Artificial Intelligence and Telcos.. a marriage made in heaven !!


Some of the main themes highlighted at recent MWC are the essential enabling technologies that are going to determine the nature of the future digital world: artificial intelligence, robotics, SDN / NFV , security, privacy, identity etc.  The most intriguing for most of us is… i daresay .. AI…Artificial Intelligence !!

In Wiki terms Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the intelligence of a machine that could successfully perform any intellectual task that a human being can. For many, a useful definition of AI is the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence.

Developing machines capable of exhibiting human like intelligence has been in the research field from the mid-1950s. Underlying these machine capabilities is an ever-expanding set of technologies and software tools including neural networks, genetic algorithms, sensing devices and sensing interpretation algorithms.

Cognitive computing is a relatively new term, often used as a synonym for artificial intelligence. Unlike traditional computer systems, which are programmed by people to perform certain tasks, cognitive systems have the ability to learn through their interactions with both data and humans. They can even adapt and get smarter over time… matter is no longer science fiction.

Cognitive computing is a component of the broader trend around big data, but it is particularly important because cognitive computing focuses on the realm of unstructured data, which is clearly dominant in volume over that of structured data.You may want to read up on the IBM Watson Project here to get really want to dig deep into Industry initiative on AI / CC :

If you did not know but some of the basic AI technologies have already been incorporated by 3GPP into 4 G + network architecture .Self-organizing networks (SON) are the attempt to simplify and speed up the planning, configuration, management, optimization and healing of mobile communications networks.

One of the first standardized SON features, related to the “self-configuration” category, is automatic neighbor relation (ANR). ANR significantly reduces the time required to set up a base station by automatically managing neighbor cell relations, thus replacing time-consuming manual setup. ANR relies on the mobile terminal’s capability to report cells that it has detected but that are not part of the neighbor list broadcasted by the LTE network.

Furthermore, the anticipated massive deployment of small(er) cells, such as femtocells or picocells, as part of moving towards a heterogeneous network (HetNet) deployment strategy will push the ANR functionality, because the manual management of neighbor relations between cells will become even more challenging if not impossible.

According to pundits AI will have a profound impact on the Telco operators in various domains. For starters the mutually beneficial relationship between IoT and AI is manifesting itself in many successful integrations of the two technologies in the B2B and B2B2C space. The value propositions that underpin the fusion of IoT and AI include smart sensors (or intelligent sensors), which combine IoT and AI to provide realtime data and feedback.

AI will grab much of the attention in IoT-related projects because the IoT evolution requires a new and fundamentally different approach for locating devices / sensors and then beyond that, securing and sharing their location information. Without those, IoT won’t live up to its potential – and hype. AI impacts IoT solutions in two key dimensions—firstly in enabling real-time responses, for example via a remote video camera reading license plates or analysing faces; and secondly in post event processing, such as seeking out patterns in data over time and running predictive analytics.

A handful of companies already have a very detailed picture of their markets thanks to far-sighted decisions to add connectivity to the products they sell. Komatsu, for example, uses its Komtrax system to track the activities of almost 430,000 bulldozers, dump-trucks and forklifts belonging to its customers. The Japan-based company has integrated monitoring technologies and connectivity into its construction and mining equipment since the late 1990s. Komatsu says the Komtrax system is standard equipment on “most Komatsu Tier-3 Construction machines” and on most small utility machines and backhoes.

Komatsu’s machines ship with GPS chips that can pinpoint their position, together with a unit that gathers engine data. They can then transmit the resulting data to a communication satellite, which relays that information to the Komtrax data centre.The data captured by Komtrax (and other Internet of Things solutions) delivers Market Intelligence , Offer VAS and Data to support AI. Komtrax provides valuable information about how its customers use its equipment, which can then be used to refine its R&D activities.

Furthermore, Komatsu is linking market information directly with its production plants through Komtrax . It says its factories “aggressively monitor and analyse the conditions of machine operation and abrasion of components” to enable Komatsu and its distributors to improve operations by better predicting the lifetime of parts and the best time for overhauls. The ongoing advances in computing science mean that knowledge (in the form of insights gleaned from large volumes of detailed data) can increasingly be used to perform predictive analytics, enabling new services and cutting costs

The full AI/telecom future may arrive more quickly than many people realize. SoftBank is a major player in telecommunications in Japan and the United States. Its founder and CEO, Masayoshi Son, is a believer in the key role that AI will play going forward. AT&T is settling on an AI platform that can be used for different things instead of developing “one-off” solutions every time a task requiring the predictive capabilities and massive number-crunching abilities of AI presents itself.

AI can be used to process the trillions of possibilities – really fast – it has been calculated that brute force computing power alone would take years. AI solution providers use Genetic Algorithms, Simulated Annealing, Bayesian and Neural Networks to do optimisation, prediction and modelling. Artificial Intelligence is used to determine the optimal solution (that is, the “best” configuration of network, taking all factors into consideration) for a given service request or traffic demand. AI is used to predict the need for network capacity upgrades, and to determine the optimum route design and configuration of networks. This means operators can optimize multi-million-dollar network investment and expansion plans against growing market demand, increasing agility and eliminating guesswork and the risk of overbuild.

Unlike most sectors, Telcos purposefully and tightly connect their business lines with their IT functions. It is this integration that has enabled telcos to develop the services and products they offer consumers and customers.This dependence on IT will only grow as competition within the industry increases. Automating IT workflows using artificial intelligence can help telecom companies win customers by offering differentiated value propositions. Instead of dedicating the bulk of their time on completing rote, manually intensive processes, AI automation technology can liberate IT talent to focus on evolving and optimizing the company’s IT services to create an elevated customer experience.

AI is very much with us as a growing number of Telcos will likely find compelling uses for these technologies; leading organizations may find innovative applications that dramatically improve their performance or create new capabilities, enhancing their competitive position.

Telcos must get deeper into AI …sooner rather than later….or the OTT players just might grab that piece of the action as well. Because the potential of AI has not gone unnoticed by OTT Giants. Google Deepmind is one such initiative  and maybe you need to get scared and do something 🙂

Sadiq Malik ( Telco Strategist )


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