AI-as-a-Service: A Good Starting Point

Many businesses are beginning to explore how artificial intelligence can improve outcomes. AI as a Service is a great starting point to learn the new technology.

In a world where technology rules and everything technology-related is provided as a service, it’s no surprise that Artificial Intelligence as a Service is the next in a long line of “as-a-service” options offered by cloud providers and other tech companies. We already have SaaS, IaaS, chaos engineering as a service and more. But what does that mean? Is this smart for businesses to utilize? Is it even necessary? Let’s dive in to what it really means to have AI as a Service for your business.

Products offered to customers “as-a-service” are generally subscription-based. AIaaS is no different, so it’s important to do some research prior to adopting this service. You must know what your business needs are with AI in a given month on a regular basis, this way you can ensure that you purchase what your business actually needs. There are AI models for all kinds of various tasks and needs, so business owners need to determine the proper model as well.

AI and ML can help make businesses sustainable, but many business owners and business leaders have very limited knowledge of AI and what its capabilities are, what it can be used for and how to use it effectively. This is another one of those situations where an expert is required to ensure the best decision is made for the business. AI is complicated, it’s confusing and it requires a deep understanding of multiple factors, data, desired outcomes, etc. Consulting an expert or hiring contractors to fill team gaps in this area is highly recommended. Still, using services from big tech (Google, Microsoft, Amazon, etc.) is a good idea as well.

Even before you seek out an expert, business leaders should determine what their ultimate use of AI is. Is it to recommend products to customers based on what they browse? Do you want to base it on how long they are browsing, how deeply and what their actual purchases are? AIaaS can provide that with better outcomes than random chance. However, when you start adding complexity to that or building a system that can do many things like that, it becomes exponentially more difficult.

There are open-source tools for AI available for use, but there is value provided by the big three. Their SaaS solutions have been built with massive generalized or otherwise industry-specific datasets. With these datasets already provided and trained into the AI, businesses may not have to train a system on its own dataset. This is why you need an expert. Not only can they help assess the needs of the business that AI can effectively enhance or improve, but they can ensure you are partnering with the right provider for your business needs, that you have access to the right datasets.

All of this said, AIaaS can benefit some businesses in some ways. The problem becomes that it can be a way to promote laziness. Many times, old fashioned data analysis, well-written queries and good visualizations provide perfectly adequate insights for businesses without the need of AI or machine learning. The value here often exceeds the short-term costs of the traditional method, because human knowledge doesn’t just provide information, it provides context. A machine cannot give you context, at least not with today’s capabilities. Not everything will require AI, and AI won’t always provide value in every area. Business leaders must understand that AI isn’t the answer for everything, don’t fall into the trap of laziness because AI can do it.

AI-as-a-Service isn’t really new and is offered by different companies. Your best bet in utilizing these services is through the Big 3, along with other SaaS services. But also understand that an in-house team of specialists is needed to implement any form of AI use. The idea that you can use AIaaS without such a team using their specialized knowledge, is, at best, an illusion.

Be sure to consult an expert for any project involving AI and ML. An expert can help ensure you are properly set up, that you are only using services your business needs and they can also assist you in hiring an in-house AI team to ensure your services are implemented and used appropriately. AI-as-a-Service is a great starting point for businesses looking to utilize the technology, but it’s not as simple as one might think. Do your research, have a plan and find someone to help!

About the Author

Pieter VanIperen, Managing Partner of PWV Consultants, leads a boutique group of industry leaders and influencers from the digital tech, security and design industries that acts as trusted technical partners for many Fortune 500 companies, high-visibility startups, universities, defense agencies, and NGOs. He is a 20-year software engineering veteran, who founded or co-founder several companies. He acts as a trusted advisor and mentor to numerous early stage startups, and has held the titles of software and software security executive, consultant and professor. His expert consulting and advisory work spans several industries in finance, media, medical tech, and defense contracting. Has also authored the highly influential precursor HAZL (jADE) programming language.

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