Innovation Spotlight: Artificial intelligence

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Exciting areas of application for artificial intelligence from practice

Artificial intelligence or “AI” is a key technology of our time that basically mimics our human actions and our ability to learn. This results in exciting application options and innovation opportunities for companies to strengthen their competitiveness. Companies across all industries want to understand how artificial intelligence can help them. And gain experience with the technology. Every day with our EARLY BRANDS innovation & technology scouting, we see exciting new opportunities for companies to use and benefit from AI technologies. In this innovation spotlight, our innovation and technology experts highlight three areas of application where AI already provides a high level of practical benefits.


Robots as physical machines have been successfully in use for decades. For example, they support the automotive industry in vehicle manufacturing with repetitive activities such as welding of vehicle components. Even without artificial intelligence, industrial robots already provide great added value, because they work reliably, quickly and precisely, day and night. Artificial intelligence as a further cross-sectional technology besides mechatronics, sensors, etc. raises the capabilities of robots to a new level. Because it gives robots a “brain” that allows them to perceive their environment and adjust their behavior. They learn and make decisions independently. This is not only helpful in exploring the universe, where robots like from DFKI Robotics Innovation Center become independent actors to build base camps on alien planets, for example.

Use cases for autonomous robots are of great interest to many sectors: from manufacturing industry, medical sector, disaster relief, to catering and agriculture – the smart helpers enable diverse innovation opportunities. For example, in the form of drone robots: the intelligent drone from the Israeli startup Tevel Aerobotics is equipped with a gripper and handles the care and harvesting of orchards autonomously. The drone recognizes different fruits, their quality, maturity and decides what to do. As a result, farmers save valuable time and money. Also, vehicles are becoming increasingly autonomous and are gradually changing our understanding of how humans or goods are getting from A to B. The number of companies and projects working on smart mobility and transport solutions is increasing rapidly. Whether autonomous car taxis from Waymo, air taxis from Airbus, delivery vehicles from Nuro or Alibaba, or the autonomous snowplow at the airport – startups and big players are already shaping the future of their and neighboring industries. Through innovations that are only possible with AI technologies. And AI companies such as the startup SparkCognition supply the right “artificial brain”. In addition to robots with an increasing degree of autonomy, mastering complex tasks, robots are also increasingly cooperative. They work actively with people hand in hand: the surgical robot Da Vinci already assists physicians in hospitals by enabling precise and safe operation.

We are convinced: AI-based physical robots and smart transport solutions provide businesses various innovation opportunities across processes, products, services and business models. The areas of application and benefits already go far beyond efficient manufacturing and logistics.


The first AI-based services have been with us for years: e.g. smart email filters that protect us from annoying spam emails, or the navigation app on our smartphone which shows us the best routes depending on the current traffic situation. In our worldwide EARLY BRANDS real-time scouting for AI innovation, we see a growing number of companies that explore the opportunities of artificial intelligence for new and enhanced services.

Technology companies such as Automation Anywhere, IBM with Watson or Amazon Web Services already offer a wide range of “AI-as-a-service” tools that enable new services based on voice, image or video recognition. One main area of ​​application are recurring activities in the context of digital services: e.g. processing of customer questions by email or live chat. Learning chatbots are increasingly handling this customer interaction. The software robots interpret the enquiries thanks to “nature language processing” and help customers 24/7. Digital experts are also changing the financial industry. Fintechs like Scalable Capital gain market share in financial advice with AI-based online investment managers: depending on the personal risk profile of retail investors, the robo advisor “intelligently” invests the money – or even trades stocks, commodities and other asset classes automatically. Professional investors have been relying on AI-based trading, or algorithmic trading, for years. And in the healthcare sector, digital doctors like Ada combine medical knowledge with artificial intelligence. It helps in the analysis of symptoms and choosing the right treatment – for self-diagnosis on the web or as a professional assistant to physicians: Infervision already enables hundreds of hospitals to analyze lung images in seconds with AI-based image analysis. The diagnosis of lung cancer is thereby accelerated. The result: Human doctors have more time for their patients.

Also insurers such as AXA XL are increasingly relying on AI-based online services. In the case of building insurance, the company optimizes its risk assessment through AI-based analysis of comprehensive building reports. It enables a faster determination of insurance conditions and quotation preparation – to the joy of the insurance company and its customers.

EARLY BRANDS is convinced: there are many exciting starting points for digital, AI-based services across markets and industries to support internal processes or new customer services and business models. The starting point for this should always be the customer and user needs. And more than ever, attention is needed on creative use cases where artificial intelligence creates a high level of customer value compared to the status quo. Be it faster response to customer queries like with AXA XL or accelerated diagnostics by Infervision. Companies should deal with the individual potentials of “intelligent services” at an early stage. This is important in order to develop successful services for the future.


With smart devices and facilities, we mean, for example, virtual assistants such as Amazon Alexa, who reads our wishes from the lips – and enables us to control networked devices such as coffee machines and lamps by voice control. The internet of things combined with artificial intelligence makes it possible. Another example in the context of smart home are smart grids. They monitor and control themselves and ensure a stable grid in times of renewable energies and decentralized energy supply. This helps network operators and energy providers to ensure the high quality of their services. At the same time, the AI-based network creates opportunities for new services such as flexible electricity tariffs. Individual devices such as smart meters play an important role in this connected system, as another piece of the puzzle.

The example of smart grids can also be transferred to other application areas such as warehouses and factories: e.g. Alibaba’s autonomous warehouses with intelligent goods management or intelligent factories with predictive inspection and maintenance of production machines. The intelligent interaction of individual devices and sensors accelerates processes, prevents expensive failures and increases quality. Here, artificial intelligence is the “learning agent” that interprets logistics and manufacturing facilities with large amounts of data, orchestrates them autonomously or semi-autonomously and constantly improves itself. The startup Iron Ox with its fully autonomous vegetable farms shows the disruption potential of smart plants: AI-based robots, moisture sensors and other farming components enable a completely new interaction: sowing, quality assessment, care and harvesting of vegetables and herbs are realized autonomously, 24/7. The mobile farms can be flexibly placed near major cities, save on transport costs while providing freshly harvested vegetables.

From robots and intelligent services to smart devices and facilities: we already see how artificial intelligence as an important cross-sectional technology is creating high value for users and companies. In combination with creative ideas and strengths of companies such as brands, distribution channels and customers, new opportunities for innovation emerge. Regarding processes, products, services and business models. Companies in all sectors are in demand to identify the individual opportunities of AI technologies, and to explore the potentials together with partners and users in an agile way.

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