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Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

In an AI gold rush, sell shovels

In an AI gold rush, sell shovels

Whatever you believe about the realities of AI and its impact, the goldrush is on. Every company that five years ago was touting its ‘Big Data’ credentials is now referencing AI as a cornerstone of its business. I’ve heard tales of the most unlikely organisations clamouring for AI expertise to help them solve complex business problems.

What we mean by the term AI, is still up for debate of course. Clearly, we don’t mean a generalised intelligence in any way comparable to human. For the most part, we mean some form of machine learning — primarily through large data sets, but increasingly through modelling and adversarial systems — and automated analysis.

Golden data

Data has had a lot of focus as a critical asset, often presented as the gold in this rush. But there are many other critical tools, and the makers of these stand to benefit perhaps more than those holding the data or applying the tools.

The obvious companies here are the tech giants that have developed or offer the raw processing power or the core tools of machine learning: Amazon, Google, IBM, for example. But there are others too — like Bellrock, a company I came across recently that offers a platform for more rapidly applying models to data for predictive analytics.

There are also the companies to whom you can outsource the ‘mining’ of gold — or perhaps a more accurate analogy might be the production of automated mining systems. Consultancies who can build AI tools for organisations to use. From the very large, like Accenture, who recently showed me an interesting demo of automated document analysis for the pharmaceutical sector, to the relatively small, like US.Ai, whose co-founder I met at a BIMA event recently.

Early days

For all the hype, we are in the early days of artificial intelligence. It’s still hard to know what the most valuable applications will be, or what will come first. But while everyone’s trying to find those answers, those companies that provide the shovels for this gold rush are likely to profit.

Tom Cheesewright