Ready for it
How ready is Houston for the rise of artificial intelligence? More ready than you might think.
In the recently released Global Cities' AI Readiness Index, Houston ranks ninth in the world among large cities (those with 5 million to million residents). Singapore topped the large-city list; Dallas appeared at No. 8.
"The age of technology is here, and we cannot afford to sit idle," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says in a recent release. "We must leap, not stroll, into the future."
The Oliver Wyman Forum, part of management consulting firm Oliver Wyman, based its AI ranking on surveys of residents and leaders in 105 global cities, along with a review of publicly available socioeconomic data. The group says its goal in compiling the ranking was to "start a data-informed conversation about how to address the very real opportunities and challenges of AI disruption."
"Houston has been working diligently over the past several years to grow a robust digital tech ecosystem," says Susan Davenport, senior vice president of economic development at the Greater Houston Partnership. "Previously, most surveys ranked Houston in the 30s in this area. When we see ourselves ranked ninth among large global cities and U.S. metros in AI readiness, it's a positive signal of our trajectory."
Signs of Houston's trajectory in the AI universe abound:
- A 2019 survey by consulting giant Accenture found that 65 percent of business and IT executives in Houston were incorporating AI into their operations in some form or fashion.
- In March, Turner announced creation of the Smart City Advisory Council, which is working on a roadmap for adopting technology, such as AI, that's meant to "make Houston a more attractive place to work, live, and innovate." The council is chaired by Elizabeth Brock, director of external engagement at CenterPoint Energy.
- In May, Tachyus, a Houston-based startup that makes AI-fueled software designed to optimize production in the oil and gas industry, said it had raised $15 million in Series B funding.
- This summer, Accenture announced it is doubling the size of its innovation hub in Houston that aims to help clients compete in the digital economy, with an emphasis on innovations such as AI, blockchain, drones, and virtual reality.
- Through October 21, Capital Factory, a business accelerator with an office in Houston, is seeking applications from AI companies for a $100,000 investment from the Capital Factory Fund.
"When you think about Houston's core industries like energy, life sciences, and manufacturing, these are all data-intensive businesses that are ripe for disruption by AI and other digital technologies," Davenport says. "There is significant activity with AI already happening in the market, but I think we're still early on the growth curve, with a great deal of upside potential."
A recent search of job website LinkedIn found more than 200 AI-focused jobs available in the Houston area at employers like Shell, Accenture, Deloitte, Capgemini, HP, and EY.
Over the past year, the Greater Houston Partnership has led several trips to Silicon Valley to meet with companies involved in AI, cloud computing, and other technologies that enable businesses to harness the power of data.
"We are finding these innovative companies are very interested in tapping into the customer base here in Houston," Davenport says, "and we expect to see growth in this sector to continue over the next few years."