From patient care to sustainability, how AI is transforming the world

  • February 16, 2024

John O’Donoghue of Equinix explains why it is important to remember that AI works ‘alongside’ humans and how organisations can make the most of the emerging tech.

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Artificial intelligence may be the cool kid on the block in the tech world right now, but things weren’t always this way. According to John O’Donoghue of Equinix, AI was once confined to academia and research within large corporations.

Today, it is accessible to everyone thanks to advanced AI models such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

“In just over 12 months, these large language models have led to the rapid deployment of AI across all industries, and they are already helping to enhance efficiencies and value for many organisations,” says O’Donoghue, who is a global solutions architect at the digital infrastructure company.

“To many businesses, the accessibility of AI seemed to happen almost overnight, so it required rapid, mass education in the field. Thankfully, businesses today are much more prepared for tech adoption today than they were 10 years ago.”

Embracing innovation

At Equinix, O’Donoghue helps customers – typically those with global headquarters in Ireland – to use the company’s platform in a way that helps them innovate and make the best use of the latest technologies. We asked him what some of the biggest trends in AI have been so far.

“Organisations recognise the requirement for interdisciplinary teams – encompassing areas such as technology, data science, ethics and sustainability – which bring diverse expertise and perspectives to the integration and deployment of AI,” goes on.

“Now, the compelling benefits of AI are driving businesses to embrace innovation. Sustainability, ethics and accelerated adoption have become key drivers which need to be intrinsic to the design of AI systems and they are making AI a strategic imperative.

“As technology continues to evolve, staying attuned to these trends and embracing responsible innovation will be essential for long-term success and competitiveness.”

O’Donoghue says the regulatory environment for AI is also evolving rapidly as governments and regulators actively develop frameworks to address ethical, legal and societal implications of the technology. “Staying informed and compliant with these evolving regulations is essential for organisations adopting AI.”

Potential to transform patient care

Perhaps one of the most significant benefits of AI, according to him, has been to enhance patient outcomes in the medical world.

“I have had the privilege of collaborating with them to harness artificial intelligence, which has shown significant potential to greatly improve patient care,” says the expert in data analytics who leads the internal global interest group in emerging technologies at Equinix.

“In these collaborations, I delved into extensive datasets encompassing digital pathology scans, genomic information and patient records. The goal was to identify patterns and leverage this data to enhance the patient treatment journey. By enabling consultants to utilise models that assist in diagnosis and treatment decisions, we increased the chances of positive patient outcomes.”

But deploying AI to enhance business goals is easier said than done.

“Governance and ethical considerations have taken centre stage, emphasising the need for responsible use of AI, or indeed any technology. But there are plenty of other challenges, too, including in-house technological limitations, adoption costs, data integration, data governance, the need for robust risk management and a persistent skills gap. Navigating these hurdles is essential for successful AI integration and requires meticulous attention to detail.”

Staying ahead of the curve with AI

For a project to be successful, O’Donoghue says there needs to be a “commitment” to close collaboration and open communication between all stakeholders, both internal and external.

“This collaboration combines industry expertise with the application of technology to effectively address challenges and ultimately drive positive societal impact. As AI develops, organisations will have to consider the implications of new legislation and ensure they meet legal requirements, while also protecting their intellectual property and data,” he goes on.

“Navigating this landscape will become increasingly difficult, and this combination of factors is leading to a growth in private AI. This is an AI environment built specifically by, or for, an organisation, and which is exclusively used by them. Using private AI will also aid businesses with data collection and storage, while optimising performance and cost efficiency.”

So how can companies use AI in a way that helps them better compete and stay ahead of the curve? For O’Donoghue, it’s about not forgetting that the technology is not here to replace us.

“It is important to remember that AI works alongside humans, so is only effective if humans can use it and see the benefits. Enterprises are beginning to recognise the importance of involving subject matter experts in their respective disciplines, such as lawyers for legal tech, accountants for fintech, or doctors and nurses for medtech,” he explains.

“Their expertise and guidance are essential for the successful development and adoption of transformative AI solutions. We have found that when it is only technologists who are involved, there is a higher likelihood of missing the mark.

“To harness AI for competitive advantage, deploying private AI ensures businesses can maximise the value of AI whilst retaining full control of their sensitive and proprietary data.”

AI and digital twinning

Looking ahead, O’Donoghue says that it is the sustainability and green technology sector that will see the most amount of disruption caused by AI.

He gives the example of enterprises using a combination of AI and digital twinning to generate simulations that enhance decision-making, especially in environmental management.

“A great example of this is in flood management. An organisation or government can strategically place sensors within a riverbed to gather real-time data. This data, when integrated with satellite imagery and weather forecasts, allows for the creation of an advanced digital twin of the river ecosystem,” O’Donoghue explains.

This combination of AI and digital twinning can transform economies and livelihoods by helping simulate things such as the impact of specific rainfall patterns at certain points along a river, which helps predict flood behaviours and create prevention strategies.

“Digital twinning and AI could also be used to significantly reduce pollution, enhance urban and rural planning, and foster a more harmonious interaction with our natural environment,” he goes on.

“Essentially, it’s a step towards smarter, more responsible environmental stewardship and it will have a key role to play in the improvement of how we look after our planet.”

Find out how emerging tech trends are transforming tomorrow with our new podcast, Future Human: The Series. Listen now on Spotify, on Apple or wherever you get your podcasts.

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