Technology Record - Issue 30: Autumn 2023

FEATURE future The intelligent Microsoft’s Andy Beach and Rick Lievano explain how artificial intelligence, combined with the power of the cloud, is set to reshape the media and communications industries BY ALEX SMITH When OpenAI’s ChatGPT launched in November 2022, it fired the imagination of millions. The freely available chatbot tool, operating on a Microsoft Azure infrastructure, offered a glimpse of what a future with artificial intelligence could hold, and by January 2023, it had become the fastest growing web application of all time with 100 million monthly users. The myriad of possible applications for generative AI has since emerged. In media and communications, innovation has been rapid, with AI tools beginning to transform workflows, distribution and the process of storytelling itself. “AI’s capabilities, from content creation to distribution and engagement, are reshaping how we conceptualise, produce and deliver content,” says Andy Beach, chief technology officer for worldwide media and entertainment at Microsoft. “It’s not just about enhancing existing processes – AI opens doors to entirely new creative possibilities and audience interactions. This transformation extends beyond efficiency gains; it’s about fundamentally reimagining storytelling, personalisation, and the very nature of audience engagement. AI is a cornerstone of the industry’s future, enabling us to craft richer experiences that are tailored to individual preferences and community dynamics.” While AI has been used in different capacities across the telecommunications industry for many years, the release of generative AI tools capable of creating new content has been no less transformational in its impact on operations. These include AI-powered chatbots, which can provide instant support to a business’s customers, taking the pressure off overwhelmed call centres and improving the customer experience. Elsewhere, AI algorithms can help optimise networks by automatically adjusting settings and configurations, helping to deal with what is predicted to be a rapid period of network growth in the next five years. Furthermore, as the industry tackles the significant problem of fraud – which cost the industry up to $39.9 billion in 2021 according to the Communications Fraud Control Association – AI models can detect and prevent a range of fraudulent activities before they hurt vulnerable customers. “When OpenAI enabled anyone with an imagination to try out generative AI with 154