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Accenture Combines AI And IoT To Build Technology That Serves Humans
Their engineers are combining AI with deep learning and machine learning to interpret the large amounts of data being generated
Photo Credit : Bivash Banerjee
Global technology major Accenture is looking to use the power of combination of the best technologies in the world to build solutions that are unique for their clients. "Accenture is like a glue organisation," says Marc Carrel-Billiard, global managing director -Technology R&D, Accenture.
Accenture's technology R&D division is working towards combining different technologies wherein Artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) are at the core of it. Their engineers are combining AI with deep learning and machine learning to interpret the large amounts of data being generated from the 20 billion + connected devices today. "So, if you combine all the data coming from the sensors with all the computing power, machine learning...we have the best of both worlds. We need to combine them and the combination is a cure, that's exactly what I am talking about - combining things together that makes a big difference," says Carrel-Billiard.
AI and IOT cannot survive alone, says Carrel-Billiard. "At Accenture, we summarise this as [IoT]AI (IoT to the power of AI). In fact, AI for us is process, people, and data - that's where the value can come. If you blend AI and IoT, it becomes Artificial Intelligence of Things. I believe that advance IoT is Artificial Intelligence IoT."
Accenture which follows a September-August fiscal year reported net revenue of $32.9 billion for fiscal year 2016 compared with $31.0 billion for fiscal 2015, an increase of 6 per cent in US dollar terms. The new business comprising of digital, cloud, and security services contributed approximately $13.5 billion which is about 40 per cent of total sales. These numbers gain significance as a major chunk of the new business comprises of AI- and IoT-related technologies.
For ease of explanation, Carrel-Billiard has formulated an interesting numerical code "7521" to explain the depth and breadth of Accenture Labs. This basically means, they have 7 labs in the world which does research in 5 domains [Digital Experience, AI, Systems & Platforms (quantum computing, IoT), Cyber Security, and Software Engineering]. In addition, they have 2 major strategic innovation initiatives namely Liquid Workforce and Intelligent Industry, and 1 technology vision which is released in the form of a report every year.
Technology To Serve Human
Accenture has the largest presence in India in terms of headcount and its Bangalore Lab is intensely researching on technologies like AI, IOT, and Blockchain. All of Accenture's efforts in India are mainly targeted towards achieving two primary objectives. "First, it is to help all the software engineers around us to be successful...to help them learn new technologies faster, code faster, and build high quality codes to reduce downtime of applications, for example," says Sanjay Podder, managing director, Accenture Labs India. The other area of focus is to harness the power of technology for the nation's development. Accenture calls this initiative 'Tech4Good'.
'Tech4Good' in India primarily focuses on three aspects - malnutrition, affordable healthcare, and connected agriculture. "There a number of such areas that our Bangalore Lab has been working over the years with some of the best NGOs and foundations in the country. Last year we were the technology advisors for Ashoka Foundation Fellows. We are also the technology advisors for NASSCOM's Social Innovation Forum. We are mentoring some of the top NGOs in Tech4Good," says Podder.
In line with its focus on using technology for nation building, Accenture believes they always put people first in the centre of the thought process, in all the technologies they are working on. "Will robot replace people? No. Robots, artificial intelligence will augment people, they will help them to do a better job, a different work and that's where we focus on our research as well. In every research we are doing, we always have in our mindset as to what is going to be the place for the human being in comparison with technology. This is because technology without human being is no technology. Technology is there to serve humans and not to replace humans," Carrel-Billiard says.
Accenture releases its annual Technology Vision Report every year which has highlighted five key trends for 2016 - Intelligent Automation, Platform Economy, Digital Trust, Predictable Disruption, and Liquid Workforce. The next report will be released in January 2017.
When it comes to innovation in Accenture, it is driven not just out of the Labs, but all initiatives are intertwined through the company's other divisions such as Accenture Research, Accenture Ventures, Liquid Studios, Innovation Centres, and Delivery Centres. They have also partnered with universities, students, and startups to unleash the potential of joint research.
In India, from day one, Accenture has been the strategic partner with NASSCOM's Digital India IoT Centre of Excellence which houses a lot of startups. "Our experts from the Lab help them understand how these startups can be more successful. We have a program called the 'Bridgemaker' as part of our Open Innovation, where we take the best of the startups along and embed them in our solutions, give them access to go-to market strategy and access to clients around the world," says Podder.