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How to start your journey to artificial intelligence

Steve Astorino on how IBM is democratizing artificial intelligence for organizations that want turn-key solutions.

IBM AI - Watson
Photo courtesy IBM
Photo courtesy IBM

There are two types of people in the world: Those who want to understand the intricacies of how things operate, and those who really don’t want the details — they just want things to work. Often, these two people marry one another.

All joking aside, these two personality traits also work as an example to illustrate the two kinds of people who are dabbling with — or already fully using — artificial intelligence (AI). One wants to fully understand how it works, why recommendations are made, what data went into the decision process, and more. The other just wants to leverage AI recommendations without understanding how the AI got there. Or they want AI recommendations without needing technical skills to set it all up.

These two types of people create a challenge for deploying AI in businesses today, and that is something that IBM has set out to solve.

In most business environments today, AI is inaccessible to the average person. It is often relegated to data scientists or developers who have specialized skills. They develop algorithms, train the AI, and deploy models while most others in the team look at it as a black box.

IBM’s solution is the company’s Cloud Pak for Data, a platform that helps improve productivity and reduce complexity of data and AI solutions. It leverages the built-in data fabric capabilities that help integrate and govern siloed data wherever it is, however it’s stored. Organizations are able to collect, organize, and analyze their data and infuse AI into their applications and business processes. Best of all, it caters to the I-want-to-understand-how-it-works data scientists, as well as those of us who are not technical, and less curious about how the soup is made.

“Many businesses are asking, where do I start with AI? How do I get started? What do I start with?” says Steve Astorino, IBM’s Vice President of Development, Data, and AI.

Steve Astorino (Photo courtesy IBM Canada)

Astorino, who is also the Canada Lab Director at IBM, estimates that approximately 30% of customers have really grasped how to use AI for their business, but most are still trying to find their way.

“This is where IBM comes in,” he says. “We can help you identify where you are on your journey to AI based on your organization’s readiness and maturity level, help you identify where to start, and help you progress along your individual journey.”

How to start your AI journey 

IBM has a one-two punch when it comes to making AI accessible to everyone. The first is the IBM Cloud Pak for Data platform, and the second is WeaveSphere, the company’s technology conference that lives the promise of its platform by making AI accessible to all. 

Hosted by IBM’s Center for Advanced Studies and Evoke, WeaveSphere is one of Canada’s largest technology conferences that brings together world-class leaders and researchers from a range of disciplines to share insight, ideas, and co-create technology for the future.

It takes place this year November 15-17 in Toronto.

The event focuses on building technical knowledge, and the people who attend come from all walks of life and all levels of technical proficiency — PhDs, graduate students, undergraduates, industry leaders, startup founders, investors, and more. If you aren’t technical at all, WeaveSphere offers a unique opportunity to connect you with those who are so you can identify and start your AI journey.

The journey to democratizing artificial intelligence 

Traditionally, organizations would use business analytics to glean insights from the data they collected. With the creation of AI, predictive analytics took hold, looking for patterns to predict future behaviours or events. Loyalty programs would use this type of technology, as an example. 

The next evolution was learning which actions to take after predictions were made. IBM put this into action with an appearance by the Watson supercomputer on Jeopardy

Ultimately, however, IBM wanted to democratize the technology and allow anyone to access the data analysis power of AI without needing to be technical. The end result was an all-in-one platform that seeks out and understands data. 

IBM’s Cloud Pak for Data enables anyone — even laypeople without the technical know-how — to examine data, understand, and build relationships between data, and leave the data in place without creating unnecessary copies. Data and insights can be visualized, and there is no need for complex API integrations, which requires technical expertise. And organizations can leverage the tools and skills they are familiar with.

Once you are on the platform, you can drop in data and let the AI services do their thing.

If you already have on-premises hardware you can deploy it locally, or if you’re already using another provider like Microsoft Azure or AWS you can deploy it there. If you don’t have anything in place, you can use it as a service on the IBM Cloud.

“In other words, if you’re a small company, and you want to do data and AI, there’s no need to have a huge IT infrastructure and your own data centre,” Astorino explains. “You can just say: I’ve got this data, and I want to use this particular service, and I only have to pay for the services that I need, and the amount of data I’m analyzing.”

Learn more at WeaveSphere

AI and Data are just two of the more than 16 different streams on offer at the WeaveSphere technology conference.

“Weaving” together academia and industry, attendees will hear talks from cutting-edge startup founders, workshops from scientists, and research presentations from undergrad and graduate students. 

As an official media partner for WeaveSphere, Digital Journal will continue sharing updates leading up to the event. We’ll also be live on location during the conference. 

Join us and get your tickets at

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