To say that artificial intelligence is a buzzy technology would be an understatement. There are thousands of AI startups and counting, and they attract billions of dollars in venture capital investment. This buzz has recently prompted some hand wringing and warnings about an over-hyped bubble.
Yet the AI train has already left the station. Like it or not, machine learning is turning our world upside down, and in 2019 we will see more and more AI-driven applications in our lives. Autonomous cars, packages delivered by drones and automated medical diagnostics are just a few examples. Here are some trends and industries to watch for in the coming year:
Hacking Your Health
Hundreds of companies are applying AI to a variety of predictive and prescriptive healthcare diagnostics and monitoring solutions. These developments range from monitoring your health and predicting medical conditions, to taking a deep dive analysis of your DNA sequencing and suggesting how your life could be extended by detection of heredity conditions that develop over decades. This technology could enable you to hack your healthcare and become your own doctor.
For example, at Cognitiv Ventures, we’ve invested in Zebra Medical Vision, an Israeli startup that’s applying AI to radiology in order to examine images more accurately than a radiologist can. And it’s democratizing radiology: For the price of $1 per read, you get an AI-driven analysis that can detect abnormalities more effectively than the radiologist’s human eye, and compare those results to millions of other data points. It’s just one example of how, for repetitive tasks like this, machine learning can be superior to what the most skilled and trained human professional is capable of.
For over a century, medical professionals have relied on technology to improve diagnostics and enhance invasive and noninvasive procedures. This is yet another level of precision and accuracy that’s entering the field.
Say Goodbye to the Driver’s Seat
While it’s been talked about in 2018, in 2019, we will actually see the beginning of an era of cars that aren’t made for driving. We will also see autonomous vehicles that aren’t even designed for humans, such as vehicles tailored for deliveries and other needs of smart cities and urban areas.
In 2019, Volkswagen and Mobileye will launch a self-driving ride-hailing service in Israel. GM plans to commercialize its autonomous vehicle, the Cruise AV – which lacks pedals and a steering wheel – in 2019. Volvo plans to put its driverless truck trailers into operation in limestone mines in Norway.
Thanks in part to AI, the generation born today may never learn to drive.
Drones: The Eyes & Ears of Intelligence
There’s no limit to what an autonomous flying robotic device equipped with sensors, AI, onboard computing, and high speed data acquisition can accomplish. Drones will improve perimeter security, predict traffic jams, monitor safety and uptime of power lines, and assess stockpile inventory in mines. Drones are performing land surveys for precision agriculture and they will be part of the toolbox of first responders in areas that humans can’t safely access. They could assist in the early detection and extinguishing of brush fires, an existential crisis in California.
In the spring of 2019, Wing, a drone startup owned by Google parent company Alphabet Inc, will launch a pilot delivery service in Finland. Airobotics, an Israeli startup whose drones assess mine stockpiles, will survey the construction and dredging of a new seaport in the city of Haifa.
AI-driven drones can monitor sites 24/7, provide progress reports for construction projects, and warn of supply chain glitches. These autonomous aerial robots will be the new eyes and ears of intelligence.
China: Expanding the Lead
If you want to know who’s innovating the most in this field, look East.
China is undoubtedly in the lead in terms of advancement, investment, and access to data, which is critical to the success of many AI applications. By all accounts, China is ahead and shows no signs of slowing down. Its leadership in this field owes to some unique advantages, including a centralized government, and a public that is far more relaxed about sharing personal data. Data is the key ingredient to scaling AI in many applications.
The Chinese also have numbers on their side: a highly concentrated population that’s large enough that any kind of data becomes statistically significant, and no barriers to accessing that data. Add to that Chinese ingenuity, significant advancements in entrepreneurship and technology and the abundance of fresh investments from successful companies like Alibaba, Tencent Holdings and others, and you’ve got yourself the perfect formula for continued leadership in this field in 2019.