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What makes India the third largest global site for Artificial Intelligence companies?

April 06, 2017 12:19 IST

Experts believe adoption of AI in developing countries will be much faster than in developed nations, as the magnitude of change it will bring will be far larger. Alnoor Peermohamed reports.

Artificial Intelligence

IMAGE: Intel will host 60 courses under its 'AI Developer Education Program'. These will train people on ways they can adopt AI for better research, testing or even building of products. Photograph: Jeff Spicer/Getty Images.

Intel is betting on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to drive demand for its electronic chips, for which it is aiming to train 15,000 scientists, developers, engineers and students on AI in India over the next one year.

The company will host 60 courses under its 'AI Developer Education Program'. These will train people on ways they can adopt AI for better research, testing or even building of products.

Intel is looking at India due to the country's large base of technical talent. The country is the third largest global site for AI companies.

"As India undergoes rapid digital transformation, data centres and the intelligence behind the data collected will enable the government and industry to make effective decisions based on algorithms. This means increasing opportunities for using AI in the country," said Prakash Mallya, managing director at Intel for South Asia.

He says adoption of AI in developing countries would be much faster than in developed nations, as the magnitude of change it will bring will be far larger.

Intel wishes to involve the government, academia and hospitals, too.

Research on AI and Machine Learning is already on at all Indian Institutes of Technologies (IITs), the Indian Institute of Science and some private universities. The company is keen to partner with these institutions, to drive adoption of its services and to get the next generation of scientists and technologists trained for using its products and services.

"Our research groups are currently working on implementation of evolutionary algorithms in parallel environments, and using Intel based platforms and software tools to deploy, parallelise and optimise systems," said Pushpak Bhattacharya, director at IIT, Patna.

Intel says by 2020, AI would contribute to the biggest workload in data centres, as analysis of data becomes ever more important for businesses, governments and academia. Its products reflect this change, becoming more capable in handling tasks on machine learning, computer vision and the like.

The company says use of AI in sectors such as autonomous driving and the internet of things will create massive amounts of data, which in turn will have to be analysed.

Mallya says a million autonomous cars have the capacity to create half as much data as humanity creates as a whole today.

Flipkart looks at AI to predict sales

As India's largest e-commerce marketplace Flipkart closes in on completing a decade in the business, it is looking to put in use its mammoth pile of data to predict sales of products months in advance.

The company is working on an artificial intelligence (AI) solution that will give it an edge over rivals by helping it make smarter decisions in ordering, distribution and pricing products on its platform. Ultimately, the AI system will allow Flipkart to boost efficiency and reduce the cost of products for customers.

"We (Flipkart) are trying to predict how many units of what we will sell. This is a very complex thing that is dependent on a variety of inputs such as price, discount or if an event, such as Diwali or Christmas is coming up," said Krishnendu Chaudhury, principal scientist and head of image sciences at Flipkart.

While rival Amazon, which has around a 10-year headstart over Flipkart, is known to have some of the most advanced sales prediction engines, the Indian company has the advantage of having a bigger data set of the country's online consumer market.

For AI engines to be trained, the more data available, the more accurate researchers can make them, so Amazon's advances globally might not count for much in India as consumer behaviour varies depending on the region as well as the shopping season.

Flipkart, among the early entrants into India's e-commerce space, also has an advantage of its 100 million user base, the majority of them using its smartphone app. This gives it better insights to understand consumer behaviour, including their socio-economic background based on the smartphone they use, the signals they can capture from the places they travel and can target with the right products.

It also helps that for majority of Indians, a smartphone is their first computing device, through which they listen to music, stream videos, share photos and transact online.

Flipkart has not yet applied for a patent on its AI sales prediction engine and, hence, isn't keen on sharing too many details to safeguard its technology.

The company says it has been successfully using AI in the fields of computer vision and language processing to build tools that help customers better search for products on its platform.

"It (Flipkart's AI engine) will also look at something like how much hype is being created in the media about a certain product. For example, iPhone sales depend hugely on the media hype. So, we have to capture all these various things and it will make a very complex decision," added Chaudhury.

Alnoor Peermohamed