MARKET | Aug 10, 2017

Cognitive technologies: Italian companies are showing a growing interest

Data, artificial intelligence and cognitive computing: what is the future?

By 2025 a data volume of 180 zettabyte will be generated around the world, which will create a digital universe 20 times larger than that measured in 2015. This IDC forecast comes from an investigation that correlates the potential of the data collected, with its use in artificial intelligence and cognitive technology.

When discussing Artificial Intelligence  – says Giancarlo Vercellino, research & consulting manager IDCit is easy to be transported by more or less fantastical suggestions, imagining complex applications that in any fiction work would even seem trivial. This leads to the failure to consider the important part of the work that is conducted by analysts in fine-tuning algorithms, which at the practical level often results in extreme implementative complexity, both at the statistical methodology level and that of data engineering.

Creating complex forms of automation capable of interacting in more and more sophisticated ways with human beings is a challenge that will require generational engagement: these are the infrastructures upon which it will be possible to build the economical development trajectories of the decades to come.

The IDC survey, conducted on a sample of Italian companies with more than 50 employees, highlights a new and strong propensity to use cognitive computing as a business tool. More than 80% of the Italian companies whose priorities are aimed at improving processes are planning roll-out of the first applications based on cognitive technologies in 12-24 months; more than 75% of those whose priorities are aiming toward incremental improvement of products and services are considering the possibility of employing cognitive technologies; over 70% of companies that are in the process of organising or developing new products/ services are already using cognitive solutions and technologies.

When undergoing digital transformation, the gathering, organisation and analysis of data take on a central role within the company, not only to enable new business models, but also to identify new competitive advantages. For this reason, a growing number of companies are looking with interest at artificial intelligence and cognitive technologies that can modify consolidated processes and redefine corporate roles, with an impact that will extend not only to optimising production, but also to the flow of decision models itself.

Corporate investments, notes the IDC, are no longer geared towards new technologies, but are focusing on redesigning and renewing more consolidated business processes. Cognitive computing, which is among these new technologies, promises to provide improvements far beyond the mere need for IT automation, having a profound impact on the data-discovery and analysis phases, decision-making processes, and hence company business.

Moreover, the footprint data of each individual is growing and will continue to grow exponentially due to new personal devices, new intelligent environments and new roles, but also new regulations that promote an ever-increasing democratisation of data. In turn, businesses are multiplying these data ecosystems to create value, increase efficiency, and create new products and services.

When it comes to artificial intelligence and cognitive computing – says the president of the Digital Transformation Institute, Stefano Epifani it is obviously one of the most important developments of the coming years. A development that will not only be technological but will have economic and social impacts that are still hard for us to imagine.

What is however not hard to imagine is that many of our companies are totally unprepared for the change that awaits them. It is not only a technological issue, but also, above all, cultural and organisational. It won’t take Artificial Intelligence to put companies in difficulty since they are already currently faced with a 20-fold increase in the amount of information generated around the world in just two years. There are companies that still have information systems built in the 80s.

In this context, we do well to remember that big-data analysis techniques, more than being an opportunity, are a kind of “survival strategy”,why of things compared to the description of thething, and this may not be the best omen as we start thinking about artificial intelligence.

The hype around the subject is huge and I think there will be many, many epic fails before we see significant results. Nothing wrong with this: progress is plagued by failures, the risk lies is being unprepared for change; in not even being able to learn lessons from failures. In our country, it has already happened repeatedly over the past 20 years, but we have still not yet learned the lesson.

This is the time to have the courage not only to dare, but also to do so while being aware of our business goals, not just to follow a fashionable trend.