Editors at the MIT Technology Review recently weighed in with their annual review of the world's 50 Smartest Companies. This list celebrates the most effective pairing of innovation and business across the globe. For the first time, more than 20% of MIT's picks rely on artificial intelligence to support their business at a fundamental level, somewhat redefining what it means to be a truly "smart" company today.
How many of these 13 artificial intelligence leaders are you already using?
1. Baidu, known as "China's Google," is a $55 billion company headquartered in Beijing. It's working on speech recognition intelligence called Deep Speech 2.
2. Tesla, the transformational transportation company, uses AI to weave a practical map of the world in real time with data from its camera and radar. This reduces the chance of accidents on autopilot by 50% relative to the safety record of human drivers, according to CEO Elon Musk. Now, Tesla automobiles come off the assembly line "future ready" for complete self-driving.
3. Alphabet, the holding company for the Google family of firms, uses artificial intelligence in hundreds of applications. Its flagship AI-informed product is search itself. Over 20% of searches in Google are voice-driven, using its language processing system. Its best known artificial intelligence claim to fame is having Deep Mind become the world's champion Go player.
"AI on a chip" is the essence of NVidia's claim to fame today. Its "AI in a box" development sets support virtual reality programs, self-driving like for its customer Tesla, and safer UAV applications, like more independent drones. Their chips allow machines, like drones or robots, to react to the world real time thanks to the magic of local processing.
5. Enlitic is a private startup that uses artificial intelligence to spot health problems on X-rays. The promise is that its system, still in testing, is more accurate and faster than human experts for detecting problems like lung cancer.
6. Facebook made MIT's list more for its Oculus Rift offering, but applied artificial intelligence is the secret sauce behind many of Facebook's ambitions.
7. Didi Chuxing, which just won its battle with Uber China by acquiring it, has a few hundred of its 5000 employees working in artificial intelligence. Every day, their transportation efficiency system generates 70 terabytes of data a day from some 14 million rides--both numbers growing fast. Their artificial intelligence efforts are focused on smarter routing, energy optimization and congestion mitigation.
The company just formed a 5,000-person business unit dedicated to artificial intelligence across multiple business lines. CEO Satya Nadella recently said, "We are infusing AI into everything we deliver across our computing platforms and experiences."
Japanese Industrial robotics leader Fanuc, launched out of Fujitsu, uses AI to speed the learning of its robots and also to free individual robots to learn skills independently. It takes one of their robots an average of 8 hours to learn a new task. The one below learned to read barcodes (with its camera), then write them, then erase them.
10. Improbable, an operating system startup based out of London, uses artificial intelligence and deep learning to simulate reality. Rather than seed its platform with machine-learning derived approaches--the statistics approach to smarts--Improbable is creating an IOS where you can write the rules of your reality and set those rules in action.
The German manufacturing giant sees artificial intelligence as its path to further growth. With machine learning-based predictive maintenance and self-monitoring, Bosch predicts a billion in additional revenue and another billion in savings from the next generation of manufacturing.
Japan's digital communications company explores artificial intelligence as chatbots.
13. IBM is betting the company on AI.
It is struggling with 17 straight quarters of revenue decline. Regardless, it is pursuing growth in artificial intelligence in a disciplined and coordinated matter, acquiring companies like Truven Health Analytics and the Weather Company to train its flagship AI, Watson.
Is artificial intelligence smart business?
For the editors, the overall impression of the smarts behind the full list of 50 Smartest Companies in the MIT Technology Review was sobering. "The troubling reality is that today's advances are having a far from impressive impact on overall economic growth," the editors write.
They pointed out the work of Chad Syverson, an economist at the University of Chicago, whose research demonstrates productivity grew at a mere 1.3 percent per year from 2005 to 2015--almost half that of the previous decade. Global GDP for the last five years has also been relatively stagnant.
Artificial intelligence and incremental innovation
"It is worth wondering whether we have lost the patience required to nurture innovation in industries that by their nature require years, and often hundreds of millions of dollars, to develop a commercial product," the editors note. This is especially true of artificial intelligence, much of which is based on creating faster, large scale reactions to data we already have.
These kinds of improvements tend to be incredible at scale, but often incremental up close. Many of the promises of AI, like self-driving cars, better healthcare diagnostics, and ubiquitous artificial personal agents, are years from proving a positive impact on your quality of life or your personal wealth.