Andy Chun 2In the final build up to the AI Summit Hong Kong (26 July), AI Business caught up with leading academic and AI specialist, Dr. Andy Chun, Professor and Global AI Visionary at City University of Hong Kong.

Dr. Chun has received numerous awards for his research and development of AI systems in AI planning, scheduling, rostering, machine learning, etc. Today, his primary focus is in enterprise optimization and scheduling and he is a highly trusted consultant for many of the largest organisations in Hong Kong where he advises them to leverage AI technologies in order to work more effectively and efficiently. Dr. Chun is presenting at the AI Summit on how the technology is empowering the business of tomorrow right now.

Transforming business: beyond the hype

We were very excited to talk with Dr. Chun before the AI Summit Hong Kong (26 July) to find out his vision of how AI will transform the world of business. Dr. Chun began the interview by highlighting that the conversation was hardly new and instead emphasized that real development had been taking place over the past decade focused on ‘improving how businesses operate, with AI technologies such as optimization, business intelligence, data analytics, speech recognition, face recognition, machine learning, etc.’

However, he then elaborated that momentum is gathering pace: ‘With recent AI developments in big data and deep learning, as popularized by Alpha Go, artificial intelligence has taken a center stage. New AI capabilities will allow businesses to gain a better and more fine-grained understanding of their customers as well as their needs. With AI predictive analytics using big data at scale, businesses can more accurately predict consumer trends and individual needs.’

He then explained with an example, ‘China’s WeChat social media app has close to a billion users daily. Besides instant messaging features, users can transfer funds and make purchases. Imagine the type of power a business can have if it can accurately predict consumer purchasing habits, preferences, and tastes of a billion people in real time! This is the power that AI plus big data can provide.

Dr. Chun told us, ‘this new wave of AI capabilities will empower businesses to truly know and understand its customers and their particular needs, and then provide highly personalized services and/or products. AI will also enable businesses to run more efficiently and effectively; saving costs while providing higher quality goods and services. In short, AI will allow businesses to provide products and services to the right consumer, at the right time and location, and at the best possible price.’

City University of Hong Kong

The Computer Science Department at City University of Hong Kong is ahead of its game in technological development and research and was ranked by the US News and World Report to be among the top 10 institutions in the world. We asked Dr. Chun what is currently happening at City University Hong Kong and how it’s pushing the boundaries.

Dr. Chun explained that the Computer Science Department is highly dynamic, dedicated and always has a finger on the pulse.  Furthermore, he considers the research programs of the department as emblematic of its evolving and progressive nature; ‘we are one of the firsts in this region to offer specialized study streams dedicated to data science as well as information security at the undergraduate level. The bachelor-level data science specialization provides students with general AI and machine learning knowledge and skills to support AI and big data needs in Hong Kong and this region. At the graduate level, AI and machine learning are also our largest research area.’

Changing the game

Dr Chun believes that this dynamic gives them the means to really push forward. He explained their areas of focus; ‘We leverage various types of AI algorithms, such as search, evolutionary, and machine learning, to solve difficult business resource allocation/assignment problems which have high returns in terms of quality of product or services delivered.’

Dr Chun continued, ‘currently, I am working with a couple of large companies in the rail and aviation industries. AI captures valuable knowledge and expertise from highly experienced individuals within the respective industries. We combine that knowledge with data streams and AI algorithms to help companies manage their resources and operate more effectively and in turn save money while improving quality. I am also working with a partner on an AI + IoT + blockchain platform. We believe the combination of AI and big data with their accurate predictive analytic capabilities will be highly valuable to businesses in the future. However, data is useful only if it can be trusted, and that is where blockchain comes in. We are building a framework that applies AI techniques within a blockchain environment that supports predictive analytics. Specifically, we are targeting IoT data and platforms. I believe the technology we are creating will be a win-win for both consumers and businesses, as it best matches and optimizes supply with demand in a highly distributed manner’.

AI adoption in the APAC region

We asked Dr. Chun about effective AI adoption in the APAC region and he reflected that the most significant factors are demographic and governmental – there needs to be a high concentration of population with relatively similar lifestyles, tastes, and needs.

Dr. Chun explained further, ‘In the APAC region, China and India will have the highest potential. In terms of application areas, I think FinTech and HealthTech will be two main areas where AI adoption will have strongest impact and benefits. Both FinTech and HealthTech are big users of AI technologies.If we look at the 2017 EY FinTech Adoption Index, China leads the world with 69% adoption, and India is second with 52%. The USA is 33%, which is the average for the world. This is a good indicator that population in both China and India are highly receptive to newer technologies and newer forms of online interactions… The rate of AI adoption is also influenced heavily by government support. The Chinese government has made it very clear that AI is a national priority, and has been drafting a national development plan on AI and setting up a special fund. According to a PwC report, China estimates a 26% boost to its GDP by 2030 due to AI.’

Build up to the AI Summit, Hong Kong, 26 July

We are in the final build up to the AI Summit Hong Kong, 26 July, the number one event dedicated to artificial intelligence in business. Dr Chun is excited to take part and stated, ‘The AI Summit is probably the first time a conference is held in Hong Kong that is totally dedicated to AI. Having worked in AI for over 20 years in Hong Kong, I am quite excited to be part of this as well as for the opportunity to hear all the exciting plans corporations have on the use of AI in Hong Kong and this region.’