The Japan AI Experience and Why Japan is the Fastest Growing Adopter of AI

November 17, 2017
· 3 min read

According to IDC Research, Japan has the highest projected growth of artificial intelligence (AI) at 74% (5-year CAGR). DataRobot, pioneers of automated machine learning and a visionary principle of the 4th Industrial Revolution, saw this firsthand at last week’s AI Experience conference in Tokyo. Attended by some 800 business executives and data scientists, the event delivered a deep dive on automated machine learning both from the technology’s authors and its users. It is evident that this technology has come of age and offers a practical business solution to organizations looking to innovate through big data.

Pop culture may have a big role to play in the high level of interest in AI in Japan. Unlike western pop culture, in which machines often rise up and kill their human creators, Japanese pop culture gives robots a more positive spin. In manga and anime for example, robots are more frequently depicted helping humans. This blog from MIT Technology Review offers more insight: Why Japanese Love Robots (and Americans Fear Them).

Of course, this is a very simplistic take when it comes to machine learning — a strand of AI that has nothing to do with robots but everything to do with automation. DataRobot Japan’s Chief Data Scientist Akira Shibata offers this insightful explanation into the need for this more nuanced type of AI:

“AI is an obvious way to compensate for the missing workforce in an aging, shrinking population of Japan with lack of policy for immigration. Unfortunately, there’s a severe shortage of data scientists in Japan to make AI available to those in need. Compounding this, technical people don’t reside in business departments. Instead, they live in R&D, which immediately creates a barrier since it’s hard for external entities to make a real business impact.

Manufacturing is also facing increased competition from countries like China and Korea, and so comes a greater need to look for new sources of innovation. If you look at Panasonic, they are making surprisingly fast and bold moves. Sony recently open sourced its deep learning library out of the urgency to adapt.”

Clearly, Japanese companies are wholeheartedly embracing automated machine learning rather than sitting on the sidelines testing it. The AI Experience conference provided real insight into the possibilities of automated machine learning as a means of creating business value:

  • Jeremy Achin, DataRobot CEO, co-founder, and architect of automated machine learning, kicked off the conference with his keynote address. He delivered a primer on AI as a tool for finding business opportunity in data and outlined the history of DataRobot from its humble beginnings in 2012 in a co-founder’s kitchen in Connecticut, U.S. to a global company five years later. He closed out by presenting a vision for the future of the technology.
  • Takuya Kudo, Accenture Applied Intelligence Unit, delivered a keynote on the surging demand for data science and the improving performance accuracy in automated machine learning.
  • Kaoru Kawamoto, Head of Business Analysis for Osaka Gas, presented the final keynote. He spoke on his experience with automated machine learning, citing how an entirely new business service based was created based on remote large-scale predictive maintenance targeting both domestic and industrial clients

Other presentations on automated machine learning included:

  • Recruit ($13 billion annual sales, 32,000 employees) talked about driving better customer experience.
  • Mitsubishi Heavy Industries explained how data science had accelerated from two months to two minutes.
  • Nippon Steel presented on how automated machine learning was impacting production on a massive scale.
  • DataRobot co-founder Tom De Goody gave a primer on automated machine learning.
  • DataRobot Chief Data Scientist Xavier Conort presented on model accuracy.

It was exciting to hear from users of automated machine learning how they are opening up new business opportunities using the big data that’s been around for some time now. On this occasion, the machines didn’t kill anyone, and everyone left very much alive and kicking.

About the author
Tim Young
Tim Young

General Manager APAC, DataRobot

He has over 25 years of experience marketing high-tech enterprise products in the data management, analytics, and SaaS spaces. He has run marketing operations for global companies including IBM, Oracle, Netezza, and Workday. Tim brings a practical global perspective to DataRobot having managed marketing teams in Australia, Asia, U.K., Europe, and the U.S.

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