A little over a year ago, billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban spoke to an audience of technology leaders here in Arizona about business, technology and entrepreneurialism. During this event, he was asked about artificial intelligence (AI) and its impact on the modern business world. He spoke about how critical it is for organizations in both technology and traditional markets to explore, understand, and integrate AI and machine learning into business processes. His main point was that software and technology are major parts of every industry in some form or another, and AI is enhancing tools and platforms in meaningful ways.

Arizona’s technology community has understood this for many years. The state’s largest companies, as well as a wide variety of startups, are developing software and hardware solutions that have deep integrations with AI and machine-learning technology.

One of the ways Arizona is taking the lead with AI is with the autonomous vehicle industry and organizations like Waymo, TuSimple, Local Motors, Intel and Imagry. AI and machine learning are among the core technologies utilized in self-driving vehicles to help them “learn.” The cars and trucks are regularly tested and refined on both closed and open Arizona roads. As these tests occur, the system is acquiring new information to improve navigation and keep both drivers and pedestrians safe.

Scottsdale-based Paradox developed a recruitment and HR tool centered around Olivia, its AI platform and persona. Olivia can handle employee care, virtual recruiting events, recruitment lead capture, interview scheduling, candidate care and even some hiring duties. The platform enables employers to efficiently hire qualified candidates in a cost-effective manner.

Another industry seeing significant growth due to AI and machine learning is digital marketing. Local companies like Digital Air Strike are using AI to enhance digital marketing campaigns for clients. ConnectAI has created an AI and machine learning software platform which automatically researches, creates and publishes relevant and engaging content to blogs and social channels like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Processes such as keyword research and ad-serving algorithms utilize AI to learn about audience likes and dislikes while delivering relevant, impactful content.

In the midst of COVID-19, Arizona-based startup Botco.ai led by Arizona Technology Council board member Rebecca Clyde has served its customers with a robust platform that allows organizations to stay connected with customers through AI-enabled chatbots. These bots help customers via chat applications when employees are unable to do so because they’re busy, it’s after hours or challenges such as COVID-19 arise. This helps businesses in service industries to stay connected to their audience. As the AI gathers more information, it becomes more intelligent and serves customers in more meaningful ways.

Arizona’s expertise in AI isn’t relegated to just software. We have an impressive roster of significant players on the hardware side that includes technology giants like Intel, Benchmark and Avnet. As AI and machine learning continue to grow, we have the hardware engineering and manufacturing expertise in our state to serve the growing demands for powerful processing technology and the devices, like sensors, to capture data.

The success in AI throughout Arizona can be attributed to the work of business development groups, technology organizations and innovative leaders who have advocated and worked with our government to limit regulations on research and development, lower corporate taxes and make Arizona a great place to do business. The Council has devoted a great deal of effort to ensuring legislators work with the technology community to open the door to AI innovation.

In early 2020, the Council outlined key initiatives for AI and machine-learning acceleration in its annual Public Policy Guide. These initiatives were developed by the Council’s Public Policy Committee and included input from dozens of members in the technology community. A few of our ongoing efforts for AI and machine learning include:

• Fueling AI innovation: Public policy should promote investment, make funds available for R&D, and address barriers to AI development and adoption.

• Addressing global societal challenges: AI-powered flagship initiatives should be funded to find solutions to the world’s greatest challenges such as curing cancer, ensuring food security, controlling climate change and achieving inclusive economic growth.

• Allowing for experimentation: Governments should create the conditions necessary for the controlled testing and experimentation of AI in the real world, such as designating self-driving test sites in cities.

• Preparing a workforce for AI: Governments should create incentives for students to pursue courses of study that will allow them to create the next generation of AI.

• Leading by example: Governments should lead the way in demonstrating the applications of AI in its interactions with citizens and invest sufficiently in infrastructure to support and deliver AI-based services.

Innovation in AI and machine learning is enhancing the capabilities across every business sector in the world. As the technology continues to improve, we’ll be collecting and analyzing more data than ever before. This will lead to advancements and breakthroughs in medical care, smart cities, sustainability, marketing and much more. Paraphrasing Mark Cuban in his outstanding discussion with Arizona’s technology community: If you’re not getting on board with AI today, you will be left behind.


Steven G. Zylstra is president and CEO of the Arizona Technology Council.