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MS Future Decoded 2017

Future Decoded Highlights Rise of AI and Microsoft Azure

Emerging Technologies Take Centre Stage at Microsoft Event

This year’s Future Decoded event covered a range of areas, but the hot topic of AI was ever-present and crept into every discussion.

31 Oct and 01 November saw tens of thousands converge on London’s ExCel for this year’s Future Decoded. Since its inception in 2014, the event has rapidly gained recognition as the place where future trends can be pragmatically discussed and the most influential players in the industry can join together to shape the technology of tomorrow.

The discussions and keynote speeches covered the whole gamut of technological innovations, but Objective IT software developers could not help but notice that there were two topics that really dominated proceedings. These were the continuing advances in Artificial Intelligence, and of Microsoft Azure.

Julia White on AI and Cloud Tech

Microsoft’s VP of Cloud, Julia White, had a 20-minute slot on the first morning, in which she focused predominantly on these two issues, in particularly the concept of the hybrid cloud. Historically, the industry has tended to compartmentalise private and public cloud tech – Azure has been built with the single-application hybrid concept firmly in mind.

White also gave some engaging demos of how AI has crept into our lives at every level. These included an interactive car insurance site, where the site will immediately spot if you have uploaded a picture of the wrong car, and a chatbot adapts to your language and is able to get you the best deal.

Perspectives on AI

Examples like this suggest that there is a growing gap between public perception and the real-world advances in artificial intelligence. Perhaps it all comes down to the name. Over the past four decades or more, we have been exposed to so many books, movies and even computer games that deal with the concept of artificial intelligence, that we cannot help but have our perspective clouded.

The point is that AI is not about sentient computers becoming self-aware or little robot children that just want to be loved. But if it is even the case that those of us within the industry cannot help but make these mental connections from time to time, what hope does the average layman have?

Phrases like machine learning or even intelligent technology sounds less like the stuff of Hollywood blockbusters and allow us to focus on how the technology can be further developed in practical ways to help with day to day problems.

Take White’s example above – renewing car insurance is something we all have to do from time to time. If you can chat instantly with a bot to get the best deal, that’s clearly far less hassle than being stuck on the phone for half an hour talking to someone at a call centre on the other side of the world.

Building a better future

Future Decoded featured a number of other case studies showing AI and Azure in action. Microsoft blogger Martin Boam tweeted from the event to share remarkable footage of how the applications, coupled with drone technology, helped in the aftermath of the recent hurricanes. A perfect example of how emerging technology can make a big difference to people’s lives, and a demonstration of why events like this are so important.

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