3 questions to smart minds

Artificial intelligence is ubiquitous

For this 3 questions to Lars Härle

IEG Invest­ment Banking Group
Photo: Lars Härle
11. July 2018

Arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence (AI) is influen­cing all areas of life, even those where you least expect it. Japan predicts that it won’t be 20 years before 80 percent of elderly care is perfor­med by robots. Robots are lear­ning machi­nes and will soon take over more and more of our decis­­ion-making. Who the pioneers are and where the deve­lo­p­ments are headed is explai­ned by IEG — Invest­ment Banking Group, a leading global invest­ment banking boutique specia­li­zing in mid-market tran­sac­tions in the Inter­net and tech­no­logy sectors.

For this 3 ques­ti­ons to Lars Härle, CFO and Mana­ging Direc­tor of IEG-Invest­ment Banking Group, Berlin

1. What is the status quo in arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence? Who sets the tone?

Arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence is a key tech­no­logy that is here to stay, and it has been with us for a number of years. The vision of deve­lo­ping “huma­ni­zed robots” with the help of AI emer­ged over 60 years ago.
Curr­ently, almost every person who owns a smart­phone has AI. An exam­ple here would be Siri, which is a so-called “narrow AI” tech­no­logy. This is a system that is deve­lo­ped to solve indi­vi­dual given tasks. In addi­tion, many people alre­ady use so-called “chat­bots” such as Google Home or Amazon Echo. These are voice assistants that combine voice reco­gni­tion and voice output. For exam­ple, you can book a hotel room or order a pizza to your home.

At present, the USA is certainly still setting the tone. Compa­nies like Amazon, Apple , Google, Face­book and Co. have huge amounts of data and deep lear­ning systems at their dispo­sal and have alre­ady won the game for the end consu­mer. Howe­ver, there are also voices that say that China, with compa­nies such as Baidu or Tencent, has long since caught up with the US. Data protec­tion, regu­la­tion and govern­ment funding certainly play a central role here.

2. Can you give some examp­les of what arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence looks like in prac­tice in China?

China is alre­ady making exten­sive use of arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence in ever­y­day life. Apps like “Dian­ping” or “Hema”, for exam­ple, are able to create a user profile of the user’s food prefe­rence. When it comes to orde­ring fresh food, the app matches these prefe­ren­ces only with the restau­rants in the area that are able to deli­ver the desi­red food within 30 minutes.

Facial reco­gni­tion is used to elimi­nate traf­fic conges­tion. In large cities like Shang­hai, came­ras capa­ble of reco­gni­zing faces are instal­led at traf­fic lights. When a passerby runs a red light, their face is captu­red and their ID and photo are displayed on a large screen. If this person uses the payment func­tion “Alipay”, for exam­ple, his account will auto­ma­ti­cally be debi­ted with a penalty payment.

In the area of payment secu­rity, payment systems such as Alipay, wechat pay, and Huawei pay have alre­ady imple­men­ted AI to profile the user’s payment beha­vior and show their credit­wort­hi­ness. Thus, even if a stran­ger has the correct account pass­word or finger­print, no payments excee­ding a certain limit can be made without show­ing addi­tio­nal legitimation.

3. What can Europe, speci­fi­cally Germany, do to catch up in AI?

In a Euro­pean compa­ri­son, we are behind the UK and France when it comes to AI. So there is certainly poten­tial in Germany, but in my view it is not being suffi­ci­ently exploi­ted and promo­ted. The reason for this is that we need a “culture of inno­va­tion”. We still have the problem that too little is inves­ted in inno­va­tion and that the inter­ac­tion between rese­arch, inves­tors, the state and compa­nies does not work.
There is no lack of good ideas and approa­ches in Germany — we just have to think them through to the end.

About Lars Härle, CFO and Mana­ging Direc­tor of IEG-Invest­ment Banking Group
Lars Härle advi­ses natio­nal and inter­na­tio­nal clients as Co-Head of IEG’s Inter­net and Tech­no­logy Desk. His main focus is on the soft­ware sector, elec­tro­nics, mobi­lity & IoT but espe­ci­ally on the arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence and machine lear­ning sector. Before joining IEG as Mana­ging Direc­tor in 2011, Lars Härle worked for Ernst & Young Corpo­rate Finance and Arthur Ander­sen Corpo­rate Finance.

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