Building Abilities into Middle End - iSoftStone’s Approach to AI
“In a critical moment, Wang Jinxi threw away his crutches despite his leg injuries and took the lead in jumping into the mud pool. Stirring the mud with his body, he managed to subdue the blowout at last.”
The model oil worker Wang Jinxi’s dedication spirit once touched a whole generation. However, this scene may not appear again today, since we are blessed with the help of Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.
On Shengli Oilfield located in the Yellow River Delta, all production equipment has been fitted with sensors which enable real-time monitoring on production. However, those sensors are prone to damage under unfavorable working conditions and affect production safety once a failure occurs. With iSoftStone’s help, the oilfield has adopted AI technology to conduct intelligent analysis on how well the sensors are running and receive warnings for sensors which may have been damaged, which has improved operation and maintenance efficiency.
iSoftStone has plenty of such examples of AI application, covering a number of industries and a myriad of fields. AI has become its core strategy in its efforts of providing impetus to digital transformation for industries.
Application of AI Needs to be Guided by Consultation
In the past, IT was an auxiliary production tool that helped companies to do a better, faster job and improve work efficiency. Therefore, all IT-related demands came from the IT department with well-defined requirements. Although both system integrators and software developers were called solution providers, they did not have to provide complete solutions, and all they had to do was working on hardware integration or software development according to customers’ needs.
All this has been changed by the advent of the digital transformation era. When IT becomes a company’s core system, it assumes responsibilities of business innovation and customer service. Nowadays, companies’ IT demand comes more from management or business divisions. Instead of caring about technology per se, they only care about how IT can create value for them. Against this backdrop, companies require the solution provider not only to be an executor who can get the job done, but also a consultant who can provide consultancy services.
Faced with endless emergence of new technologies and applications such as cloud computing, IoT, big data and AI, customers’ needs often come from the business level rather than the technical level with no clear direction for work. This requires complete digital capacity of the solution provider, starting with strategic consultation to design and implementation, system migration, digital empowerment, technical support and other comprehensive services.
At this time, iSoftStone’s profound accumulation in technology capacity and industry insight has become one of its core competitive advantages. Over the past 18 years, it has served over 1,000 clients at home and abroad, of which more than 90 are Fortune 500 companies covering over ten key industries. Since the implementation of strategic transformation in 2013, iSoftStone has increased input in emerging sectors such as cloud computing, big data, mobile Internet, IoT and AI, to name a few. When its technical prowess converges with industrial demands, it can provide constant impetus to business innovation.
AI is More of an Ability Than a Technology
As a new technology, is AI an application or ability?
This is not a philosophical question, but a practical one which determines solution providers’ choice of AI strategy.
Before, we saw AI more as an application, as in voice recognition, intelligent speaker, robot customer service and auto driving. Such an understanding came about because AI application was mostly focused on individual consumers. Nowadays, with popularization of AI in industries, we come to find out that AI has become an ability imbedded in applications rather than a visible manifestation.
For individual consumers, AI is an application indeed; but for enterprises, AI is a technology which helps them achieve business intelligentization, and it turns into an ability. Such a hidden ability is not visually straightforward, but it creates important value for business decision-making.
For instance, in CNPC’s optical fiber communication network, they used a traditional method for fault location with a location range of dozens of kilometers. Troubleshooting over such a long distance entailed a lot of hard work. With iSoftStone’s intelligent operation and maintenance platform customized for CNPC’s optical fiber communication network, machine training models are built on the basis of neural network algorithms for feature extraction, prediction and analysis of collected data. In this way, the range of fault location is shortened to less than 20 meters and the cause of failure can be identified, which has greatly improved the efficiency of cable inspection and reduced workload.
In the case above, AI does not show explicitly; rather, it becomes an ability imbedded in the application system to play a vital role in a company’s operation.
iSoftStone not only helps customers build AI abilities, but also integrates AI into its solutions to empower clients across all industries.
Building AI Ability on the Grand Middle End Strategy
It is widely accepted that companies must build their own middle ends to achieve digitization. The middle end stratum, consisting of technology, business and organization, can solve the problem of mismatch between the front end and the back end gears and play the role of change gear.
Nowadays, companies are faced with a common problem in overloaded front end system which cannot meet rapidly changing market demand. With a middle end, companies can streamline the front end system and improve its agility by moving general abilities onto the middle end. Similarly, they can extract abilities requiring direct use from the back end onto the middle end and provide better support to the front end.
Middle end is also needed in industries’ adoption of AI. For enterprise-level AI, the bottom stratum focuses on underlying computing resources, the middle stratum is embodied by algorithm-based technologies, and the upper stratum consists of concrete industrial applications.
Currently, AI is seeing a lot of hype and seems to be imbedded in every industry. However, through careful analysis, we can find that most of those AI applications tend to be superficial. They look good but don’t work well. The root cause lies in the absence of robust support from a middle end. Without the technological underpinning, AI is used only for AI’s sake.
With this problem in mind, iSoftStone carved out a new path by approaching the AI market from the technology stratum and extending it to the application stratum. To this end, based on accumulation of abilities in knowledge graph and deep learning over the years, iSoftStone launched an intelligent brain platform with core functions of data model training and knowledge computing. The platform can undertake intelligent R&D tasks including corporate perceptional intelligence and cognitive intelligence. Centering on grand middle-end system integration, iSoftStone’s intelligent brain combines computing resources in the bottom stratum and matches business logic in the upper stratum to help companies build AI capacities.
Promoting AI Application in Traditional Industries
With the acceleration of digital transformation in traditional industries, AI is also gaining a place in industry market. Users of traditional industries need AI to support decision-making but are short of talents and abilities. iSoftStone happens to fill this void.
With profound accumulation in algorithms and integration, iSoftStone has the ability to promote AI application in traditional industries. It has at least three advantages in the AI market. First is its nearly 20 years’ engineering ability to ensure project delivery. Second is its in-depth understanding of new technologies, enabling it to provide consultancy to clients. Third is its series of AI tools already available to provide services directly to clients.
Based on AI middle-end integration and business intelligence services, iSoftStone has begun to promote AI applications and solutions in a variety of industries. It divides these applications into four categories of birth, senility, illness and death. In terms of “birth”, it helps companies increase revenue through intelligent operation and maintenance of production equipment. In terms of “senility”, it helps companies reduce costs through intelligent monitoring of energy conservation and emission reduction. In terms of “illness”, it improves productivity with IT-based intelligent operation and maintenance. And when it comes to “death”, it keeps safety accidents at bay with intelligent monitoring of production safety.
All these applications are built on the basis of a strong AI-powered middle end. With such as a support, AI abilities can better integrate into industries to facilitate corporate decision-making, production, operation, marketing and supply chain management in every aspect of business.