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Creating Shareholder Value with AI?

In a wonderfully titled report, Creating Shareholder Value with AI? Not so Elementary, My Dear Watson, the Equity Research company, Jefferies, LLC, take a hard look at IBM’s bet on cognitive computing, or Artificial Intelligence (AI). The 53 page report is well worth reading to understand why the research analysts consider IBM, despite significant investment in to their cognitive computing platform, Watson is losing the opportunity in AI and hence the authors consider IBM stock to under perform.

On a positive note for AI researchers they do acknowledge there is serious business and economic interest in AI, citing Andrew Ng’s Stanford talk on AI as the new Electricity:

AI is the New Electricity….Our checks confirm that a wide range of organizations are exploring incorporating AI in their business, mostly using Machine and Deep Learning for speech and image recognition applications.

And that IBM has an advantage in terms of technology:

IBM’s Watson platform remains one of the most complete cognitive platforms available in the marketplace today.

But IBM fall flat due to hefty service charges and the inability to attract AI talent:

The hefty services component of many AI deployments will be a hindrance to adoption. We also believe IBM appears outgunned in the war for AI talent and will likely see increasing competition.

I’m never a fan of forecasts for market share, forecasts in Robotics have shown how wide off the mark the industrial robotics landscape is from where it was forecast to be, nevertheless the Jefferies numbers are worth looking at, even if much of AI will be in house in organisations such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc. Jeffery’s seem to think the value of the market, shown in the chart below, is underestimated “we think these forecasts are unlikely to fully capture the value created by internal use of AI applications such as machine learning. For example, Facebook and Amazon are aggressively using machine learning to improve their offerings, make operations more efficient, and create new embedded services.”

Jefferies research exhibit 8

The analysts do note that the singularity is not near and provide an interesting chart depicting the areas they see growth… interestingly they see a large percentage of growth in algorithmic trading strategies, equivalent to 17% of the market! Yet strangely indicate health care spend will be slightly less, and driverless AI even less, despite this being where much of AI is heading today.

Many AI Apps Will Take Time to Emerge; The Singularity Is Not Near While we are big believers in the long term potential of AI and see rapid adoption of machine learning in the near term, our checks convince us that many AI methods and applications will take time to be adopted.

Jefferies exhibit 9

The analysts emphasise how IBM is losing the talent war and also has less access to the rich data of Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. Talent will be a major game changer in AI.

The report also does a good job of showing the current flow of investment by major corporations, in terms of acquisitions, and also investment into AI start-ups. Overall the analysis, except the forecasts, gives a fair overview of the AI market, but omits the major $’s flowing into Academic research and the costs of employing and training AI researchers, which is likely already in the early billions… I do however agree that IBM’s Watson risks not capturing the markets share its technology richly deserves – maybe IBM will end up capitalising by its patent’s as it so often has.

Take a look at the report and judge for yourself (PDF).


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