A long established – yet not wholly understood – term, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is being applied to any industry you can name, writes Alibaba Cloud EMEA General Manager Yeming Wang

From retail to finance, manufacturing to healthcare, AI is touted as a game-changer and the answer to any number of problems.

Yeming Wang

Yeming Wang

This hype is driving real change: worldwide spending on cognitive and AI systems is expected to increase at an annual growth rate of 50% through 2021.

The broadcast and media sector is just one area in which the impact of AI is being felt. In part, the rise of AI has been down to the industry’s forward-thinking adoption of cloud computing, with many of the new generation businesses being cloud-native.

With a more powerful and agile infrastructure, AI has been able to thrive. Broadcast organisations are at the forefront for some of the world’s most exciting and pioneering AI innovations – using everything from face, object and other recognition technologies to enrich metadata and streamline production methods. AI can automatically create highlight packages, using machine-learning algorithms that help get the right content to the right user – optimising the whole delivery method in the process.

AI might be the future of the industry but if businesses want to leapfrog the competition they must get started now.Amidst all the excitement it’s important to acknowledge that AI is not a silver-bullet or a panacea to every challenge your organisation will face.

Context is everything: AI must serve a purpose, rather than be used to be seen to be keeping up with the latest trend – and this purpose must be defined at the outset. And as with every technology it’s an ongoing process, with output being measured, refined, and improved.

Just as the rise of cloud computing has allowed the AI sector to flourish, investment in AI is now driving the technical sophistication of the broadcast industry. More complex AI programmes need ever more powerful platforms to sit on – and continued investment in cloud infrastructure is going to be crucial for broadcasters looking to make themselves a prominent force within their industry.

Similarly, improvement in cloud investment will allow the organisations to streamline their infrastructure, driving efficiencies throughout their technology estate – and allowing more resource to moved into the areas that really differentiate them as a business.

During the FIFA 2018 World Cup for example, Youku, Alibaba’s online media branch, used AI technologies to enhance the experience of football fans. Using an AI-enabled video quality enhancement technology called NarrowBandHD, video quality was improved while maintaining low bitrate consumption. It might not sound as glamourous as some of the potential uses for AI, but it helped deliver a picture-perfect, uninterrupted stream of live World Cup matches to over 20 million concurrent viewers.

Moreover, by directly applying a multi-modal AI algorithm – running on Alibaba Cloud –to the live streams, we could generate highlight reels for both matches and specific players. The technology used both visual and audio information, including facial recognition, scene detection, and speech recognition. These videos could then be served to relevant audiences, helping to build engagement.

As we can see, within the broadcast industry AI capabilities are completely changing the workflows and creating new possibilities. However, supporting these capabilities requires careful investment. Happily, investment is gathering pace on both sides, and we’ll continue to see the industry continue to boom, with AI driving cloud computing to new heights while the cloud industry brings the benefits of AI further into the mainstream. 

Yeming Wang is General Manager at Alibaba Cloud EMEA

IBC2018 Alibaba Cloud are exhibiting at IBC2018 on Stand 14.B31