By Falak Jan and Naveed Hamid
The influence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on every sector, virtually, cannot be overlooked, from the automation of simple and repetitive tasks to the performance of particular and highly complex functions that are hard or even impossible for humans to accomplish. The advantages of AI as a crisis management mechanism have been shown by different countries during the pandemic. Some of the nations were able to recognize trends from big data with the aid of AI supporting their health systems and monitoring the spread. A clear example of the success of Artificial Intelligence in China is how it helped speed up the diagnosis of large numbers of patients with the novel Coronavirus in radiology technology. Other nations integrated different skills to enhance the established capacity of Artificial Intelligence to combat COVID-19. In order to save lives and minimize human exposure to the COVID19 outbreak, the current global situation is driving the production of robots and the improvement of AI. It could lead to a new age of human-robotic helpers. Robots are used by a hotel in China to deliver food to people put under quarantine. A fleet of robots is being prepared in Spain to assist with coronavirus testing in the region. Not only does the interest in AI increase in replacing individuals, but also in helping them in their daily work. The majority of workers in the workplace will work from home. This “pushed” digitisation of the workplace is likely to introduce a new trend with new needs in Work from Home culture. It is very clear that the coronavirus, from its core technologies to its applications, has driven and will continue to push for the advancement as well as further progress of AI & Automation. Globally, COVID19 has undeniably altered billions of lives. Although many long for a “return to normal,” many facets of the community will never quite return to the state things were and the economic environment has been permanently altered by the shock. Once a vaccine is widely accessible and distributed, societies, schools, companies and global infrastructure will also have to adapt to a post-COVID environment.
Opportunities and Scope of AI Startups in different sectors
In the majority of the industrial sectors, the uncertainties caused by COVID19 have created great havoc. Across the technology market, there are marginally more positive effects than negative ones. The pandemic has created a stage to prove its worth for new-age technologies such as data-driven technologies and Artificial Intelligence. We are most likely to see an upsurge in the requirements of AI skills because of the growing acceptance of AI across different industries. In combating COVID19, BigTech has already shown how beneficial AI can be. For example, to recognize vulnerable populations and serve as an “early warning” system for potential outbreaks, Amazon.com Inc. collaborated with researchers. BlueDot, a startup client of Amazon Web Services, used machine learning to sift through vast quantities of online data and forecast the spread of the virus in COVID hit countries.
Market behaviour has also been influenced by pandemic lockdowns in ways that will spur the development and growth of Artificial Intelligence Startups. The rising e-commerce sector: as customers purchase more online to escape the risk factors of shopping in shops, more information on tastes and shopping patterns is given to sellers. Startups that allow customers to shop, study, work and connect have almost unexpectedly skyrocketed to mass acceptance as the world adapts to new ways of life so to connect the customer with the market via AI models.
Roadmap towards the New Normal
The loss of human lives is just the tip of the iceberg to state, what remains are the dangerous ashes of today’s scenario. Inside the startup and MSME environments, the most damaging aftershocks will be felt. These rely on a constant flow of capital and investments that have come to a complete standstill due to the pandemic. Since most startup leaders and entrepreneurs are looking for exit strategies to prevent losses, some of us have already given up on the threat. It may take ages to further substantiate aspiring workers, projects and thoughts that were to bloom into reality. Times are difficult and only the tougher ones will be able to survive. Looking at all this from a vantage point, a variety of companies still seem to be benefiting from all this. Since this is not a meltdown driven by the economy, it is a disaster that did not devastate the infrastructure at hand; it just put it all to a standstill. In the midst of all this, few businesses seem to be making the most of the recent turn of events. Although it is a war for survival for some of us, there are a few who have taken this opportunity to make this state a fortune.
There is a huge behavioural shift perceivable among customers, courtesy of the new norms directed by government bodies around the globe. The new standard might not be as bad as we presume it is, from online shopping to social distance and less likely a need to drive to congested high-density areas. The new normal will usher in new prospects for some of these industries. A whole new industry that had previously been untouched is now up for grabs to enter the AI startup market.
To work on with the innovative, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence startups are easily the most common. For several startups, Cloud Computing is vital to the underlying enterprise, looking to facilitate anything from virtual learning to telemedicine to food delivery. This implies that crisis times are not only a challenge, but can provide entrepreneurs with new opportunities, as startups can help tackle the constraints posed by challenging health or economic conditions and adapt to changing needs and requirements.
ENCASHING THE UNTAPPED/HIDDEN TREASURE:
- AI Educational Startups
When schools and educational institutions are not permitted to operate, online schooling, tutoring, workshops, webinars, web courses, etc. have become the requirement of the hour. Irreplaceable, the online education market is experiencing a sudden boom and individuals from all walks of life, from each of the COVID19 impacted nations, are searching for traditional teaching and learning alternatives. People are reluctant to send their children to locations where it is difficult to practice social distancing. Even, for the duration before we have a permanent cure for the COVID19 pandemic, it is easy, holistic and more sustainable.
- AI Health & Wellness Startups
More healthcare organisations have been influenced by COVID19 to implement the concept of intelligent data as a platform for migrating to digital health. Several businesses are collaborating with startups who have the means to offer technology-enhanced solutions either by enabling these startups to connect to their networks or by forming a partnership type of customer-vendor. The solutions are not limited to finding issues and offering remedies but must expand to presenting technologies that allow the organisation to enhance its patient records, manage aggregated and distributed data more effectively, and handle a greater amount of information gathered from different sources.
- AI Agricultural Startups
Even after the announcement of lockdown, the movement of agricultural machinery, the scarcity of critical agrochemicals and other impediments to the entire supply process have been restricted. But the alternative for farmers to trade online has led to massive growth in agricultural start-ups. These start-ups are creating platforms that allow farmers to choose their market at better prices and sell their goods. In order to maintain the sector functional, these agritech startups bring creativity with the integration of emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, and remote sensing, start-ups are providing quick solutions to streamline supply processes and help farmers produce more efficiently.
More productive ways of growing, tracking, and selling crops were offered by the implementation of artificial intelligence and IoT in agriculture during the pandemic. It also introduced a new world of farming to support the life of a farmer.
Agritech startups have developed precision-based sowing techniques because farmers have to meet a huge demand. AI-based applications are available and need of an hour to forecast weather conditions and to assess the best time to accurately sow seeds, to ensure better growth and to reduce waste. The IoT-enabled self-reliant apps leverage sensors that track the crop and soil health.
Some of the new AI start-ups in Agriculture:
- Soil and Crops Health Monitoring
- Precision Farming with Predictive Analytics
- Automated Irrigation Systems
- Autonomous GPS guided harvesting systems.
- Automated Pest and Weed Control
- Species Recognition, etc.
- Predictive Agricultural Analytics
- Supply Chain Efficiencies
- Agricultural Product Grading
- Credit Risk Management
- Disease outbreaks prediction in Veterinary Sciences
- AI radiograph
Artificial Intelligence is also increasing in other sectors such as biotech, fintech, online gaming, e-commerce, among others, although these developments have taken place in the start-up ecosystem.
Case Study for boosting the level of interest among young AI Entrepreneurs
With the advancement of AI & its various implementations in education, the academic world has really become more easy and customized. Today, as long as students have computers and internet access, they do not need to attend physical classes to learn. The new way of studying and educating students is entirely different from what it was a few years ago. The automation of administrative tasks has also been facilitated by AI-enabled technologies, enabling organizations to minimize the time needed to complete the complex task and day-to-day processes. Not unexpectedly, all the traditional ways of doing things will soon become a thing of the past in the academic world.
Teachers also spend a considerable amount of time in the academic environment on marking examinations, reviewing assignments, and presenting their students with answers. While AI might never really be able to replace human grading, it’s getting very close. It’s now possible for teachers to automate grading. AI-powered technologies can evaluate the awareness of students, analyses their responses, provide helpful feedback and assist teachers to develop customized training plans for students who can struggle with the subject. Although machines can already evaluate multiple-choice assessments, they are very close to being able to evaluate students’ writing as well.
These technologies have changed the landscape of education sector over the years, which paved the way for the edtech industry. According to estimates, the demand in India’s edtech online market is expected to grow to $1.96 billion in 2021. The advancement of technology in this industry is, however, the major element responsible for this development. Edtech is projected to play a significant role in revolutionizing the education sector by tackling new challenges.
Noida-based edtech startup Gradeup has worked with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) with such a vision to provide a robust examination preparation platform that offers live online courses from some of the best faculties in India.
Established in 2013 by Sanjeev Kumar, Shobhit Bhatnagar and Vibhu Bhushan, Gradeup is an online competitive exam preparation platform with a large user base of over 20 million candidates for the exam. Over the last four years, Gradeup has managed to raise $10 million, which has invested in and acquired other popular firms, including Gaana, Delhivery, and MX players.
This platform works to create ML models to read complex image math equations and to use Natural Language Processing (NLP) to help search for equations. In order to improve spam detection in group posts and searches, they have also improved their AI algorithms. The precision of their model currently stands at about 83 percent. In addition, the founders are in the process of developing AI systems from which they can detect the consistency and effectiveness of live classes.
To address a few big issues, Gradeup has been applying AI and ML techniques.
- Helping students sustain longer periods of learning- An AI system has been designed that recommends students to review a topic after x number of days, based on their precision, last attempts, topic level of complexity, and other factors.
- Analyzing search issue pictures- Gradeup’s Machine Learning Algorithms are used to detect if equations, histograms, diagrams and other items are included in a query. Based on that, to find an answer to the problem, they run various OCRS and search Algorithms.
- Spam Filtering- Gradeup has deployed ML models that can detect whether an image or text contains spam or other irrelevant content to create a check on the quality of content generated by users and stop the user from continuing.
Jammu and Kashmir UT has the potential to match other states in AI capabilities due to the degree of innovation that occurs and the accessibility to large datasets. However, there needs to be a wide prioritisation to upskill the younger generation in this space and encourage governing bodies to push an AI-first agenda in a strategic manner. AI has quickly become a focus here in India, with the number of AI startups and private investments growing rapidly.
The government should try to accelerate the application of AI in both agricultural and other sectors so to make a way and space for young budding entrepreneurs to catch the market for making their livelihood and upskill others for bringing an ecosystem of entrepreneurship.
Authors work at Innovation & Entrepreneurship Cell and AI Cell of SKUAST-Kashmir. You can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.