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Artifical Intelligence

Generative AI revolution 
comes to business

Over the past two weeks, AWS, Cisco, Oracle and Lenovo have all announced major initiatives to harness artificial intelligence for business, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

Four of the world’s biggest enterprise technology companies have announced major new product ranges that will introduce the business world to generative artificial intelligence (AI) – applications that can generate text, images, audio, and data in response to prompts.

For the last six months, consumer-driven applications have dominated AI discussion, as ChatGPT, Google Bard and Microsoft Bing AI transformed the way any individual can generate new content. Now, that revolution is coming to businesses.

Over the past two weeks, cloud computing leader Amazon Web Services (AWS), along with Cisco, Oracle and Lenovo, unveiled new products and services that promise a massive shift in how businesses use AI. Initially these tools will give early adopters competitive advantage in their industries, but later it will be essential merely to remain relevant and competitive.

At this week’s AWS Re:inforce cybersecurity conference in Los Angeles, AWS chief information security officer CJ Moses opened the event by declaring that “new technologies like generative AI present new challenges, but also new opportunities”. This, he said, allowed the company to re-evaluate and rethink how it improves cyber defences through automation and threat detection.

AWS was an early player in AI applications, especially in machine learning (ML), a type of AI that allows software to learn without being explicitly programmed, and which is at the heart of generative AI.

The Amazon ML tool SageMaker helps companies build, train, and deploy ML models quickly and easily. South African companies such as Absa, Standard Bank and MTN all use it for fraud detection and risk management. Now, AWS is embracing generative AI.

Moses announced a range of generative AI tools and updates to existing AI tools during his keynote. The most significant update was to a solution called Amazon Bedrock, which allows companies to build their own generative AI applications.  It gives customers easy access to “foundation models” – ultra-large ML structures on which generative AI relies — from the leading AI model providers. This means they will have flexibility and choice to use the best models for specific needs.

He also announced unlimited free use by individual software developers of Amazon CodeWhisperer, an AI-powered coding companion, which uses generative AI to provide code suggestions in real time. Paid tiers are available for professional use, with features like added enterprise-level security and administrative capabilities.

“Generative AI is democratising content creation by providing simple, extremely powerful tools that are open and accessible to everyone,” he said. “As with any other tool, there’s an opportunity for people to misuse it. Threat actors could leverage generative AI to automate the creation of phishing emails, social engineering attacks and other types of malicious content. However, that same power and ease of use can make artificial intelligence an indispensable tool in the hands of security engineers.”

On the same day, cloud rival and software giant Oracle announced plans to develop generative AI services to help organisations automate business processes, improve decision-making, and enhance customer experiences.

It is collaborating with Cohere, a leading AI platform for enterprises, to build tools ranging from applications to infrastructure, on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI).

Clay Magouyrk, executive vice president of OCI, said: “Our partnership with Cohere will enable our customers to easily embed generative AI into their business. Using Cohere’s foundation models, customers can securely incorporate their own data to train specific models, deploy them on best-in-class AI infrastructure through OCI, and experience the business benefits immediately in their applications.”

Cohere models will also be directly integrated into Oracle’s portfolio of cloud applications.  Oracle said this combination of applications and its data management expertise with Cohere’s large language models would deliver “unrivaled data security, privacy, and governance”.

Customers would also be able to refine these models further using their own data to increase accuracy for specific business use cases. For example, Oracle would deploy new models for Healthcare and Public Safety and embed generative AI throughout industry-specific applications.

Richard J. Barohn, executive vice chancellor at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, said the institution was “looking forward to simplifying physician and nurse workflows by incorporating generative AI into their Oracle electronic health record system, which will help them spend more time with patients to improve the quality of care and healthcare experience”.

The following day, Lenovo announced it had reached record annual revenue from AI infrastructure of over US$2-billion, and was committing US$1-billion investment over three years to accelerate AI deployment for businesses around the world.

The investment would expand the company’s “AI-ready portfolio of smart devices, infrastructure solutions and services to help accelerate innovation, enabling the use of generative AI and delivering cognitive decisions at scale throughout remote locations across financial, manufacturing, healthcare, retail and smart city applications”.

As part of the additional investment, Lenovo is committing US$100-million to grow its AI Innovators programme, which delivered more than 150 AI solutions created with 45 partners in the past year.

Among other, Lenovo is partnering with AI video generator DeepBrain AI to offer generative AI virtual assistants that can be paired with powerful large language models to deliver automated concierge service in hospitality and retail settings.

Last week, during the Cisco Live conference in Las Vegas, Cisco announced it was “reimagining the way people work with new, powerful generative AI technology”. Cisco said it would harness large language models across its collaboration and security portfolios “to help organisations drive productivity and simplicity for their workforce”.

According to Cisco’s “2023 State of Global Innovation” study, IT professionals rank generative AI as the technology most likely to have a significant impact on their business, with 85% of those saying they’re prepared for its impact.

“Generative AI will quickly become pervasive as we see businesses and workers embrace the technology to become materially more productive,” said Jeetu Patel, Cisco executive vice president and general manager for security and collaboration. “At Cisco, we’ve been using AI for years. Now we’re unveiling how we’re incorporating generative AI into our existing products, helping customers drive real value to unlock the most secure, unrivaled work experiences possible.”

Among other, the Cisco Security Cloud will leverage a generative AI Policy Assistant to address the complexity of maintaining numerous policies across information systems, which creates a risk that opens the door for cyber attacks.

Cisco’s security operations center (SOC) Assistant will provide a comprehensive situation analysis for security analysts, correlating intelligence across Cisco’s Security Cloud platform solutions, relaying potential impacts, and providing recommended actions. This will significantly reduce the time needed for SOC teams to respond to potential threats.

Meanwhile, on the sidelines of the AWS Re:inforce conference, CJ Moses told Business Times that generative AI was “all the rage and all the hype”, and that it would take time to roll out to the business world. However, existing AI applications were already mainstream.

“We’ve been doing AI, ML, RL (reinforcement learning) …  for decades. Where generative AI is new and it’s caught the imagination of everyone is that it democratises the ability to do things. It’s early days for generative AI specifically, but it’s not new days for AI, ML, and RL.”

* This story first appeared in Business Times in the Sunday Times

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