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International telecommunications giant and global systems integrator NTT expects that energy consumption of generative AI models and value-based pricing will be among the most significant challenges facing enterprises as they move towards more broad adoption and integration of the burgeoning technology.
Those were the major takeaways from a panel discussion at the VentureBeat Transform 2023 conference on Wednesday featuring Vab Goel, Founding Partner, NTTVC and Board Member, NTT DATA and Takashi Hiroi, Chief Financial Officer, Senior EVP, & Board Member at NTT Corporation.
Hiroi predicted that new guidelines and resilient global systems will help mitigate some of the harms foreseen by experts today.
“This approach is not different from building conventional system integration systems,” said Hiroi.
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AI for IT support
With revenue exceeding $100 billion — a significant chunk of that in the system integration market and 100,000 enterprise customers — NTT is no stranger to implementing AI in its various verticals.
NTT Group now operates globally, has sales teams based in more than 70 countries, and counts more than 300,000 employees. The company provides a diverse range of technology solutions and services including digital transformation, IT services, consulting, cloud, mobile and data centers. NTT Group has continuously evolved from its telecommunications roots to become an innovative player in emerging technologies like 5G, AI, IoT, digital transformation, cloud services, and quantum cryptography. Through NTTVC, based in Silicon Valley, it invests globally in early stage technology startups.
Already, NTT Group leverages AI technologies including large language models (LLMs) for support and services, and AI-based translation service service COTOHA, as well as marketing data services with behavior forecasting.
Edge-based computing the way forward
NTT is focused on research to solve the growing energy needs of edge-based computing to power local AI systems.
“AI needs huge energy consumption and the data processing is as close to the user as possible,” said Hiroi. “So we started to provide an edge computing service as soon as possible.”
He continued to say that power from renewable sources will be part of the way forward.
Additionally, the economic challenges of pricing AI services correctly were top of mind for the CFO. Acknowledging the complexity of the matter, Hiroi said he didn’t have the precise answer to the question but expected that further understanding of the value AI brings to an enterprise will determine pricing.
“It is important as a CFO, you think about not only about technology but also about pricing,” Goel said in the discussion. “Usually, in today’s world, everything gets commoditized, it’s very competitive. Value-based pricing does not work for most of the companies.”
Similar problems have been solved before
Hiroi was less concerned with the perceived threat of AI to employment in general. He noted that the trend toward automation isn’t new. “If you look back at the history of industrial development, in the 1960s automated systems were introduced in countries and has [since] been increasing,” said Hiroi. “Yes, we can manage that shift.”
As well, when asked about the ethical concerns that come with the use of AI, Hiroi pointed to the video streaming platform YouTube, where there have been ongoing issues, but nonetheless we manage to enjoy these services today. Hiroi noted that while it’s an early stage, NTT is developing guidelines to protect the use of confidential information in the AI systems.
“AI is created by people,” said Hiroi. “The company providing the system integration services using AI has a responsibility to [deal with] ethical issues.”
Big and small companies can find synergy
Offering his own views, Goel suggested that AI startup companies should partner with larger providers and systems integrators which can accelerate their go-to-market strategy.
“My advice for large enterprises is to broaden the scope and look at some very early-stage companies,” said Goel. “Some companies are even at the ideation stage with just a PowerPoint deck to paint their vision.
NTT is partnering with Celona, a startup company, to offer private 5G.
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