February 22, 2024
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Generative AI will take off in 2024, area experts say


Elizabeth Cholawsky, CEO of HG Insights, has been a pioneer in the AI industry, working in the sector since the 1980s. (courtesy photo)

2024 will be the year of the new wave of artificial intelligence — generative AI — Tri-County experts in the field say.

Most, if not all, AI companies and other businesses that use AI will be dialing into the cutting-edge technology more and more, the specialists say.

They include those in the Central Coast region such as AppFolio, a software company for the real estate industry, technology intelligence firm HG Insights, and at least some of the dozen or so AI and machine learning companies that have received venture capital funding since the start of 2022.

Still in its early stages of development, Generative AI refers to the use of AI to create new content such as text, images, music, audio and videos, according to tech giant Google.

Generative AI is powered by large AI models that can multitask and perform out-of-the-box tasks, including summarization, Q&A, classification and more, Google says.

It became accessible to a wider audience starting in November 2022 with the launch of ChatGPT, Microsoft’s AI chatbot which rapidly grew to more than 100 million users.

“Generative AI, I think, is the one that everyone is really kind of focused on,” Ray Bowman of the Economic Development Collaborative, a Camarillo-based business consulting nonprofit, told the Business Times Dec. 28. 

“Where I really see it growing is the adoption of generative AI within internal processes in companies, embedding it within more closed systems,” Bowman said. “There’s a lot of internal things that you can’t do on ChatGPT because the information isn’t private.”

They include proprietary financial information, legal information or private client information, he said.

Elizabeth Cholawsky, CEO of Santa Barbara-based HG Insights, said she too sees greater use of generative AI by businesses in 2024.

“If a company has fundamentally used AI, they are now incorporating generative AI on top of what they’re doing,” she said.

That includes HG Insights, she said.

Considered a pioneer in the AI industry, Cholawsky has worked in the sector since the late 1980s. That’s when AI was in its first wave which included natural language processing and speech recognition.

“This new wave of generative AI, we’re also incorporating that in what we do,” she said. 

“Everybody will be going in that direction,” she said. 

Santa Barbara-based AppFolio, a software company for the real estate industry, is one of them.

It’s rolling out its Realm-X, a conversational interface for property managers.

Realm-X uses generative AI to streamline leasing, maintenance, and accounting workflows, freeing up property managers to focus on building resident connections and driving business performance, the company says.

“Real-X empowers our customers to run their businesses using plain language,” Matt Baird, AppFolio’s senior vice president of software engineering, told the Business Times Jan. 2.

Realm-X is the newest addition to AppFolio Realm, the company’s holistic suite of AI capabilities for the real estate industry.

AppFolio is piloting Realm-X with select customers ahead of its broader availability later this year.

Some experts see growth potential for the Tri-County AI industry in 2024.

They include Ivan Bercovich, general partner at ScOp Venture Capital, a Santa Barbara-based venture capital firm with a heavy emphasis on AI and tech investing. 

The firm has invested in multiple AI companies, including Unwrap.ai, also in Santa Barbara.

Bercovich sees possible growth in the local AI industry in part because of UCSB’s Center for Responsible Machine Learning, which says it reflects the university’s commitment to advancing cutting-edge AI research.

The center, Bercovich said, is producing people with doctorates in artificial intelligence-related fields. 

“AI has exploded in recent years,” he said. “And there is not enough people working in this space, especially people with an in-depth understanding of how the whole space works.”

But the center’s Ph.D. graduates do and could take positions with existing AI companies in the area, he said.

“That talent concentration in the region is also an opportunity for innovative companies in AI to emerge in the Central Coast,” he said.

Samuel Maury-Holmes, who leads the Economic, Fiscal, and Social Impact practice area at Los Angeles economics analysis consulting firm Beacon Economics, is a bit cautious about the possible emergence of new AI firms in 2024.

Many expect the Federal Reserve rate, currently 5.25% to 5.5%, to be lowered a few times this year, resulting in a lot of startups, possibly some in the Tri-County region, having access to capital, he said.

But he’s not sure they will include AI companies.

“I think venture capitalists are toning back a little bit the frenzy in terms of what they’re investing in related to AI,” Maury-Holmes said.

“Still, there’s some really exciting potential out there and a lot of money still being invested in AI,” he said.

email: mharris@pacbiztimes.com