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CII Summit Day 2: Celebrating the Age of AI

“Let’s make the Bangalore tech summit the best there is” — an enthusiastic greeting from Mr Kris Gopalakrishnan, Chairman of Axilor Ventures, that kicked off the second day of the 14th CII Innovation Summit. The agenda was to continue the previous day’s discussions on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), and their scope in our everyday lives. As Mr Gopalakrishnan so aptly put it, “AI extends the boundaries of what’s possible.” And we were about to explore these capabilities extensively, as the panel discussions, breakout sessions, and workshops of the day were all celebrating one thing: the Age of AI.

Panel Discussions

The day opened with two panel discussions centering around the application of AI technology in various sectors — a sneak peak of what was to come throughout the day.

Panel 1 Speakers

  • Mr Gaurav Gupta, IAS Principal Secretary, Dept of IT, BT, and S&T — Govt of Karnataka
  • Dana Kursh, Consul General of Israel to South India
  • Mr Niklas Gustafsson, Chief Sustainability Officer — Volvo (Sweden)

This panel, hosted by Mr Kris Gopalakrishnan, discussed the applications of the AI ecosystem in both current and future scenarios. The panelists stated that there was one major challenge despite the massive strides made in the field — safely testing software. In some areas of application (for example: autonomous vehicles) failure would be disastrous, but there is no reward without risk, and “we need to fail together, we need to try again together, and we need to win together,” in the words of Volvo representative Mr Niklas Gustafsson. The very nature of the AI ecosystem is collaborative and by working together, using knowledge sustainably and without fear, it can be the biggest enabler of innovation.

Panel 2 Speakers

  • Jennifer Daubeny, Consul General for Canada in Bangalore
  • Gregg, Collins Chief Scientist — NIIT Ltd
  • Mr Manish Singhal, Founding Partner — Pi Ventures

The key point of this discussion — hosted by Mastek Ltd’s Mr Ashank Desai — was AI’s role as a horizontal solution for a multitude of real world problems. In this session we got an in-depth look into the application of AI in a field like education. Mr Gregg Collins spoke in detail about the application of AI in tutoring systems, sharing a simulation of how AI and ML can be used to understand and address comprehension issues in the classroom. The simulation presented a hypothetical situation where an AI-enhanced tutoring system used a sample problem to create a dialogue with a student, which guided them towards understanding a complex concept. While he clarified that technology hasn’t yet evolved to this level, he also mentioned that it could be available in the not-so-distant future. He went on to refute the idea that it would put jobs at risk, claiming instead that the economy would improve as people gain the skills they need to be employable. This technology, once developed, can be utilized in rural or economically challenged schools, where overcrowding and lack of resources make it difficult for teachers to spend time on each individual student.

Break-out Sessions

Day 2’s breakout sessions centered around the impacts of AI and ML in our day-to-day lives, from how we are served and how we think, to how we work and how we heal.

Session 5: Are you Being Served?

Speakers:

  • Mr L Krishnan, Managing Director — Taegutec India Private Ltd (Chair)
  • Mr Rahul Garg, CEO — Moglix
  • Mr Suresh M Khadakbhavi, General Manager, Innovation Lab — Bangalore International Airport Limited
  • Ms Vijaya Deepti, CEO — Tata Insights & Quants
  • Mr Prabhakar Kulkarni, Head of Content — Oust Labs

A presentation — on how digitization has changed the way passports are issued in India — set the tone of the session, kicking off a debate on the application and advantages of AI in the service sector. The benefits of the technology were clear, especially in this changing economy. The automobile industry, for example, is rapidly moving from B2C to C2B2C — requiring an almost inhuman turnaround time for manufacturers when releasing new models. In this case, the use of AI and ML in everything from collecting consumer feedback to building new cars can help speed up the process. As Mr Prabhakar Kulkarni stated, “It’s not just about service delivery, it’s about service experience.” As such, AI is no replacement for the human touch — the warmth behind human interactions can’t be simulated. However, when given the right training, humans in the service sector can use AI to greatly improve the quality of their performance.

Session 6: In Harmony with Machines

Speakers:

  • Mr Vijaya Kumar Ivaturi, Co-founder and CTO — Crayon Data (Chair)
  • Dr Deepti Navaratna, Director — JNCA
  • Dr Ramachandra Budihal, Principal Scientist — WIPRO and TED Speaker & Researcher — Indic Knowledge Systems
  • Mr Pradeep Jankiraman, Founder — Drive Visual Data Analytics

Can we program creativity? That was the question driving this session as experts discussed the role and relevance of AI in India’s music, art, and scriptures. The value of creativity as a cultural process was brought into the spotlight as the issue was debated from both artistic and system design viewpoints. The experts explained that, in order for AI to have a major role in right-brain oriented fields, there needs to be a perfect match between mind and machine — something developers see as the next step in AI evolution. With the advent of AI that can help robots paint, and even mimic the human voice, the artistic community has begun to worry about the redundancy of humans in the creative field. However, nay-sayers argued that, despite the ML capabilities of AI, creativity involves a level of intuition and emotion that just can’t be digitally replicated.

Session 7: Machines at Work — Jobs of the Future

Speakers:

  • Mr Sunit Sinha, Managing Director, Strategy, Talent and Organization — Accenture (Chair)
  • Mr Sameer Dhanrajini, Chief Strategy Officer — Fractal Analytics
  • Mr Anil Jinsi, Global Head and CEO — TMC Shipping Pvt Ltd
  • Mr Jagannath V, Director of the Board and Senior VPF — ANUC India Pvt Ltd

This session discussed the role of AI and ML in labor-intensive industries, including both blue-collar and white-collar segments. The relationship between technology and labor has always been contentious, as technology is constantly evolving at an exponential rate — nowadays, the smartphones in our pockets have the same computing power as the spaceships of the Apollo mission in 1969. Computerization has always been seen as the enemy of the workforce, but the experts in this session threw new light on the situation. AI and ML are the ‘Holy Grail’ when it comes to augmenting labor. They operate at a level of precision that can’t be matched by human hands, and by implementing them in this field, humans can be freed from performing menial tasks — focusing their energy on higher order roles, such as management or development.

Session 8: Machines which Care

Speakers

  • Dr Taslimarif Saiyed, Director and CEO — Center for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP) (Chair)
  • Mr Divesh Singla, Director, Commercial Services — Eli Lilly Services India Pvt Ltd
  • Mr Adarsh Natarajan, CEO and Founder — Aindra Systems Pvt Ltd
  • Mr Rohit Kumar Pandey, Co-founder and CEO — SigTuple Technologies Pvt Ltd

This session explored the massive impact of AI and ML on the healthcare sector. Dr Taslimarif Saiyed summed it up best by pointing out the immense need and opportunity for AI in the medical field. He stated that technology can be used to improve clinical care, diagnostic systems, and public health by augmenting the existing skills of medical professionals. Tracking a patient’s health — whether it’s oral hygiene or chronic illness — becomes more precise with the use of AI. It has become an important innovation in the healthcare industry, especially in rural areas that are strained for resources. With the help of AI, doctors in these sectors can provide solutions to medical problems and treat patients within their community — despite a shortage of skilled medical professionals.

Workshop

In this workshop, we were walked through the process of design thinking and the importance of design in innovation. During this hands-on session, participants realized that even the basic act of asking a question — something we all take for granted — is more complicated than meets the eye. As the expert leading the workshop explained, design thinking is a slower process than design itself. It involves finding the human need behind a problem and addressing it. One must think about all angles of a problem and figure out the best way to implement a solution. It’s not just addressing the main problem, but the complications that could occur when trying to solve it. In the end, participants were given an exercise to put their skills to the test — they were asked to design a product to purify Kaggalipura’s water in just 60 minutes. This hour of hard work resulted in a range of out-of-the-box ideas, but not without a lot of brainstorming and more than a little frustration!

Pitch Perfect

The post-lunch session began with the CII Innovation Summit’s very own version of the popular reality show Shark Tank. In this event, three startups were given an opportunity to pitch their innovations to a panel of three investors:

  • Ms Payal Shah, Head of Investments — Axilor Ventures
  • Mr Avinash Sabharwal, Managing Director — Accenture in India
  • Mr Venkat RajuAngel Investor

Each startup was based in a different field and had something unique to bring to the table:

  • Swaayatt brought autonomous vehicles into the Indian context with self-driving cars for unpredictable environments, aimed mainly at the defense sector
  • MakerInMe explained their goal of making STEM education accessible to everyone, calling themselves the Lego of the electronic world with their Do-it-yourself circuit boards
  • Mechanical Chef introduced a robot that cooks Indian vegetarian food with the remarkable claim that “it’s just as tasty as what mom makes”

After a heated discussion, Swaayatt proved to have truly perfected their pitch — the judges awarded them a grant to continue their production, with an option for investment after their initial launch.

Championing AI for the World

The final talk of the day discussed how innovation can help AI evolve, moving us closer to an AI-enabled world. The talk was anchored by Mr Sapnesh Lalla, CEO of NIIT, and featured a panel of experts from different backgrounds:

  • Mr Somu Vadali, Chief of Data and Products — C&D Labs Future Group
  • Dr Kingshuk Bannerjee, Director, Global Delivery, Cognitive Computing and Analytics — IBM
  • Mr Narendra Bhandari, GM, Cloud Division — Ex-Microsoft India

The panelists highlighted the benefits of the technology and its applications as it evolves. They explained that the path to innovation is paved with big data, and the only way to move forward is to crunch it. This was a facet of a greater theme: the future of AI is completely in our hands, and it is our responsibility to use it to its fullest potential. Dr Kingshuk Bannerjee was quick to remind us that AI is like a child, and it is up to us to teach it how to behave in different situations. In order to bring about an AI-enabled world, we must accept the technology’s benefits, yet use it in an ethical manner.

Closing

The event came to a close with a few remarks from Mr Vijaya Kumar Ivaturi, who reminisced along with the delegates. He shared some highlights of the event and played a video that captured all the excitement of the two days, concluding with an invitation to return next year. The speech may have marked the end of the event, but the journey towards innovation is far from over — who knows what exciting new developments will take the stage at next year’s event!