Artificial Intelligence made in Europe
Christian Sckerl, Director EIT Digital Germany
Kurz und bündig:
EIT Digital ist eine Partnerschaft von über 150 führenden europäischen Unternehmen, KMU, Start-ups, Universitäten und Forschungsinstituten. In Deutschland gehören neben dem DFKI auch SAP, Siemens, Deutsche Telekom, TU Berlin, Fraunhofer oder Huawei zu den führenden Technologieanbietern und -entwicklern. Aus Sicht der Europäischen Kommission sind die wichtigsten Bereiche der digitalen Transformation digitale Infrastruktur, digitale Industrie, digitale Städte, digitales Wohlergehen und digitale Finanzen.
The European Commission recognized AI’s importance as a driving force in business, industry and society. Now it pursues an acceleration of European leadership and competitiveness in that area. Therefore, organizations like EIT Digital have been founded: a digital innovation and entrepreneurial education organization that drives the digital transformation on a European level.
New technological advancements that may have a strong influence on the society demand an open debate as well as clear and rational arguments, so people can properly develop a perspective on benefits and effects. One of the key advancements is Artificial Intelligence (AI) that has frequently appeared in science fiction films and stories in the past decades. Nowadays, AI is no fiction anymore. It continues to have a significant effect and improves people’s lives on nearly all levels, such as: industry, mobility, education or healthcare. By functioning as an assistant and automation vehicle it takes over more and more activities and tasks that used to be done by human beings but currently mostly supports existing jobs by automating repetitive tasks.
Artificial intelligence is a technology that actually refers to machine learning, which is, learning from data. There are many business pains that can be solved and solutions that can be built by providing the right training data to the right training algorithms, with the algorithms subsequently appearing “intelligent”. Many of these algorithms are available today in open source. Computing infrastructure, especially in the cloud, which is vastly available, is an important complement. Therefore, it is the data that is the real differentiator in AI. AI is a technology approach to problem solving. More important than the technology itself are the applications of AI, the domains and activities that can be positively impacted by artificial intelligence. AI is not dealt with as a separate effort, but as a rapidly maturing technology that enables major market and societal impact.
AI as a driver of European innovation
The European Commission has recognized the importance of AI and strongly pursues an acceleration of European leadership in that area. According to the EU, the “economic impact of automation of knowledge work, robots and autonomous vehicles will reach between €6.5 and €12 trillion annually”. At the same time, Europe seems to fall behind other economic hotspots in the world when it comes to private AI investments. In 2016 about €2.4 – €3.2 billion were invested compared to other regions like Asia (€6.5 – 9.7 billion) or North America (€12.1 – €18.6 billion). Nevertheless, the importance of AI should not be neglected in Europe. Strong initiatives and world leading AI institutes are based in Europe and are already developing innovations that have the potential to disrupt industries and economies. One of the key players is the DFKI (German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence). Based in Germany, it develops product functions, prototypes and patentable solutions in the field of information and communication technology. In 2018, the worldwide renown institute celebrates its 30th anniversary while looking back on a history in which the DFKI was at the forefront of AI innovation, steadily driven by its founder, Prof. Wolfgang Wahlster.
While the European Union looks at increasing the European AI-competitiveness, it created pan-European organisations that boost the digital technology development, such as the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT). The DFKI is a partner and one of the key drivers of AI technologies at EIT Digital – a knowledge and innovation community of the EIT. Being a digital innovation and entrepreneurial education organization that drives the digital transformation on an European level, EIT Digitals goal is to bring the continental innovation scene together to improve the EU’s role in AI. As Europe has many talents and hidden champions in their respective field of action, it is often best to combine those resources for the best possible outcome.
Artificial Intelligence at EIT Digital
EIT Digital invests in strategic areas to accelerate the market uptake of research-based digital technologies and to bring entrepreneurial talent and leadership to Europe. These areas are Digital Infrastructure, Digital Industry, Digital Cities, Digital Wellbeing and Digital Finance. They were carefully chosen based on the EU’s key technology trends, such as Internet of Things, Robotics, Blockchains and Artificial Intelligence.
The Digital Infrastructure innovation area comprises of three domains: data science, networking and cyber security. Data science focusses on developing domain-specific computational models that will make the machines context-aware and intelligent. In networking, AI dominates the creation of value-added services, like in the domain of Internet of Things where a very large number of devices share vast amounts of information that can be interpreted in a larger context. In cyber security, AI is a central technology in spotting the suspicious status within a system. Some examples of current Digital Infrastructure innovation activities include Deep-Augur. Its purpose is to replace the current Deep Packet Inspection in telecom networks that is used to identify the type of application data in order to route in public telecom networks. The currently used packet inspection standard is slow and will reach its limits of effectiveness when data is encrypted. The idea is to use AI for pattern recognition of the type of data, even if it is encrypted, in order to route the packets effectively and also attending a higher demand for Quality of Service. The innovation activity Security Operations Center for Critical Infrastructures protects critical infrastructures such as utilities from advanced persistent threats by applying Deep learning to identify threats in near real-time (<30 minutes). Such incidents have inflicted massive costs of up to €20 million/hour. It is planned to extend to new segments like vehicular platforms for example in trains. The supported scaleup SecurityMatters provides critical infrastructure and industrial automation companies with best-of-class industrial cyber resilience technology. It enables quick identification and recovery from threats to operational continuity.
In Digital Industry, the typical applications of AI in products and services have analytics solutions that measure the “health” of machines and predict the need for maintenance. The applications areas are increasing as access to various kinds of sensors producing data is developing fast and new algorithms are developed for specific purposes. Through EIT Digital AI is being further applied in autonomous systems, such as autonomous guided vehicles for factory floor or warehouse logistics. Another important area is the deep analysis of production process, use of materials and supply chain optimization. Other applications are in consumer behaviour and pattern analytics, and analysis co-connected products for optimization and redesign on new products.
In Digital Cities, AI approaches are successfully applied to areas such as mobility, crisis management and city optimization. Current supported activities include personalized recommendations for citizens, autonomous drones for emergency situations and a solution for parking optimization.
In Digital Wellbeing, AI is mostly about personalization of health and wellbeing through data science and learning. Applications include staying healthy (through prevention and early detection) and coping wit chronical conditions. Current supported activities include personalized recommendations for citizens, autonomous drones for emergency situations, early disease detection and a solution for parking optimization.
The innovation activity ELEMENT already created a spin-off startup in 2017 which is called KI elements. Its app DELTA helps with early detection of cognitive disorders such as dementia on the basis of speech analysis. A more social focus has the innovation activity CREEP. Its purpose is to provide a set of tools to support the detection and prevention of psychological/behavioural problems of cyberbullying teenage victims. This objective will be achieved combining social media monitoring and motivational technologies (virtual coaches integrating chatbots). Some important outputs are based on AI technologies: semantic technology (text mining, argumentation and sentiment analysis), chatbot acting as a personal counsellor for (potentially) bullied persons.
Two EIT Digital Accelerator supported scaleups combine AI with heartbeat sensorics. Firstbeat transforms heartbeat data into personalized information on exercise, stress and recovery. Their unique AI-based heart rate variability analysis reveals how the body reacts to each moment of the daily life. Their software is already well spread in the fitness and wellbeing sector and is used in combination with advanced smart watches like Garmin. Checkpoint Cardio combines advanced medical devices with software in order to follow the patient’s vital parameters in real time. This reduces visits to the doctor and can prevent sudden cardiac arrest.
In Digital Finance, AI has a strong potential, by guaranteeing the security of transactions through early identification of malicious activities. Other applications include robot advisors for asset management and investment banking applications going beyond traditional statistical analysis. The innovation activity IOX (Identity Onboarding eXpert) provides compliant customer identification to the customer onboarding process applying eIDAS (electronic IDentification, Authentication and trust Services) through a standardized SaaS (Software as a Service) system. Conversational Banking Front-end (CBF) is an AI-powered transaction assistant that supports at the banking front-end and lets customers interact with natural language dialogues with their bank.
While we see all these developments and innovations, it still will take time that humans will be superseded completely by AI and its machines. AI will develop and change many fields of activities as we know them today. And of course, we will see the misuse of AI, as it has happened with most other technological developments. The challenge will be to keep these misuses under control.