“The question is not whether there will be a digital transformation, but rather when and how we will proceed.” This statement from the beginning of Jean-Philippe Courtois’s speech before the Chamber, as part of the International Leaders series, set the tone: the fourth industrial revolution has started. The president of Microsoft International spent 45 minutes setting out his vision of digital technology and artificial intelligence, before an audience of 300 gathered under the Cirque du Soleil big top in the Old Port, on May 15. Here is how Microsoft is playing a role in this new revolution.
A four-part transformation
The digital transformation is happening in four areas:
- Communicating with clients, a phase during which businesses develop better products based on the needs and expectations of their clients
- Equipping employees, a phase during which employees are given tools to stimulate innovation, collaboration and productivity
- Optimizing operations, to restructure customer service by continuously introducing improvements to the service offer in real time
- Transforming products, a phase during which companies reinvent their products, services and business models using digital technology and maximizing revenue
Many companies have developed business relationships with Microsoft to succeed in and benefit from their digital transformation, including Mattel, TD Bank, Ecolab and Renault-Nissan.
AI: a complement to human intelligence
Jean-Philippe Courtois used his speech to illustrate the three dimensions of the influence of artificial intelligence on human capacities. He explained that Microsoft doesn’t see artificial intelligence as a way to supplant or replace human intelligence, but rather as an opportunity to increase it in the following ways:
- Reasoning and automation, by making it learn and draw conclusions from large amounts of imperfect or imprecise data
- Understanding, by interpreting real-world data – such as text, video, images and voice – on a human scale
- A natural user interface, to break down technological barriers and communicate with people naturally, particularly through voice and emotion detection
Business opportunities for Montréal
For Montréal, artificial intelligence is rich terrain for research and business opportunity. Worldwide, Microsoft estimates additional or transferred revenue from artificial intelligence at $1.2 trillion over three years.
Microsoft sees tremendous potential in Montréal. In January 2017, it acquired Maluuba, a Montréal business that specializes in deep learning. Jean-Philippe Courtois also announced that projects with Université de Montréal (a $6 million investment) and McGill University ($1 million) were in the Microsoft ecosystem and that the company wanted to double the amount of research and development done here in artificial intelligence and deep learning.
To find out more about the Microsoft cloud computing and digital transformation strategy: https://news.microsoft.com/cloudforgood/ (in English only)