Ayesha Khanna on AI surprises and opportunities

Dr. Ayesha Khanna
Dr. Ayesha Khanna

Dr. Ayesha Khanna has a vision for blending our physical infrastructures with cloud and AI infrastructures to improve the way we live, work and learn. As the co-founder and CEO of ADDO AI, an AI solutions firm and incubator, she advises corporations and governments on AI and smart cities. She also teaches girls to code, serves on global and regional boards covering sports, education, technology and jobs – and she’s making time in her schedule to speak to attendees at next week’s SAS Global Forum.

In this interview, we talk to Khanna about AI unicorns, AI regulations, AI entrepreneurship – and more. Read what she has to say here, and then register to hear her live on May 19.

What type of data is most interesting to you right now? What data types have the most potential to change our cities and homes?

Ayesha Khanna: We will see a sea change in how we run smart cities and smart factories as the 5G telecommunications infrastructure is rolled out across countries. The ability to capture and analyze the data from millions of sensors, for example, in manufacturing plants, will enable companies in the industry to cut costs and scale up with robotic automation and optimize output through AI-powered calibration of conditions such as humidity. In the area of smart cities, we will see agencies responsible for emergency response management, for example, be able to map out the best routes for fire trucks and ambulances, and allocate patients to different hospitals with real-time knowledge of the skills and staff available at each one. The Internet of Things (IoT) will create the next generation of AI unicorns.

What types of AI innovations are surprising you in the entrepreneur space?

Khanna: I have to say that I have been very surprised at the speed at which artificial intelligence combined with cloud computing is being adopted in companies, government agencies, and startups. And we are seeing concrete benefits in every single industry that artificial intelligence touches in terms of better efficiency, higher quality output and improved capacity to innovate through insights and by modeling with data. For example, a cool product in education is by Korean startup Riid that provides AI personal tutors to help teach the basics of English language on the mobile phone.

Culturally, do you see different regions of the globe approaching data and AI differently?

Khanna: I actually see a convergence between different regions on AI policy and regulation. A few years ago, the European Union was far more conservative and cautious about the use of artificial intelligence than other countries like the United States and regions like Asia. However, we are now witnessing a growing self-awareness amongst all countries that AI is an extremely powerful and useful technology that has potential risks that must be managed. The European Commission's proposal on AI regulations that were just released will likely become a guide for other countries as they ponder their own approach to ensure that the AI is always working to empower humans and does not in any way impinge on their human rights.


Don't get so excited about AI innovation that we forget that the job of the entrepreneur is to remove a pain point or help our customers achieve their goals.


What advice do you offer for young AI entrepreneurs?

Khanna:  For young AI entrepreneurs, I would say focus on the problem you are addressing, and then consider which machine learning algorithm works best to solve it. A creative problem-solving approach is critical so that we don't get so excited about AI innovation that we forget that the job of the entrepreneur is to remove a pain point or help our customers achieve their goals. Another thing that I would say is to ensure that your team is interdisciplinary. The machine learning engineers are critical in developing the AI models that will make your product unique, but so are the user experience designers that make the product user-friendly and accessible. Finally, I would say that every AI entrepreneur must be responsible for how AI is used in her/his company, and put in sound governance processes and an ethical value system for the team to follow.

Enjoyed this interview? | Register now to hear more from Khanna at SAS Global Forum


About Author

Alison Bolen

Editor of Blogs and Social Content

Alison Bolen is an editor at SAS, where she writes and edits content about analytics and emerging topics. Since starting at SAS in 1999, Alison has edited print publications, Web sites, e-newsletters, customer success stories and blogs. She has a bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism from Ohio University and a master’s degree in technical writing from North Carolina State University.

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