Machine learning is the new normal: AWS

Cloud supplier AWS wants to put machine learning capabilities into the hands of more people in the nascent market for cloud-based AI services

At Digital Global, 80TB of high resolution satellite images are analysed each day to make sense of changes in physical environments, facilitate urban planning and even identify wild fires in Australia.

Through its GBDX platform hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and the use of machine learning, the US-based supplier of space imagery and geospatial content has been able to turn unstructured imagery into meaningful insights for customers.

Speaking at the AWS Summit in Sydney this week, Olivier Klein, head of emerging technologies at AWS in the Asia-Pacific region, said that the cloud service provider wants to push such capabilities into the hands of more people – from data scientists and developers to IT professionals.

“Machine learning is now the new normal,” he said, adding that organisations that know how to harness machine learning will be successful, because they can get better, faster and more accurate predictions of their customer needs.

This will help to improve customer experiences, starting with the ability to understand user interactions with sensors, internet of things devices and websites, through machine learning techniques.

Take New Zealand-based Magic Memories, for instance. The supplier of guest photography services at theme parks has been using wristbands and AWS’s Rekognition artificial intelligence (AI) service to identify guests who may appear in different images, according to its head of engineering CJ Little.

“We have also been able to provide guest metrics to theme park operators, such as where guests have been, and even how happy they were at the parks,” he said.

Meeting demands

In March 2018, AWS made its Rekognition service available in its Sydney region, underscoring growing efforts by cloud service providers to meet the demand for AI and machine learning services.

According to research firm IDC, the Asia-Pacific AI market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 63.9% between 2015 and 2020, surpassing the global growth rate of 55.1%.

Although AWS is seen as the clear leader in cloud computing, Bernie Trudel, chairman of the Asia Cloud Computing Association, said it is “really playing catch-up from an AI perspective.

Trudel said AWS’s approach to AI – which AI only accounts for 1% of the global cloud computing market today – is interesting, because the cloud supplier also uses AI to help enterprises determine the best open-source machine learning frameworks to use for crunching different types of data.

Read more about AI and machine learning in APAC

Meanwhile, other cloud providers are not standing still. Trudel noted that Google, for instance, has been doing a lot of work in AI, whether it is helping developers choose the best algorithm for AI projects, using its Deepmind technology to build AI services, or open-sourcing TensorFlow to gain mindshare in AI developments.

Additionally, Google is also using AI to improve the energy efficiency of its datacentres. “Now, national grid providers are also looking at leveraging the same AI models to drive efficiency in their networks,” said Trudel.

As the major cloud suppliers work towards delivering so-called “general AI” services, beyond narrow AI applications, such as image recognition and speech recognition, Trudel reckoned the likes of Apple, Baidu, Alibaba, Intel, Tencent and Facebook will join also the fray with their own AI services.

The growing competition among cloud suppliers is expected to result in improvements in cloud-based AI services in 2018. This will be a boon to CIOs, of whom 21% are already piloting AI initiatives or have short-term plans for them while another 25% have medium to long term plans, according to a global Gartner survey.

Read more on Cloud computing services

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