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Azure AI: How to leverage Azure’s AI and machine learning services to develop intelligent applications

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Azure AI: How to Leverage Azure’s AI and Machine Learning Services to Develop Intelligent Applications 

“84% of business owners agree that their businesses must implement AI to maintain a competitive advantage in their industry.”– Forrester, Jan 2022

AI has taken over our lives and has become an essential part of digital experiences. One of the most compelling applications of AI is in making our everyday lives better and easier. It has become imperative that developers create more immersive experiences with AI and ML for users to retain a competitive edge and the cloud paves the way for it. Microsoft Azure offers AI tools and platforms that are designed to work for all skill levels, from low-code development of predictive systems for business analysis to complex computer vision applications in cars and drones to enable developers to build intelligent applications. Let’s explore how to build intelligent applications with the various AI and ML services offered by Azure.

Building Intelligent Applications with Azure Cognitive Services

Azure Cognitive Services is a collection of APIs for pre-trained ML models that enables you to build intelligent applications with ease. Azure Cognitive Services offers advanced capabilities such as natural language processing, computer vision, speech recognition, and more to create highly intelligent and interactive solutions. Azure Cognitive Services provides developers with a powerful toolkit to build intelligent applications that can understand, analyze, and interact with users and their data.

Azure Cognitive Services lets you tap into pre-trained models and APIs, eliminating the need for complex machine learning expertise and enabling rapid development. These services are designed to be scalable, secure, and reliable, providing developers with the flexibility to meet the evolving needs of their applications.

Azure cognitive services can be divided into 6 categories:

1.      Language

Azure provides language understanding APIs, such as Language Understanding (LUIS) and QnA Maker, text analyzer, and translator which enable your applications to extract and understand important information from user inputs. These services use machine learning algorithms to interpret natural language queries, anticipate user intents, and provide accurate responses.

2.      Speech

Azure’s Speech Services offer powerful speech processing capabilities that allow your applications to transcribe speech to text, convert text to speech with customizable voice options, and even translate languages in real-time which allows you to create global user experiences. These services are valuable for building voice-enabled applications, virtual assistants, and voice-controlled interfaces.

3.      Vision

Azure’s Vision Services enable your applications to analyze and understand visual content, including images, videos, and digital ink. With computer vision capabilities such as image classification, object detection, and facial recognition, you can extract valuable information from visual data. Additionally, services like Video Indexer and Form Recognizer further enhance your application’s ability to process videos and extract relevant information from forms.

4.      Decision

Azure offers decision services that assist in making informed and efficient decisions within your applications. Services like Anomaly Detector help identify irregular patterns or outliers in data, while Content Moderator enables you to manage and moderate user-generated content effectively. Personalizer helps personalize user experiences by leveraging reinforcement learning algorithms to continuously adapt to user preferences.

5.      Search

Azure Cognitive Search provides powerful search capabilities for building applications. Whether it’s web search, news search, local business search, or specialized searches like image and video search, Azure offers a range of search services like Bing News Search, Bing Video Search, Bing Image Search, Bing Web Search, Bing Autosuggest or Bing Spell Check that can be integrated to deliver rich and relevant search experiences.

6.      Open AI

Azure OpenAI services allow developers to leverage the power of GPT-3 for a wide range of language and code tasks such as extraction, classification, and translation by using prompts. By providing free text examples as prompts, the OpenAI API analyzes and matches patterns to deliver accurate responses. With four base GPT-3 models (Ada, Babbage, Curie, and Davinci) and the Codex series, developers can generate natural language or code, bridging the gap between human language and programming. Whether it’s code suggestions for refinement or explaining code in natural language, Azure OpenAI services make complex tasks more accessible and efficient for developers.

Azure Cognitive Services allows developers to train custom models using their own data, tailoring the AI capabilities to specific business needs. This level of customization provides an edge in creating applications that deliver personalized experiences and meet unique requirements.

Azure Applied AI Services combine multiple Cognitive Services with models and business logic that are ready to use for specific tasks.

Azure Cognitive Services seamlessly integrates with other Azure services, such as Azure Bot Service, Azure Functions, and Azure Machine Learning, enabling developers to create end-to-end intelligent solutions that leverage the power of the entire Azure ecosystem. Cognitive service models can be integrated with applications by using REST API calls from inside the code in any programming language or can be run on your own servers and in devices at the edge of the network with SDK packages.

Developing Custom Machine Learning Models with Azure Machine Learning

Azure Machine Learning services provide developers with the flexibility to build, train, test, and deploy their own machine learning models. The hosted Notebook service, powered by Azure Machine Learning’s Python SDK, allows developers to easily build and test models using popular machine learning frameworks. For local development, the SDK and Visual Studio Code extensions enable developers to work with machine learning frameworks on their own PCs using locally hosted Jupyter Notebooks.

Even if you don’t have experience with Python or R, Azure Machine Learning offers a visual development interface and an AutoML tool, allowing you to build models without writing code and automatically train and tune them. This ensures that you can take full advantage of the cloud service regardless of your programming background.

Azure Machine Learning supports a wide range of algorithms and frameworks, including popular open frameworks like PyTorch and TensorFlow. You can export trained models in ONNX(Open Neural Network Exchange) format, making them compatible with different platforms and runtimes. Additionally, Azure Machine Learning provides a command line option through the Azure CLI, enabling you to easily manage your models.

With Azure Machine Learning Studio, developers have a comprehensive platform to build and manage models, work with datasets, and seamlessly integrate new data sources and storage. It serves as a one-stop shop for all your machine learning needs, empowering you to efficiently develop and deploy powerful models.

Key features and benefits of developing Custom Machine Learning Models with Azure Machine Learning are :

Framework Flexibility

Azure Machine Learning supports popular machine learning frameworks such as TensorFlow, PyTorch, and scikit-learn, giving you the flexibility to choose the tools that align with your expertise and project requirements. You can leverage these frameworks to develop and fine-tune complex models with ease.

Seamless Model Training

Azure Machine Learning provides a scalable and distributed training environment, allowing you to train your models on large datasets efficiently. It leverages the power of the cloud to accelerate training times and handle computationally intensive tasks, enabling you to iterate on your models faster and achieve optimal performance.

AutoML Capabilities

Azure Machine Learning offers automated machine learning (AutoML) capabilities that simplify the model development process. With AutoML, you can automate tasks such as feature engineering, model selection, and hyperparameter tuning, even if you have limited machine learning expertise. This feature helps developers to accelerate model development and explore a wide range of algorithms and configurations.

Model Deployment and Management

Once your custom machine learning models are trained, Azure Machine Learning makes it easy to deploy them as web services or containerized applications. You can seamlessly integrate your models into existing applications or leverage Azure’s scalable infrastructure to deploy them for real-time predictions. Azure Machine Learning also provides tools for model monitoring, versioning, and performance tracking, ensuring that your models remain accurate and reliable over time.

Integration with Azure Services

Azure Machine Learning seamlessly integrates with other Azure services, creating a comprehensive ecosystem for building end-to-end machine learning solutions. You can leverage Azure Data Lake Storage for data ingestion, Azure Databricks for collaborative data exploration, and Azure DevOps for streamlined model deployment and lifecycle management. This integration enables you to leverage the full power of Azure for your machine-learning projects.

With Azure Machine Learning, you have the tools and capabilities to develop custom machine learning models that drive actionable insights, automate processes, and deliver valuable business outcomes. Whether you’re working on image recognition, natural language processing, fraud detection, or any other machine learning task, Azure Machine Learning provides a robust platform for building and deploying advanced models.

Enhancing Applications with Azure Bot Service

Azure Bot Service is a managed bot development environment for building enterprise conversational AI using templates and the Microsoft Bot Framework

Azure Bot Service

The Azure Bot Service is a comprehensive platform that brings together all the necessary tools and services for building, testing, deploying, and managing custom chatbots with conversational interfaces. These chatbots can be deployed across various channels such as Facebook, Teams, websites, call centers, and voice assistants like Alexa or Google Assistant.

Developers have the flexibility to create bots using the Microsoft Bot Framework SDK or the Bot Framework Composer. The Composer is an intuitive visual design surface that simplifies bot creation, allowing developers to drag and drop actions and integrate with Cognitive Services. Power Virtual Agents can also be used to create bots and extend their capabilities through the SDK.

The Bot Service seamlessly integrates with Azure Cognitive Services, enabling bots to handle complex user inputs and better understand user needs. Developers can easily select and incorporate Bot Framework skills and components using the Composer’s package manager. They can also monitor and analyze bot performance using Bot Framework Analytics, gaining insights into bot usage and behavior.

For developers new to bot development, the Bot Framework Composer offers pre-built templates for various types of bots. Additionally, the open-source Virtual Assistant project template provides a starting point with pre-defined business logic and user request handling.

9 Best Practices for Developing Intelligent Applications

When developing intelligent applications, it is important to maintain code quality, security, and adherence to industry standards. Applications should also provide optimal performance, reliability, scalability, and a better user experience. By following the best practices listed below you can mitigate risks, reduce development time, and ensure long-term maintainability of the application.

  1. Clearly define objectives

Before diving into development, clearly define the objectives and goals of your intelligent application. Identify the specific problem it aims to solve, the target audience, and the desired outcomes. Having a clear vision will guide your development process and ensure that your application delivers value.

  1. Understand user needs

Gain a deep understanding of your users and their needs. Conduct user research, gather feedback, and analyze user behavior to identify pain points and opportunities for improvement. This will help you design and develop features that address real user needs, enhancing the user experience and adoption of your application.

  1. Choose the right AI tools and technologies

Evaluate different AI tools and technologies to choose the ones that best align with your application requirements. Consider factors such as scalability, ease of integration, support for different data types, and the availability of pre-trained models. Popular options include Azure Cognitive Services, TensorFlow, PyTorch, and scikit-learn.

  1. Quality data collection and preparation

Data plays a crucial role in training intelligent applications. Ensure that you collect high-quality and diverse data that accurately represents the problem space. Clean, preprocess, and augment the data as necessary to improve its quality and usefulness for training your models. Incorporate data governance practices to ensure data privacy and security.

  1. Iterative development and testing

Adopt an iterative development approach when building intelligent applications. Start with a minimum viable product (MVP) and continuously iterate and refine based on user feedback and performance metrics. Regularly test and validate your models and algorithms to ensure they are performing accurately and meeting the desired outcomes.

  1. Model monitoring and maintenance

Once your application is deployed, implement a robust monitoring system to track the performance of your models in real-world scenarios. Continuously monitor for drift, biases, and performance degradation, and update your models as needed. Regularly retrain your models on new data to keep them up-to-date and maintain their accuracy and effectiveness.

  1. User-friendly interfaces

Design intuitive and user-friendly interfaces that allow users to interact seamlessly with your intelligent application. Consider the principles of user experience (UX) design, keeping interfaces simple, intuitive, and visually appealing. Provide clear feedback and guidance to users during interactions to ensure a smooth and engaging experience.

  1. Security and privacy considerations

Implement strong security measures to protect user data and ensure compliance with privacy regulations. Encrypt sensitive data, implement access controls, and adhere to best practices for data handling and storage. Prioritize data privacy and provide transparency to users about how their data is used within the application.

  1. Continuous learning and improvement

Embrace a culture of continuous learning and improvement. Encourage feedback from users, monitor application performance, and gather insights to identify areas for enhancement. Actively explore new AI technologies and techniques and stay updated with the latest advancements in the field to continuously evolve and enhance your intelligent application.

In conclusion

Leveraging AI and ML services from Azure empowers developers to build intelligent applications that can revolutionize various industries. Azure provides a comprehensive suite of tools and services for building, training, and deploying intelligent applications at scale. With Azure’s robust capabilities, developers can unlock the potential of AI and ML to create innovative solutions that enhance user experiences, drive business growth, and shape the future of technology. So, whether you’re developing chatbots, recommendation systems, predictive analytics, or computer vision applications, Azure’s AI and ML services offer the foundation for building intelligent applications that can truly transform the way we live and work.

Nuvento is an expert in building innovative intelligent solutions leveraging cloud, data and AI, and ML.  Some of our flagship solutions include intelligent document processing solution, Docketry, an AI-based quality control app for the agri industry. Our Azure cloud consulting services and AI/ML team help businesses build intelligent solutions with Azure AI.

Nuvento AI readiness assessment helps you to determine the AI maturity of your organization. It helps you identify the stage you are at in your AI journey. Whether you are a beginner, emerging, competent, or advanced in AI adoption, the assessment helps you understand the gaps in your strategy and get expert recommendations to have a successful AI adoption journey. Take your free AI readiness assessment today.