the bigger picture, mission-critical tasks.

Author
Anke Conzelmann, Iron Mountain

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Guest writers are IoT experts and enthusiasts interested in sharing their insights with the IoT industry through IoT For All. If you're interested in contributing to IoT For All, cli...
Guest writers are IoT experts and enthusiasts interested in sharing their insights with the IoT industry through IoT For All. If you're interested in contributing to IoT For All, cli...