How AI Is Already on the Path to Power Growth and Change in Asia


Power of Ideas

How AI Is Already on the Path to Power Growth and Change in Asia

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Ralph Haupter - Asia Summit 2019
Ralph Haupter
(President, Microsoft Asia; Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Corporation)

AI is the defining technology of our time and will be the catalyst for digital transformation all over the world, and that is clearly manifesting already throughout the Asia Pacific region.

At Microsoft, we believe AI has incredible potential to drive Asia’s growth over the next decade. In a recent study we did with IDC Asia/Pacific involving 1,600 business leaders in 15 markets across the region,* we found that AI is expected to almost double the rate of innovation improvements as well as the rate of employee productivity gains in the Asia Pacific—and that’s within just the next two years.

As an incredibly diverse region in terms of economic and societal development, the adoption and integration of AI into different industries and aspects of life in Asia will differ greatly depending on the geography. Nevertheless, there are still four key aspects of AI that I believe holds true all over the Asia Pacific.

1.  AI is now: Some feel that AI is still far from becoming reality; however, it’s already here, changing how people and organizations work.

For example, for the global autonomous vehicle dream to come true, the driverless cars, trucks, and buses of the future need to be safe. Taiwan’s Linker Networks is using AI to teach vehicles how to accurately recognize objects around them through its auto-labeling system, increasing accuracy rates to 99 percent and cutting image tagging time by 70 percent. AI helps to automate the time-intensive process of labeling objects in images, which in turn improves image recognition speed and accuracy. Moreover, employees who used to do manual labeling have been upskilled to do quality control of the auto labeling algorithms.

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2. AI is solving pressing local challenges: In Indonesia, Microsoft, Danone Indonesia, and have partnered to clean up the 297-kilometer-long Citarum River in Jakarta, creating a tree management system to collect and analyze ecological data and provide forest managers and government regulators with important information on carbon absorption and future environmental impacts. Likewise, in Seoul, AI and machine learning capabilities are empowering city fire management efforts with new algorithms and insights, which can predict fast-spreading urban fires with 90 percent accuracy, identify parts of Seoul with a higher probability of fires and helping firefighters optimize patrol routes and deployments. 

3. AI is enabling existing industries to reboot: Rather than the trope of AI as solely the province of internet startups, we need to see AI for what it truly is: a technology that can revitalize and build new business and roles within existing business sectors. For example, Downer is a heavy engineering company in Australia, which maintains New South Wales’ fleet of 78 Waratah trains. They’ve installed over 300 IOT sensors and close to 90 video cameras in every train, collecting 30,000 signals from each train every 10 minutes and generating billions of data points. They then use AI to analyze and detect flaws, create actionable insights, automate inspections, optimize operations, and introduce predictive maintenance. 

4. A new mindset and principles are needed for a new world: While AI has the potential to help society tackle some of its most daunting challenges, that potential can only be maximized if we create a solid foundation of trust through security, privacy, and safety. 

Governments and companies need to look more closely at the principles driving the way technology is used to deliver services to modern society. The mindsets and regulations of the past around cloud usage, data privacy, and data and analytics, as well as the new skills needed to realize this, need to be re-imagined. As a company, we believe in the need to co-create the future with governments, with NGOs, and with the companies we serve. Initiatives such as our six guiding principles, participating in industry-wide policy discussions and the investment in digital skills from K12 through to professional development platforms like the Microsoft-AI Business School are some examples of how we are just scratching the surface of the incredible opportunity before us.
At Microsoft, our mission is to empower people and organizations to achieve more, and we think nowhere will that effect be more pronounced over the next 10 years than in Asia. AI is already redefining how we work, play, learn, and connect. Getting that balance right will ultimately power Asia ahead of the world in growth and innovation.  

Published September 13, 2019