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As 2019 neared its end and experts around the world raced to predict which technology trends would shape the new decade, artificial intelligence (AI) and its role in accelerating automation was a common theme.

Indeed, in its outlook on top technology trends for 2020, global research and advisory company Gartner listed hyperautomation as No. 1. It claims advanced technologies, such as AI, will increasingly automate processes and augment humans as the technology becomes more sophisticated.

The appealing and enduring drive to work smarter – not harder – may be driving these advancements, mused Mark Long, director of incubation services at the University of Florida (UF), which includes Sid Martin Biotech and The Hub, the two business incubators under the UF Innovate umbrella that have generated over $6.4 billion in private investments and created more than 7,600 jobs since inception.

Serving for over 30 years in various roles as an award-winning business incubation director, consultant, author and speaker, Long has been uniquely positioned to witness the emergence of new technologies and how they are applied by startups trying to compete in the marketplace.

“There’s no doubt artificial intelligence is going to change the way we live, work and approach our world,” he said. “Machine learning is taking a giant leap and it will affect the way we interface with computers and equipment.”

Fulfilling its mission to build, drive and support the spirit of innovation, UF Innovate | The Hub houses several entrepreneurial ventures that are applying AI to change the way business is done in digital media, retail and agriculture sectors.

Long pointed to several on the cutting edge. Among them, Admiral has been lauded by Entrepreneur and Red Herring as a top technology startup in North America. The firm helps publishers, such as newspapers and broadcast stations, secure revenue from digital advertising that would otherwise be blocked by software commonly installed on visitors’ internet browsers.

Leveraging AI, it enables publishers to find alternate ways to build relationships with their customers, including whitelisting and consent-based ad experiences. As a result, publishers may save thousands of dollars. In just three years, Admiral has grown its customer base to over 15,000 and in March 2019 announced the close of a $5.1 million funding round to continue expanding its platform.

Long also mentioned Precision Silver, which provides aerial robotics systems and accompanying software and services for agriculture research and development. Using infrared sensors and AI, the drones collect scientific data related to crops, such as moisture and mineral content, which helps farmers determine the appropriate amount of watering and fertilization needed to ensure maximum crop production.

In a 2018 test at Bayer CropScience’s Research Farm in Canada, Precision Silver’s drone worked roughly 10 times faster than humans to successfully collect data about plant count, plant height, canopy volume and more.

AI has clearly come a long way from its infancy over 70 years ago to become the backbone of complex social networking platforms, ridesharing applications, email management systems and many other practical tools humans use every day.

Surely, British polymath Alan Turing could not have imagined automated advertising or drone-enabled crop care in 1950 while writing his landmark paper, “Computing Machinery and Intelligence.”

But 70 years later, with hyperautomation at the forefront, the year 2020 is poised to mark a new era of growth not only for UF Innovate pursuing these technologies, but also for over 24,000 tech companies that call the Corridor home.

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