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AI-blockchain combine to spur small businesses, curb advantage for tech giants

AI-blockchain combine to spur small businesses, curb advantage for tech giants
Mrinal Sinha

Driven by customer experiences, new revenues and cost reduction, global business value derived from artificial intelligence (AI) is projected to hit $1.2 trillion (Rs 80.8 trillion) in 2018 — an increase of 70% from 2017 -- and $3.9 trillion (Rs 262.6 trillion) by 2022, says a forecast by Gartner, an IT research and advisory company. 

It is important to note that providing the best algorithm does not guarantee a winner in AI/machine learning (ML) space, but it is the best full-stack solution that counts. Integration of AI with blockchain could be the important step towards this direction.  

According to AI expert Ronald Van Loon, merger of blockchain and AI can lead to greater security and trust by creating reliable systems as the future of AI development lies in a network that allows free flow of information between connected users and operators. The decentralised nature of blockchain technology means that this could be the platform where we see the most breakthroughs in AI.    

Benefits of integrating AI with blockchain 
An immutable, tamper-proof record of actions is a critical requirement to regulate autonomous AI entities. Blockchain plays an important role here, as it can also enable access control for any autonomous AI entity based on its reputation.    

Integration of blockchain with AI technologies will allow the emergence of marketplaces such as data marketplace, models’ marketplace and AI marketplace, which can lower the barriers to entry for smaller players and shrink the competitive advantage of tech giants. 

Besides, blockchain can help tackle AI’s black box problem by giving a clear audit trail and improving the trustworthiness of the data, which will in turn help bots to trust each other.       

The decentralised control and data-sharing capability of blockchain helps AI systems in a way that the task is divided among hundreds of nodes spread around the world instead of a central system testing all possible hypotheses, which makes the process much faster. 

Also, blockchain-enabled AI processing happens on multiple nodes together and is far more secure.       

Endless possibilities 
While blockchain technology is in itself a transformative step, the integration of AI with it opens up many never-before-seen opportunities that can be tapped into by various stakeholders.  

AI-enabled systems are already driving more sales for retailers. However, data about product or component quality are often not verifiable. With blockchain-integrated systems, it is possible to verify claims of vendors and suppliers. 

Besides, AI-powered management systems built on blockchain technology can help achieve a high degree of efficiency and transparency in governance mechanism. Blockchain makes it possible for citizens and governments to establish trustful policy implementation and data-exchange mechanisms without worrying about faults and corrupt or malicious involvement. AI-enabled systems can help in studying data patterns about people and predict their credibility scores or financial health or identity.

The market scenario
We have seen a lot of development in the AI-blockchain space with the emergence of decentralised intelligence companies, and some of the key players are mentioned below: 

    SingularityNET: It is a decentralised protocol for accessing a network of AI algorithms, services, and agents. Through the combination of open-source principles, blockchain integration, and leveraging the leading minds in machine learning, SingularityNET is trying to make AI accessible as a global commons for all.   

    Skychain: It brought together healthcare datasets and programmers to create neural networks. Skychain aims to control 70% of the projected $200 billion medical AI market (as estimated by IBM), through its 'distributed open network' system of artificial neural networks (ANNs) supported by blockchain to train the model, which can diagnose patients and prescribe relevant treatments.
•    DeepBrain Chain: DBC was one of the first initial coin offerings on the NEO blockchain. Essentially, this blockchain application is a computing platform created to support the creation of AI algorithms. The DBC platform presents itself as a decentralised neural network. When talking about AI and DBC, this comes down to the nodes of the DBC network that supply the computational power for AI. In return for this computational power, nodes are rewarded DBC tokens.
    Numerai: This is a blockchain-powered, AI-coordinated hedge fund. Numerai allows data scientists from all over the world to submit predictions based on ML models to improve AI that manages the hedge fund. With Numerai’s platform model, the prediction models are based on collective and decentralised inputs and are designed in such a way that human biases and overfitting issues are overcome.

•    Eligma: A blockchain-based commerce platform that has bold plans to simplify online shopping. With even well-informed shoppers struggling to track down the best deals, Eligma believes its AI-driven system will help people save precious time in their quest for the perfect product.

    Skylark Drones: An Indian company that uses cloud-based intelligence with system-integrated unmanned aerial vehicles to boost a customer’s insights. It is being used in sectors like mining and infrastructure. AI and ML are major contributors to the drone industry, affecting data gathering and data analysis as well as generating insights and making decisions. Not just AI, but blockchain is enabling drones to be provisioned with cryptographic material, thus ensuring confidential and secure communications.

The India story
So far, Indian companies have not ventured much into the integration of AI and blockchain. However, estimates suggest that AI can add $957 billion or 15% of current gross value to India’s economy by 2035. Another estimate suggests that 68% of all Indian firms will deploy AI solution by 2020 in some way or other. According to a Deloitte report, banks such as Axis Bank, ICICI Bank and Yes Bank are rolling out points of contact to further explore blockchain for know-your-customer applications and fraud detection.  

But even with this late start, huge opportunities lie ahead to use the integration of AI and blockchain to solve fundamental problems in India. Blockchain-based smart contracts could radically reduce litigation, bring transparency in land registry and eliminate corruption relating to land. India has a billion biometrics on Aadhaar that can be leveraged to have many applications on a blockchain network.  India's data diversity is a big draw for global AI implementers. 

Good news is that the finance ministry has announced that while cryptocurrencies are no longer legal tender, the government will embrace blockchain as a technology. In addition, a push for AI comes in the form of massive R&D investment. The central government’s top think tank, Niti Aayog, has announced R&D investment in AI and technologies such as robotics, machine learning, and Big Data.  

Conclusion
Underlying concepts of blockchain and AI are at the two extreme ends of the technology plank. While the former promotes decentralised applications in an open-data environment, the latter emphasises centralised intelligence on closed data platforms. Both the technologies are ground-breaking in their own rights. While combining the two may seem like an ideal solution, making them work together intelligently can prove to be even more revolutionary.  

Mrinal Sinha is senior manager in Sapient, a US digital and consultancy company. Views are personal.

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