The Artificial Intelligence revolution (AI) is upon us. From being the stuff of relatively recent science fiction to being a commonplace of online interaction (think customer service chatbots and targeted advertising), AI has rapidly become a major consideration for businesses and service providers in the private and public sector alike. However, the fact is that the age of artificial intelligence is only just beginning, and AI technology is set to be the driving force behind a massive worldwide transformation over the next couple of decades.
Enabled by 5G and blockchain technology, the Internet of Things (IoT) is just around the corner. This means that even the most basic technology, from cars to washing machines, alarm clocks to doorbells, will possess some degree of AI and will be able to communicate with each other. When that moment arrives, AI will be not just a luxury add-on but an essential feature.
Technology for all
For AI to work effectively, it needs advanced infrastructure. But for that infrastructure to operate optimally and safely, it requires users to be AI-equipped and have compatible AI that speaks the same language. For instance, in a transport system designed for AI vehicles, a vehicle that doesn’t have AI disrupts the whole system and is a hazard to other road users.
AI, however, is expensive, and its implementation is time and resource-consuming. For small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), especially if they’re not particularly tech-focused, adapting to AI in-house can be the equivalent of setting up a whole other company. Hiring specialist data scientists, buying in hardware, taking care of security, and ironing out the bugs as you go long is both inefficient and costly.
AI as a service
The obvious alternative is to follow the already-popular Software as a Service (SaaS) model and provide AI as a service on a subscription basis. This is already being pioneered by companies like SambaNova, co-founded by CEO Rodrigo Liang. By offering companies the core technology to meet their AI needs on a subscription basis, SambaNova enables everything from medical prognosis to language translation without clients having to hire data scientists or invest in bulky mainframes and servers.
AI as a service is the only way SMBs can compete with the tech giants on a level playing field. One reason is that it is scalable. Businesses only need to pay for the resources they need at that time and can easily increase the level of AI they have access to when they need to and/or can afford it.
Along with the advantages of AI come more significant risks. Potentially AI-powered systems can be disrupted or co-opted by hackers, fraudsters, and other cyber-criminals for diverse purposes. As the technology grows more sophisticated, so do the hacker’s methods, and a whole cybersecurity industry is dedicated to staying one step ahead of them.
The great thing about AI as a service is that your cybersecurity needs are largely taken care of by your service provider. When supplying AI is your business, you take security extremely seriously: one major breach, and your reputation is ruined. Small companies cannot afford to keep up with cybersecurity requirements, but at the same time, they can’t afford to ignore the problem. With AI as a service, you can be confident you’re also buying the very latest protection and that your data and systems are as secure as possible.
One of the most apparent reasons AI as a subscription service is inevitable is that the demand exists and is growing. As AI becomes standard, any company not using it will quickly be seen as sub-standard. Everyone now knows that AI is a necessity rather than a novelty, and SMBs realize that if they don’t have access to artificial intelligence processes, they risk being left behind. However, they cannot afford to do it all themselves, especially when the technology is moving so fast that any set-up runs the risk of being obsolete six months after it is installed.
AI subscriptions are the only way SMBs can stay competitive, and as legacy technology is quickly abandoned, they will become the default choice. This will not only be good for small businesses but good for the industry and indeed the world, as AI is only optimized when it is part of a wider ecosystem. Partnerships can deliver much more than individual providers can, but for this to be realized, apps and other systems need to be compatible, something that universal AI services can facilitate.
The democratization of AI and digital technology is essential if its full, world-changing potential is to be realized. At present, AI subscription services are the only way of achieving this. The nature of AI is to communicate, which means that shared infrastructure is ultimately necessary. Subscription services are a part of this. Looking forward, this is undoubtedly the way that AI will proceed.