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Can a Technology Meant to Sell Donuts Help Detect Cancer?

Can a Technology Meant to Sell Donuts Help Detect Cancer?

We’d be the first to admit it—some of the topics we discuss may seem to be inaccessible to small and medium-sized businesses nowadays, bordering on science fiction. For instance, let’s consider the topic of artificial intelligence in business.

Artificial intelligence is perhaps the perfect example of an advanced technology that seems to be reserved exclusively for pop culture, but plays an exceptionally beneficial role for many more businesses and their operations than many of us likely consider. 

For instance, if you use the Google search engine with any regularity, you use a type of AI.

One case study that extolls the potential benefits of the use of AI comes to us through one designed to help out in a bakery, but has actually shown its strengths in the accurate diagnosis of cancerous cells.

No, we aren’t kidding.

Why a Bakery Would Use AI in the First Place

Here’s some background: The AI we are referring to originated as a relatively simple means for bakeries in Japan to expedite the checkout process in their open-cafeteria style layouts. Rather than having a human cashier count out the shopper’s selections at checkout, the cashier would simply instruct the customer to spread their purchases out on the counter. A display would show a bird’s eye view of the confections, each Danish and doughnut individually identified based on its size, shape, and color. At that point, the cashier just confirms the price that the system calculates, allowing each customer to be rang up in moments.

Simplicity at this level was extremely beneficial to bakeries, which tend to offer a massive variety in Japan through different flavor combinations and pastry types. In this market, the higher the level of variety that a bakery offers, the better their sales did—and the same could be said of pastries that lacked any individual wrapping and scannable barcodes.

Of course, this meant that checking out was far slower and very easy for the cashier to mess up. As a result, the eventual development and release of an automated means of expediting the process was of a clear benefit to bakeries. The AI that was ultimately developed by BRAIN Co. is known as BakeryScan, and (at about $20,000 a pop) now appears in 400 retail establishments throughout Japan after first appearing in 2013.

Side note: if you’re worried about the prospect of unwrapped baked goods being sold in the past year or so, the technology has since improved to recognize pastries through protective wrapping just as accurately.

Naturally, this kind of technology shows obvious promise as a means of streamlining modern retail outlets and such places as time goes on, but the potential to adopt the methods that were implemented into BakeryScan have since spread much farther.

From Pastries to Pathology…and a Donut-Hole Lot More

However, it wasn’t until a doctor from Kyoto’s Louis Pasteur Center for Medical Research saw a segment on TV that the connection was made. Apparently, when viewed under a microscope, cancer cells look a bit like bread loaves. Once contact was made between the researcher and BRAIN Co., it wasn’t much longer before BakeryScan was repurposed into a platform called AI-Scan.

In addition to being able to spot differences in cancerous urinary cells with its Cyto-AiSCAN offshoot (with accuracy measuring over 99 percent), AI-Scan has also been adopted for many different uses. Hospitals can use it to distinguish types of pills, while another company now uses it to identify problematic bolts before they’re used in jet engines. In Hyogo, SACLA (the SPring-8 Angstrom Compact free electron LAser) uses the technology to process the millions of images produced by its laser pulses. One of Toyota’s subsidiaries has used it to help design more effective side airbags.

AI and Your Business

Hopefully, this little case study has served as a way to demonstrate that artificially intelligent technology is far more flexible than we might initially give it credit for—and as a result, it can be adapted and adopted to serve purposes that would seem to have no connections otherwise.

While we can’t promise that we can implement AI-Scan into your operations, it should still be said that more and more business-friendly solutions are being created to take advantage of similar machine learning processes that benefit the operations that you likely rely on. How could your operations benefit from automation and other labor- and time-saving processes? Going beyond that question, what benefits are you giving up by not fully considering the options that are available to you in terms of your business’ technology? 

Simply IT is here to help you find out. Give us a call at (484) 221-6199 for a chat about your current technology and how we can help you make it better.

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