Microdosing the Economy
How can AI bring real value to businesses and the economy overall? This conversation between Daniela Gerd tom Markotten (Deutsche Bahn) and Andreas Liebl (appliedAI), moderated by Alexandra Mousavizadeh (Tortoise Media) offers many insights and examples.
German railway operator Deutsche Bahn now uses artificial intelligence to tackle one of its most difficult jobs: keeping trains run on schedule.
“We established an AI tool a few months ago which recommends the sequence of trains on a real-time basis”, Daniela Gerd tom Markotten says. The system suggests which trains should be prioritized to keep the overall system on time.
Humans still have the final say, the Deutsche Bahn manager emphasizes, but “more than 90 percent of this information is confirmed by the employees”, she notes, leading to a three percent increase in punctuality.
The AI also helps make the most of existing infrastructure. “We free up space, so we can put more trains on this capacity and we don’t need to build new tracks”, Daniela Gerd tom Markotten says.
The challenge Deutsche Bahn now faces is typical of many AI applications, Andreas Liebl observes: scaling the tool, which has proven so valuable in a specific setting, to the overall business.
“I heard many times that at some point in time, the management gets impatient and says, ‘Hey, show me the real cases, not the nice showcases or prototypes. But where is it really driving value?’”
Identifying benefits, and backing them up with data, “is key because you have to prove these benefits to create products”, Liebl adds.
Equally important, both speakers agree, is involving employees as early as possible. “What we figured out is it’s best to start with with a team who’s really eager and curious and wants to do it”, Daniela Gerd tom Markotten says.
Some initial resistance is common, Andreas Liebl notes, “and you need to convince [people] to collaborate with you and maybe to hand out data or expertise.” But once the system is working and yielding positive results, “it creates some trust, and then the acceptance is typically really fast.”
Alexandra Mousavizadeh is a Partner at Tortoise Media, the slow-news media company founded by James Harding. Alexandra is the creator of the groundbreaking Global AI Index and Director of the Tortoise Intelligence team which specialises in global and industry indices and data analytics.
Daniela Gerd tom Markotten
Deutsche Bahn AG
At Deutsche Bahn AG, Dr. Daniela Gerd tom Markotten is the Member of the Management Board for Digitalization and Technology. A tech enthusiast and industrial engineer with a PhD in IT security, she previously held various positions in IT, logistics and production at Daimler AG.
UnternehmerTUM • appliedAI
As Managing Director of UnternehmerTUM GmbH Andreas Liebl is responsible, among other things, for setting up the appliedAI initiative with partners such as Google and NVIDIA. With more than 50 partners the initiative is one of the largest in its field in Europe.