Thrilled that AI is no longer a dirty word

Tie StartupCon panelists share visions for cognitive computing

Thrilled that AI is no longer a dirty word
Bob Brown/NetworkWorld

Cognitive computing, artificial intelligence and machine learning are here to stay and promise to benefit both consumers and the organizations that exploit these advanced technologies.

That was the sentiment from “Dawn of the Cognitive Era” panelists representing mostly startups (startup wannabe IBM being the exception) at the annual TiE StartupCon event in Boston this past week.

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Whereas it wasn’t long ago that the public’s view of AI was influenced disproportionately by books and movies, an increasing number of real-life cognitive computing applications such as those enabled by IBM Watson have begun to seep into the public’s consciousness. In fact, many people are taking advantage of cognitive computing, whether or not they realize it, when they use tools such as Apple’s Siri or various bots, said panel moderator and DataXylo CEO Abhi Yadav. Such applications, enabled in large part through the access to relatively cheap computing power via the cloud, have resulted in the technology finally living up to the hype -- and dissuading fears it will lord over us.

“I’m actually thrilled AI is no longer a dirty word,” said Bettina Hein, founder and CEO of Pixability, which uses machine learning algorithms to revolutionize video advertising on YouTube, Facebook, etc. and in doing so, “make your life less annoying.”

IBM’s Andy Thurai (who last year moderated a TiE StartupCon panel on the Internet of Things) said the ability of AI systems to read unstructured data such as video, audio and IoT streams has also been a huge development.

Cognitive computing is starting to impact mainstream markets such as auto insurance. Panelist Snejina Zacharia, CEO and Founder of Insurify, discussed her company’s efforts to simplify and automate the process of buying car insurance by applying artificial intelligence to ranking carriers and recommending coverage. She said the key to making AI work is choosing narrowly-defined areas to apply it to and then optimizing the heck out of it, such as answering people’s specific questions about auto insurance. 

cognitive panel Bob Brown/NetworkWorld

A crazy AI machine apparently got ahold of the slide identifying panelists, as most of their names got screwed up. Or was it human error?!

Cognitive computing is starting to make its mark on enterprise IT too, said Ernesto DiGiambattista, founder and CEO of cybersecurity management company Cybric. “AI is really doing a lot of the heavy lifting for us” in cybersecurity by separating the signals from the noise, he said, providing high-IQ humans with a far more manageable amount of data to sift through. With organizations finding IT security jobs hard to fill, building such “virtual assembly lines” is key to making existing staff more efficient and proactive, he added.

“It’s making our jobs easier,” DiGiambattista said.

If beneficial cognitive computing instances like these aren’t enough to assuage the public’s concerns, perhaps giving them more access to the same sort of deep learning-infused analytics tools that marketing and advertising companies have controlled up until now will do the trick. Personal BlackBox CTO Patrick Deegan explained his “marketing experience” startup’s efforts to put such information into individuals’ hands so they have a bigger say over what data is collected and how it can be used.

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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