Can generic AI solve specific industry problems?
We have recently done an analysis of startup activity in the AI space . We found that, in 2016 alone, investors poured nearly $40 billion in startup financing into companies operating in the big data, analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI) space. Only about $5.5 billion has been invested in startups offering products or services that directly impact companies making or transforming “physical products,” with the rest of the investment dollars going into pure software plays. Nearly 70% of the above-mentioned $5.5 billion has been dedicated to “generic” AI startups that claim to solve problems for multiple industry sectors. Can we expect such generic startups to solve problems that are usually unique to each sector, especially in manufacturing.
Often, a "one-size-fits-all" approach leaves much to be desired. Usually, it will fit, but poorly. However, under the notion that a poorly fitting coat is better than no coat at all, I would encourage you to look for an application that will fit easily into your budget. Trying it on, so to speak, may convince you that you need a better one. Or, you may find that it is an entirely adequate application. Or, you may find that you really don't need the coat in the first place.
I am of the opinion - and this is only my opinion - that just because we CAN do something is not always enough to say that we SHOULD do something.
What does your maufacturing business need to know that you don't already have the means to determine?
What do others need to know about you that is not already available?
If there are answers to these questions; answers that make good economic and business sense, then perhaps a foray into AI might be beneficial. But if there are no answers, or the answers are not profitable, then I would avoid the step. But that's just me.
One the best known AI efforts is IBM's Watson (https://www.ibm.com/watson/whitepaper/solutions-guide/). It wasn't created with one specific industry problem to solve so it that sense it is generic but definitely not a startup in the traditional sense. Watson is now being implemented across several unrelated industries albeit with some customization.
I'm of the opinion that if a well executed AI product is broad enough but more importantly user friendly and reliable, people will find ways to apply it to their particular problem.
I agree with Horace (above) that at first blush it may be just a trial to determine feasibility that justifies further development/budget.