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Hrle: Tools based on artificial intelligence to become indispensable in business

Text: Hana Imamović, Photo/Sarajevo Unlimited-Namik Hrle

SARAJEVO, October 25 (FENA) - Director of Development and Chief Technology Officer at IBM’s Data and AI division, Namik Hrle, holder of the title "IBM Fellow" awarded to those who have reached the highest level of technical knowledge and ability to lead research and development teams, but also have world-renowned innovations that have resulted in a concrete contribution to IBM's business success, will be one of the speakers at this year's Sarajevo Unlimited Forum.

The Sarajevo Unlimited Forum is organized by the 'Networks INT' business, innovation and creative center in Sarajevo on November 5 and 6. It is the first regional forum of innovation, entrepreneurship and technology, created as a result of the activities of the first year of operation of the entrepreneurial, innovation and education center Networks in Sarajevo.

Namik Hrle was born in Banja Luka, where he finished elementary and high school. He graduated from the Faculty of Science and received his master's degree from the Faculty of Electrical Engineering in Zagreb. He worked for several companies in Zagreb before leaving for Australia in 1988. There he began developing system software for IBM and has lived in Germany since 1996.

He is employed in IBM's laboratory where he leads a global team (Germany, United States, China) that develops technologies in the domains of databases, optimization, visualization, artificial intelligence, and data organization and transformation. It is a dynamic and technically inspiring field that provides many opportunities for innovation and he is a holder of 59 patents.

As Hrle said in an interview with FENA, although it sounds like a cliché, professional success is a combination of a good education or the ability to accept new knowledge, dedication to work, willingness to accept risks of any change of circumstances, speed of adaptability and of course a certain amount of luck.

He notes that access to data relevant to a particular activity has always been key to the effective implementation of that activity, no matter what it is about, and in looking for examples for this thesis we should not go beyond ourselves because our senses constantly collect data, the brain processes them and we react according to the results of that processing.

“The more data we have, the faster we process them and the more precisely we draw conclusions based on those data, the more efficient we are. Of course, this does not cover the full spectrum of human action and thinking, but it applies to a large number of situations. Business and production systems conceptually work on the same principle,” explains Hrle.

It emphasizes that the ability to detect, accept, store, efficiently search and analyze data relevant to the functioning of these systems is a key factor in their competitiveness in the market. The amount of data available to business and production systems today is enormously large and therefore the potential for making optimal decisions is huge.

“However, it is impossible to process that amount, variety and speed of data creation by standard methods. Artificial intelligence allows us to respond to this challenge. We can say that data is the 'fuel' of business modernization, and artificial intelligence is its 'engine',” Hrle added.

We witness the achievements of artificial intelligence in the narrow sense almost every day. It is enough just to remember the smartphone in which many applications use elements of artificial intelligence. What follows is the use of artificial intelligence in a broader sense, that is, connecting different expert systems that can 'intelligently' communicate, such as 'connected vehicles'.

Although he says he does not know enough about the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina when it comes to digitalization, he is not surprised that digital transformation is slow, especially in established industries and services, saying that this is the case outside BiH, perhaps not to the same extent, but even though almost every company understands the importance of business modernization, more than 70 percent are late with the implementation of digital transformation.

He sees the reason for this in the usual inertia and entanglement in the status quo, a typical situation that is caused by long-term production growth and business success, and this is used by new, more agile companies based on digital business.

Namik Hrle, Director of Development and Chief Technology Officer in IBM’s Data and AI division, will speak at the Sarajevo Unlimited Forum on "Artificial Intelligence as the basis for digital business transformation”. He noted that the world is going through the so-called fourth industrial revolution and it is important to be aware, be prepared, participate and win.

The first industrial revolution was related to the invention of steam engines and their use in the mechanization of production. The second industrial revolution was made possible by the industrial production of electricity and machines that started the mass production of various products. The third industrial revolution led to the automation of production and services thanks to the achievements of the electronics industry and information technologies, such as traditional data processing.

The fourth industrial revolution was characterized by an exponential growth in the amount of data, huge opportunities to exploit this data thanks to cloud computing and artificial intelligence technologies, and a substantial transformation of almost every area of production and business.

“This transformation is called 'digital' because it is based on data and information technology. Just take examples of online stores that have completely changed the way a large number of people procure almost everything they need, or media that have completely transformed (or disappeared) under the pressure of social media. There are many examples like this around us,” Hrle emphasized.

Since the coronavirus pandemic has shown in an even more dramatic way the need to modernize business, service centers, first aid and emergency information are under great pressure due to a large number of calls. Therefore, such exponential need can only be successfully met by the exponential capabilities of digital tools.

“The situation with Covid-19 has shown that the use of so-called conversational artificial intelligence will become much more widespread through Chatbot, virtual agents and other automated processes. We have already seen signs of this trend before the pandemic, more or less, in widespread consumption (remember only personal assistants such as Siri and Alexa) and in the business world where IBM's Watson assistant plays a prominent role,” says Hrle.

Therefore, he thinks that it is not necessary to emphasize the huge degree of efficiency and effectiveness of these tools and technologies based on artificial intelligence. Additional attractiveness of these tools is in the fact that they can be installed very quickly in more complex systems.

“All this will lead that tools based on artificial intelligence become indispensable parts of business systems of all types and purposes, regardless of how and when the pandemic will pass,” Hrle believes.

Another area of widespread use of artificial intelligence is to minimize the effects of supply chain disruptions, i.e. the delivery of materials, components, products and services that are expected to occur in situations such as pandemic.

“This is a challenge that requires artificial intelligence, but also technologies such as automation, blockchain, 5G, edge computing, and soon quantum computing,” concluded Director of Development and Chief Technology Officer at IBM’s Data and AI division Namik Hrle in an interview with FENA.

During the previous years, the Sarajevo Unlimited Forum gathered 10,156 participants, presented 220 start-ups with brilliant ideas to investors and audiences in the region and the world, 252 speakers who shared their inspiring experience in the field of innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Forum also hosted 14 keynote speakers from Google, Deutsche Telecom, BBC, Alibaba, Viber and Huawei, and was attended by 480 foreign delegations, representatives of government institutions, universities, corporations, banks, insurance companies, technology parks and creative hubs.

This year's Sarajevo Unlimited is supported by BH Telecom, MIBO communications, NLB Bank, Science Park from Graz, ESP BH, Foreign Investment Council (FIC), German Development Agency-GIZ and many others.