These are the 3 areas AI will impact GCC

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has fascinated mankind since the invention of computers. AI has had many false starts during the past century, some optimists even predicted AI to become standard by the 1950’s which turned out to be wildly optimistic. After many such false starts, AI has made some extraordinary progress in the past few years owing to the improvements in computing power and newer learning techniques that software developers have built in these computers.
Simply put, artificial intelligence is a sub-field of computer science. Its goal is to enable the development of computers that are able to do things normally done by people — in particular, things associated with people acting intelligently. Even within the AI, there are strong AI, Weak AI and the somewhere in between AI. We are yet to see strong AI, AI that can think like a human being himself, in existence. Weak AI, These are AI that are adopted to perform a single function like playing chess or scrabble. AI falls somewhere between these two extremes, a middle path, is the where most of today’s research is going on.

Given the reach of disruptive potential and the reach of AI, it could arrive at GCC shores before long. We see three major areas in the GCC region in which AI could be used.

Healthcare – AI Based Health Assistants
Similar to Siri or Google Now, AI based health assistants can be used for initial diagnosis of patients. These chat bots enquire user symptoms and provides easy-to-understand information about their medical conditions. It would also provide steps and measures to remedy the illness and could possibly even warn the users as to when to see their doctors. GCC region is predisposed to type-2 diabetes and it requires managing food intake and constant monitoring of patients. AI based health assistants could take care of patients by monitoring their food and medicine intake at regular intervals thereby removing uncertainty. Your.MD and Babylon Health are two London based startups that are currently developing such chatbots. Even Microsoft has developed one of its own called Microsoft Tay.

Early Diagnosis
The treatment and prevention of rare and dangerous diseases often depends on detecting the symptoms at the right time. In many cases, early diagnosis can result in complete cure. Conversely, a late or wrong diagnosis, in case of cancer, can have damaging or potentially fatal results. AI networks can scan through millions of CT scans that have been uploaded to its server and compare that with the patient’s one. It can help identify tumour and cross-check it with its database to check if it is a malignant one or a non-malignant one. GCC region is expected to have 150-200 percent increase in cancer rates by 2030 owing to changes in diet and lifestyle. This region is also expected to have considerable shortage in medical personnel as most of them come from other countries. While the prospects of AI replacing a trained radiologist, with decades of experience under his belt, is extremely unlikely, it can definitely serve as an ideal tool in helping him identify tumours and other illness with remarkable accuracy.

Traffic Management and identifying violations
Two people die in accidents on a daily basis in the UAE everyday according to the latest information from country’s Ministry of Interior. While the number of accidents in the UAE has come down from 4,796 in 2015 to 4,788 in 2016 the number of road death have increased by 7.4% during the same period. Rash and negligent driving has been a major cause of concern for the authorities. With the GCC countries trying to increase tourism revenue by attracting more tourists to the country incidences of rash or negligent driving could damage the country’s reputation. AI could help in traffic management by simultaneously analysing data from various traffic junctions which in turn could be used to regulate traffic and manage traffic signals. In 2016, a pilot programme was conducted in Pittsburgh, USA by a company named “Surtrac”. In the limited tests, the startup was able to reduce. travel time by 25 percent and idling time by over 40 percent.

Stock trading and increasing liquidity
GCC countries stock markets have the lowest liquidity in the world. Computer aided trading or algorithm based trading could help in improving the volumes of the stock market. To start with the region could look at algorithm based trading whereby the computers would take the decision to trade depending on pre-defined rules. This would improve liquidity and help the regional investors with easy entry/ exit from the market. Improvement in liquidity would also help the region in attracting international capital.

Given the disruptive nature of AI, the application could possibly enter other fields as well. Areas such as air traffic control are for the most part automated and we could see AI extending its capabilities and completely taking over the operations of the ATC. Given the Middle East region’s status as a transport hub, this could open up opportunities for tech firms in the region. Manufacturing is another area that could very well be disrupted by automation. We already have robots that possess the dexterity of human hands and these robots are trained by human workers who currently do the job. Manufacturing has never been GCC’s forte mainly due to the size of Oil and gas sector and shortage of the available skill. Automated manufacturing could change all this and it would also go very well with the government’s objective of diversifying the economy.

GCC countries, the UAE in particular, has shown lot of interest in emerging technologies such as Block chain and Hyperloop. AI could very well turn out to be the next big interesting technology for the region. The healthcare needs of the people of the region and the higher fatality rate associated with them could very well be tackled with the help of AI. It could even help the GCC countries reduce the dependence on expat medical professionals. The GCC region is expected to witness two mega events – Dubai Expo 2020 and Qatar Fifa 2022- both of which are expected to bring in foreign visitors by the droves. Crowd control, temperature control (within stadia and exhibition centres), traffic management etc., needs constant monitoring and quick decisions. AI can very well shoulder most of its burden reducing the stress on authorities. Authorities in the region have tried to bring in foreign investors in order to prop-up the capital market’s liquidity and to put them on the map of global investors. AI and Bot trading have started to gain popularity among investors now and they could be used to improve the popularity of GCC markets. In recent years, funds globally have moved towards real machine learning where artificially intelligent systems can analyse large amounts of data at speed and improve themselves through such analysis. Given the poor participation of institutional investors in these markets encouraging artificial trading could be a great way to boost the sagging liquidity in the region.

This blog was original published on Marmore MENA Intelligence is a research house focused on conducting Mena-specific business, economic and capital market research. We welcome questions from our readers through email at, or via twitter @marmoremena

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