There is no clear definition of what makes an enterprise smart. However, according to Joe Lonsdale, a founding partner at San Francisco-based venture capital fund 8VC, who coined the term, a smart enterprise enables “knowledge workers to process and analyse massive amounts of heterogeneous data and to collaborate and monitor things."

A smart enterprise can also be said to be one that is powered by digital technologies. Along with Social, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud (SMAC), we have moved to the Internet of Things (IoT) and are also talking about newer technologies like robotics, drones, 3D printing, augmented and virtual reality (also known as mixed reality), and blockchain (the technology that powers cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin).

According to Brock Pierce—co-founder of Blockchain Capital and chairman of the Bitcoin Foundation—blockchain is second only to Artificial Intelligence, or AI. Which brings us to AI, the buzzword taking the digital world by storm.

There are three broad drivers of AI: increasingly sophisticated machine learning and deep learning algorithms; humongous amounts of data on which these algorithms can be coded and trained on; and availability of more computing power—central processing units (CPUs), graphics processing units (GPUs) and Tensor processing units (TPUs).

Unlike what we see in science fiction movies, most of the AI we see around caters to narrow specific areas, and hence is categorised as “weak, or narrow, AI". Examples include AI chatbots, AI personal and home assistants including Apple Inc.’s Siri, Microsoft Corp.’s Cortana, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd’s Bixby, Google’s Allo, Inc.’s Alexa or Echo and Google’s Home.

Driverless cars and trucks, too, remain higher manifestations of “weak AI". In other words, though we talk about the use of artificial neural networks (ANNs) in deep learning—a subset of machine learning—ANNs are modelled on the human brain but do not behave like we do.

Pascal Kaufmann—a neuroscientist-turned-entrepreneur and founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of Starmind International AG—cautions that the analogy that the brain is like a computer is a dangerous one, and blocks the progress of AI.

That surely appears to be case with even technology luminaries such as Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and physicist Stephen Hawking, expressing fears that sentient AI robots could rule mankind. So, while Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg believes AI will ultimately improve our lives, Musk feels Zuckerberg has a “limited understanding" of AI. This is not the last we have heard of this debate.

The fact is that today, robots do move boxes and make hamburgers. Algorithms create music, write reports and even trade on the stock exchanges.

While Royal Bank of Scotland Plc. (RBS) has its Luvo—a natural language processing AI bot which answers customer queries and performs simple banking tasks, closer home, HDFC Bank Ltd’s AI chatbot EVA has already addressed over 2.7 million customer queries since its launch about six months back.

Thanks to GPUs and deep learning, physicians can predict the onset of diseases earlier, simply by analysing patient electronic health records.

Accenture Plc. has developed a new AI-powered solution called Drishti to help the visually-impaired improve the way they experience the world and enhance their productivity in the workplace.

Software is eating the world, as Marc Andreessen, an entrepreneur, investor and co-founder of Netscape— said, but AI is eating software, Jensen Huang, president and CEO of graphics processor company, Nvidia, noted in his keynote speech at the GPU Technology Conference in May. He may not be too off the mark.

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