The Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal

Are you ready for change?

Artificial intelligence (AI) and digital transformation were the main topics addressed on May 15 during a presentation by Jean-Philippe Courtois, President, Global Sales of Marketing and Operations at Microsoft. Four students studying AI at university were in attendance. They live with the reality of AI every day: two of them are writing their thesis on the subject, the third is learning to work with AI algorithms, and the fourth is pursuing a PhD in video game design, an industry that heavily relies on AI. What did they take away from Mr. Courtois’ talk on the coming technological revolution?

AI is everywhere

In emails, on Facebook, on our smartphones… we rely on this kind of intelligence every day without even realizing it. Just think of Siri, Apple’s intelligent personal assistant available on iPhone. Other sectors of our society have already integrated AI:

  • Public institutions: Microsoft cites their collaboration with the Mexican government as an example. They used AI to collect taxes from SMEs and SMIs via their Azure cloud services.
  • Teaching, specifically in the health care industry: Jean-Philippe Courtois mentioned CAE Healthcare, which uses HoloLens and augmented reality to simulate an ultrasound 1.
  • Manufacturing: Volvo will use Microsoft’s intelligent personal assistant Cortana to analyze a driver’s behaviour and predict their needs.

Finally, AI goes beyond borders: it is being developed throughout the world, and especially in Montreal, which has become the global epicentre of artificial intelligence.

AI is not a threat

Despite the frightening images depicted in science-fiction films such as Terminator, artificial intelligence only has one goal, according to Mr. Courtois: assist humans, not replace them. AI must be used to optimize what we are already capable of doing. These new technologies save time and improve the efficiency of our tasks. Examples previously mentioned (the Mexican government, CAE Healthcare, Volvo) illustrate this point. Pervading fears are not related to the rise and appropriation of these innovations, but to how much change AI will bring about in companies.

How can companies exploit the full potential of AI?

By embracing this digital shift. Mr. Courtois said that 80% of companies would be affected by this revolution and that 47% of them would see their business models turned upside down. A statement that served as a wake-up call for those in attendance.

The four pillars at the core of this transformation all rely on artificial intelligence. First, there are the tools used by employees. How? Mr. Courtois used TD Canada Trust as an example. Employees now use Office 365. What are the benefits for the organization? Employees find it easier to carry out their tasks and it has reduced the company’s IT costs by half 2.

The second pillar is the change in the conversation between the company and their clients. Take Mattel for instance, the American toy manufacturer. In a very competitive market, Mattel wanted to redefine their identity via an educational platform and parental outreach in order to develop the cognitive abilities of their children. These products have turned into services. A prime example is Aristotle, a “multifunctional digital nanny”. It is a voice-controlled smart baby monitor that adapts to the child’s development 3.

The third pillar is the transformation of products, as is the case in the automobile industry for Renault Nissan. They are currently working to turn their cars into mobile, connected, smart, and personalized vehicles 4.

Finally, the last pillar is the optimization of operations. Mr. Courtois spoke of Ecolab, a global leader in water, hygiene, and energy technologies and services that embraced digital. The results? They are now able to collect data from around the world in real-time to help their clients in the decision-making process 5.

What is the potential impact on security and data privacy?

Everyone is wondering about this and it is a cause for concern. Jean-Philippe Courtois tried to reassure the audience, explaining that when Microsoft collaborates with companies, they do not have access to their data, even when managing it. However, a publication titled Pour un Cloud fiable, responsable et ouvert was issued to guests at the end of the event and calls upon governments to “set legal standards to provide users with the legal safeguards to make sure their data is secure in the Cloud 6”. The same applies to security policies and programs.

Artificial intelligence opens up new possibilities in every industry. It does however require that companies reinvent themselves.

This blog was written using testimonies from four students: Fabien Amazo (École de technologie supérieure); Laureline Chiapello (Université de Montréal); Philippe Malric (Université de Montréal); Lucas Shorten (École de technologie supérieure).

Students were able to attend this event thanks to the Leaders of tomorrow program and the support of Power Corporation Canada.

On the same topic:

Le numérique et l’intelligence artificielle : au service des entreprises

Intelligence artificielle : voici la vision de Microsoft

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