The reality of bringing AI to Asia businesses

Dion WigginsArtificial intelligence (AI) is seen as the latest game changer for businesses. With all the global tech giants, including Amazon, Google, IBM, and Microsoft, all making headway into bringing the technology into reality, Asia AI expert Dion Wiggins said the region is just as active, if not as vocal, in bringing AI to enterprises.

The founder of Asia Online and former Gartner analyst started the development of machine learning back in 2007 by co-founding Singapore-based language processing technology provider Omniscien Technologies. Wiggins will be visiting Hong Kong on August 31 to speak at the KM and AI: People and Technology Conference. At an interview with Computerworld Hong Kong (CWHK), he talked about Asia’s opportunities and challenges to bring AI into business reality.

Computerworld HK: The discussion about AI has been for decades, why is it becoming popular only in recent years?

Dion Wiggins: The popularity is driven primarily by the fact that a) the amount of data that is freely available has increased drastically over the past years – data that is essential for training systems – and b) the hardware is available, performant and cost effective.

The cost of GPUs (graphic processing units) with platforms like NVIDIA has allowed entry level AI solutions to be developed at reasonable cost. Combine that with the general broader application of open source and cloud based technology adoption, you have a cocktail that is favorable to technologies such as AI.

CWHK: Asia always appears to be behind from the rest of the world in the development and adoption of technologies. Do you think it’s the case in AI?

DW: I think stating that “Asia is behind” is not correct; there are a lot of innovative solutions being developed in Asia. Market research actually points to Asia becoming the primary global market for AI.

However, compared to the US or Western Europe that have far stronger IT industries, many parts of Asia (by far not all) seem to be behind. But looking at developments in Japan, China, Singapore and other places in the region, Asia is maybe less vocal, but just as active in AI.

Omniscien Technologies is a good example of that, with R&D in Bangkok and sales globally that include many AI deployments. Our largest deployment, with our hybrid neural machine translation platform, is translating over 100 billion words of patent content from English into Japanese, followed by Chinese and Korean.

CWHK: How is applying AI into language processing different from other AI applications?

DW: Most applications of AI are focused around numeric challenges. However, recent AI applications that processes text across languages is quickly changing the perspective of where machine learning and AI techniques can be applied to solve complex language based problems.

Research and commercial development has now begun to focus on comprehensive workflows. It leverages ensemble data from many sources into a more accurate and reliable outcomes, which often far exceed human capabilities.