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AI Practitioner

AI Summit Silicon Valley 2021: Innovation is moving faster than adoption, but there are ways for startups to catch up

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Article ImageFor all its awesome sophistication, the business of AI is facing a conspicuously straightforward dilemma.

Technology innovation is moving faster than adoption.

Boldly ambitious companies – including many of the exciting start-ups emerging in California’s Silicon Valley tech hub – are hitting serious roadblocks on their route to commercial success.

I plan to confront this issue head-on when attendees converge on the Santa Clara Convention Center for the AI Summit Silicon Valley 2021.

I’m honored to be chairing the Innovation Acceleration stream on day one of the event, November 3.

It’s a fantastic opportunity to share the stage with a great line-up of speakers and get the inside track on their pioneering projects.

But it’s also a chance to advance the debate on this crucial issue: how do we make sure innovative AI ideas get beyond first base and start delivering business value?

I’ll be building on some of the themes explored by my colleague Tim Ensor at the AI Summit London back in September while examining the situation from a US business perspective.

I don’t want to give too much away here, but the agenda promises to deliver plenty of valuable insight into ways of getting AI off the drawing board and into industry. Here’s just a flavor of what the speakers are planning.

Dr. Seth Dobrin, Chief AI Officer at IBM Watson, will be exploring the future of end-to-end intelligence through next-generation infrastructure. Ganesh Harinath from Verizon will examine the benefits of AI on the edge and blockchain, while PepsiCo’s Ravi Boggaram plans to share the secrets of scaling AI innovation across the enterprise.

Other high-caliber speakers from Dataiku, Unilever, WarnerMedia, and more will add their own perspectives on how to accelerate innovation through AI.

As for my own talk, I plan to set the scene for the day by opening with a high-level view of the state of play in the AI industry.

As I made clear at the beginning of this article, I really want to dissect the key problem – technology is evolving so rapidly that it is becoming increasingly difficult for businesses to keep up.

Nothing I’ve seen in the most recent surveys points to any improvement, so I want to look at the reasons why.

One of the challenges is the simple fact that AI is really hard to do – there’s no getting away from the fact. So how do we start to tease that problem apart?

If we can identify precisely where companies are spinning their wheels, we can begin to apply practical solutions. Let me share my personal experience here.

Plenty of the companies I come across have got aspirations to deploy AI, but they tend to be at one of three very particular stages.

Some are simply considering it; some are trying it but it's just not working, and some are looking at their next use cases.

Different states of play, yes, but they all share a number of key challenges – many of them focused around putting a good business case together.

Sometimes it’s difficult to identify and explain the source of value, sometimes a company will understand the opportunity but can’t show proof of how to do it, and sometimes an organization simply doesn’t have the right people of skillsets needed to apply the concept to the real world.

Then of course there are the obvious challenges of complex technology and the big question of profitability – how can you be sure you’ll get a return on your investment?

I’ll be unpacking these challenges one by one and suggesting some ways to overcome them. I hope my approach will be a perfect balance to the invigorating, go-getting vibe of the Silicon Valley community.

That mindset of rapid progress, that mindset of innovation, that mindset of ambition.

I want start-ups with grand ambitions to know that there are practical ways to overcoming any AI barriers and finding a way to success.

If you’re all set for the summit, great, I look forward to seeing you there either in-person or via the virtual conference experience.

Bring your ideas, bring your questions and let's meet, let's chat, and let's get to grips with some practical solutions to help bring the next wave of brilliant AI applications to life.


Ram Naidu is SVP of AI at Cambridge Consultants, part of Capgemini Invent. Ram’s passion is inspiring and mentoring teams that are dedicated to solving tough problems and building great products and services. He holds significant expertise in product strategy and commercialization, innovation management, and AI.

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