by Annika Merrilees , St. Louis Post-Dispatch

MARYLAND HEIGHTS — The half-billion-dollar idea started just over a year ago, during the 2022 holiday break.

OpenAI had just released ChatGPT, and it was clear that artificial intelligence technology had just taken a historic leap forward. Workers at IT and tech companies began experimenting with the program over the holidays, and when they returned to the office, it seemed like every one of them was talking about ChatGPT, recalled Tim Denny, vice president of World Wide Technology's Advanced Technology Center in Maryland Heights.

Aaron Freidenberg, the center's director, queried ChatGPT for stats on St. Louis Cardinals legend Albert Pujols.

"It could quickly spit out the answer," he said. "It was just so quick."

The program was easy to use and available to all for experimentation — not just the experts. It captured the imaginations of just about everyone in the tech world, and generative AI began to appear high on the priority lists among World Wide's customers — which are primarily large, Fortune 1000 companies.

Over the following year, companies across the St. Louis region, across industries, considered how generative AI — which can create new data, images and text based on what it learns — might make their businesses more efficient, or lend a competitive edge.

Leaders are considering the benefits, and the risks, the tech will afford them.

In December, World Wide Technology announced plans to invest $500 million over the next three years to drive AI adoption among its clients.

Farms, hospitals, manufacturers

From tech companies like World Wide Technology to hospitals, manufacturers, investment firms and agricultural suppliers, all have begun to imagine ways to save employees time on menial tasks, and put more information at workers' and customers' fingertips.



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