Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud computing division of Amazon, is constantly reinventing to position itself as one of the leading players in ‘digital transformation,’ especially over the last one decade. From being a leader in the cloud computing space, offering cloud services to enterprises and SMBs, the company is now looking to push a flurry of newer offerings that leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) concepts. At a recent interactive session on AWS’ AI and ML services, Amazon Internet Services Private Limited’s spokespersons are absolutely confident that AI is the way forward for the company.
Of course, AI-ML is nothing alien to Amazon. Navdeep Manaktala, head of business development for Amazon Internet Services, explained at the session that Amazon has a long history of using these capabilities in its day to day activities. “We have always used machine and deep learning extensively across all areas of Amazon, from our retail recommendations engine driven by ML from Alexa to Amazon Go. Now we are working towards bringing these innovative and valuable technologies to as many developers as possible, and are investing more than ever in AI services.”
Needless to say, in recent years, there has been a revolution in the field of AI. Machine learning has now become much more effective, and through more advanced form touted as deep learning, it has given trememdous boost to computer vision, speech, and natural language processing.
Not only AWS, today, every other technology majors, including Google, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft, among others, are placing their bets on AI, not only as a means to grow and innovate, but also as a survival strategy. According to IDC, global spending on AI and cognitive technologies will reach $19.1 billion in 2018, up 54.2 percent compared to a year ago. By 2021, AI and cognitive spending will hit $52.2 billion. The analyst firm predicts that those not spending on AI related technologies will be left behind in the race. And AWS too has realized this sooner or later, figuring out a strategy to win over its rivals.
In recent months, Amazon Lex, Amazon Polly, Amazon SageMaker and Amazon Rekognition, are providing cutting edge deep learning components for application developers without the need for deep mathematical skills, and AI engines for data scientists to create sophisticated, custom intelligent systems.
In his presentation explaining different use cases, Madhusudan Shekar, Principal Technical Evangelist, Amazon Internet Services Private Limited informed how Amazon is currently using its AI/ML services to improve its own products and services. He cited the example of Amazon Go, a grocery store that uses computer vision, deep learning algorithms, and sensors to allow customers to buy groceries without having to wait in a queue at the checkout counters. He even explained how AI-ML is being used to speed up orders in Amazon’s fulfillment centres. For example, if milk and bread are frequently bought together by customers, the racks containing these items are automatically stacked closer using robots so they’re more easily accessible for extraction and packaging.
Globally, Netflix, Pinterest, Airbnb, GE, Yelp, Butterfleye, Digital Globe and a host of other AWS customers have successfully used the company’s AI/ML solutions to streamline their operations.
In India too, AWS has a lot of successful cases to share. Shekar cited the case of Shaadi.com, one of the largest online matchmaking services, that uses Amazon Rekognition to recognize photos uploaded by its users on the website. The website is capable of identifying the gender of a person in profile pictures, identify people and faces more appropriately and also detect any inappropriate content. This has saved tremendous time, human effort and cost savings for the company, not to mention the accountability had gone up several notches.
PolicyBazaar uses Amazon Polly to convert text to speech in their interactive voice response system (IVR). Ashish Gupta, Chief Technology Officer & Chief Product Officer from PolicyBazaar.com who was present as a customer at the session, said in his presentation, “Amazon Polly made a difference to our processes and efficiency by enabling us to shift from sharing one-size-fit-all, pre-defined responses to customer queries, such as “Your documentation is pending” or “Something was wrong with your uploads.” With Amazon Polly, our system identifies the customers and generates a voice call that resolves their queries on a personal basis.”
“The move to Amazon Polly adds to our seamless customer experience and facilitates a more actionable communication,” he said. [Read to know more about Policybazaar.com ’s success with Amazon Polly]
In this context, AWS is working towards democratizing AI and ML and making it available to the entire developer community, not just data scientists and data engineers, stated Shekar.
In other words, the company’s fully-managed services, frameworks, and tools are now being made available to just about everyone, irrespective of their level of technical skills and abilities, including enterprises, startups, developers and data scientists, he simplified. [Read to know how AWS is democratizing AI]
Shekar mentioned, to help customers become more agile, AWS is continually expanding its services to support all kinds of cloud workloads, and we now offer over 125 services that range from compute, storage, networking, database, analytics, application services, developer, mobile, security, hybrid, and enterprise applications, and the more advanced ones such as IoT, AI-ML, and augmented or virtual reality.
For example, the company recently announced the addition of Hindi language support for Amazon Polly allowing users to create applications that talk and build new categories of speech-enabled products. The new update also means ‘Aditi’ first released as an Indian English voice to the Amazon Polly portfolio in November 2017, has for the first time gone bilingual.
“Today, there is a demand for content in Hindi and Indian English across all genres of voice applications – from training videos to e-Learning, corporate narrations, voice bots, and more. Amazon Polly makes it easy to switch between languages and voices, based on the customer’s requirements,” said Manaktala.
In fact, today, almost every application being used will some form of AI-ML infused in it. While it’s still early days of AI, businesses, both big and small, and across verticals, are showing an interest in its adoption. It is here that by democratizing AI and making it available for all, AWS can make a huge difference to business and society in the days to come.