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In this Q&A with MIT/SMR Connections, Gavin Day, Senior Vice President of Technology at SAS, shares real-life examples of artificial intelligence (AI) at work, discusses picking the right problems to solve with AI, dispels a common misconception about AI, and defines AI success.

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Q: Could you describe some especially interesting AI use cases?

Day: Two major truck manufacturers use sensor data and SAS AI solutions to predict maintenance issues and prevent unplanned downtime, which takes a tremendous toll on the fleet operators and customers that are expecting these deliveries.  They monitor the data from each truck if something is wrong with a vehicle’s major systems, such as the engine or transmission, they can take it out of service before it breaks down on the road somewhere.

Another customer, a major aerospace manufacturing company, predicts potential failure of airplane parts before they fail. But they’re also using it to see where they need to have parts distributed around the world. That’s because knowing something is going to fail is one thing — having a part ready and available where these planes are in flight is the second part.

Then there’s an organization focused on supporting healthy bee populations. They provide video footage from inside the hives, and the machine learning algorithms decode bee movement so teams can better understand where bees are finding food. This real-time monitoring of bee movement allows beekeepers to establish hives in optimal locations to maintain strong colonies.

One last example is that machine learning and AI are showing great promise in advising analysts when to review and make manual overrides to their forecasts in the financial industry. We’re in testing with a large global consumer goods company, and the approach has reduced the number of forecasts needing manual review, which cut analysts’ time in half and improved overall forecast accuracy by 6%.

“AI’s real value comes from making better decisions that lead to better business outcomes. If we make better decisions at every level in an…

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