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Last Modified: Mon, Sep 10 2018. 06 54 AM IST

How IBM labs in India are using AI, IoT, blockchain to help enterprises

From helping a fashion brand track trends to fetching smart weather info, IBM’s tech is coming handy for firms

Walmart, among others has partnered IBM for a blockchain to track food via supply chain. Photo: iStockphoto
Leslie D'Monte

Mumbai: Indian designers, Falguni and Shane Peacock, who have taken great care to cultivate and grow the Falguni Shane Peacock brand over the years, have simultaneously been exploring ways to raise the bar in the fast-paced fashion industry. Realising it would be a herculean task to have people manually track fashion trends daily, which would imply hiring people to browse hundreds of blogs and study thousands of images from fashion archives to understand trends and draw inspiration to better their art, they chose to automate the entire process.

They struck a deal with International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) in early 2017 to help them with this task. “Falguni asked questions from a design perspective such as: has this colour with this style not been done before?” recalls Sriram Raghavan, vice-president, IBM Research-India and Singapore, and chief technology officer (CTO) of IBM India.

To provide her company with a solution, IBM used its artificial intelligence (AI) system, Watson, to analyze hundreds of thousands of images from both the international fashion scene and the fashion history of Bollywood. Falguni and Shane Peacock appear happy with the outcome.

IBM is also using AI to help farmers. For instance, Pune-based agricultural start-up AgroStar tied up with the IBM unit, The Weather Company, to jointly provide critical insights on crop disease risks to more than 1 million farmers across Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Rajasthan.

“Everything in the current world is data-driven. We have the kind of data nobody else has. And we have Watson capabilities that we apply on this data. This translates into how I am getting better visibility, better insights and better predictions that power patterns and management dashboards,” explains Gopal Pingali, vice-president and distinguished engineer, Global Technology Services Labs.

IBM is also combining the power of AI with the Internet of Things (IoT). E&J Gallo Winery is using Watson’s AI to get smart weather reports and remote sensor data to deliver precise amounts of water to each vine, thus optimizing growth, according to Raghavan.

Similarly, IBM is leveraging AI and Blockchain by tying up with Walmart Inc., and nine other companies including Nestlé SA, Tyson Foods Inc. and Unilever NV, to release a blockchain to track food globally.

The IBM blockchain platform, christened the IBM Food Trust, connects participants through a permissioned (private) and shared record of food origin details, processing data and shipping details, etc. “Timely real-time AI on blockchain is a big differentiator,” insists Raghavan.

Monica Aggarwal, vice-president, IBM India Systems Development Lab (ISDL), explains that a successful AI strategy involves optimizing both the software and hardware. IBM’s tie-up with an insurance company to help it “assess damages automatically” without the help of surveyors is a case in point, according to Aggarwal, who did not disclose the name of the firm.

Aggarwal’s team began by collating online images pertaining to damages, and created tags for all these damages. The team, then, labelled the data and created a deep learning AI model. Next, the team used a web application programming interface (API) to test the model using an image which was not included in the training data set. The model was, then, integrated in a mobile app.

“Now, the moment there is a dent in the car or the vehicle, a user uploads the picture, following which the AI model looks at the extent of damage and classifies it as medium, complex or simple. It, then, pulls out the appropriate part number, gives the claim amount and settles the claim right away,” explains Aggarwal, underscoring the “speed of co-optimized hardware and software” to deliver a better AI solution.

To be sure, IBM is not the only firm that uses AI to better its business prospects in the global enterprise AI market that is forecast to grow from $845.4 million in 2017 to $6.15 billion by 2022, according to MarketsandMarkets Inc. The research firm lists IBM, Microsoft, Amazon Web Services, Intel, Google, SAP, Oracle, Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Wipro as major enterprise AI vendors.

Topics: IBMIBM Labs IndiaArtificial IntelligenceInternet of Thingsblockchain technology

First Published: Mon, Sep 10 2018. 02 28 AM IST

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