The Promise Of Cognitive Computing In India

by Debashis Banerjee    Jan 17, 2018


The promise of cognitive computing in India in 2018 is threefold. Firstly, it can be categorized as the impact by both consumer and enterprise applications in the government and non-government sector. This is coupled with the impact of Indian engineering and product management on cognitive products. Finally, the availability of commoditized cloud based infrastructure platforms in a price sensitive country like India.

India is in the midst of a digital transformation. The commoditization of data and the rapid penetration of mobile phones has lowered the barriers to connectivity. This connectivity provides direct and automatic collection of data which is the “oxygen” to cognitive computing. In 2017 if we saw a push towards digitization in India via the note exchange and the rapid rise of digital payments. We expect 2018 to take digitization further with the Aadhar connectivity. This data will be the fuel to the algorithms powered by SAP Leonardo, Google’s Tensor Flow or IBM Watson which will be used in applications.

Government applications the such as tax applications could use data from credit cards, social signals (such as those from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) and feed it into machine learning models. For example, multiple social media posts of foreign vacations when co-related with a very low income in an income tax return could be determined by the model to be a mismatch between social behavior and tax returns. This could invite further scrutiny by tax authorities to unearth potentially hidden income. Another example is in civic services availability decided based on recommendations from social data.

Consumer behavior is already being influenced from applications in transportation which guides taxi drivers to areas of traditional high demand such as an airport, railway station or busy office areas, etc. This provides a better experience and faster service. User experience will be aided by “digital assistants” in both consumer and enterprise scenarios. With the prevalence of smart phones and lowering of data plan costs, e-commerce will continue to rise. Thus, the relevance of cognitive algorithms of prediction, will become even more important. The diversity of Indian customers continues to increase as the last mile of digital rural penetration is rapidly getting breached. This will result in recommendations being more hyper local and sensitive to factors such as culture, location and income. For example, a recommendation in a metro city like Bengaluru, Delhi may not be the same in a small town or a village.

Another impact will be the ability of the strong Indian engineering and product management skills in building cognitive solutions. There was a need to learn programming languages like C, C++, Java, Y2K or mainframes, etc when the IT boom began in India.  The next “IN” thing is the need for data science skills. Indian engineers, being one of the best in the world will in 2018 crave for data science as an area of learning. I would expect this learning to occur in two areas – one in algorithms and second in platforms. In the area of algorithms, the learning will vary from simple data science concepts such as data clustering to using natural language processing, neural networks or using Google’s Tensor flow.

This will re-kindle the love of mathematics in many engineers. The second is the advantage platforms such as HANA, SAP Leonardo and IBM Watson provide. Platforms which enable cognitive computing such as these will fuel cognitive learning from students and professionals. These platforms make it easier to bootstrap learning and usage in enterprise and consumer applications. This in turn will fuel India’s ability to build and invent data science based solutions to solve global problems.

Along with the digital transformation and the availability of skill, one other factor I see is the constant lowering of cost in leveraging cloud based infrastructure. Cognitive computing is often data intensive and needs high-end infrastructure. In a country like India 2018 is poised to be a year where the skilled engineers and the will to use data will be supported by cloud based infrastructure like HANA, Amazon, Google or even the move to private cloud based applications.

Thus, in summary, cognitive computing is poised for a lift-off in India powered by cloud based infrastructure, rapidly developing product and engineering skill and the rapid adoption by businesses looking at digital transformation.

[The author is Senior Director and India Site Lead at SAP Ariba]