Published: 3 January 2019

Reading time: About 6 minutes

Corporate interest and investment into Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology was unprecedented in 2018. And, at the recent Microsoft Future Decoded showcase, the headline message? It’s time for AI.
In this interview with our CEO Simon Cole, we look at what the technology is and how our AI solutions are helping organisations to take control of their future.

Simon, let’s start with the basics: What is artificial intelligence?

Firstly, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is not new; it’s been around for decades but has become more prominent recently. It’s about how we can empower technology to make the decisions and take on the actions that humans would, but at a scale that isn’t humanly possible.

When you look at it in the context of the work that Automated Intelligence undertakes, analysing the content and context of information, it would take a person over 17 years to read one million documents but with compute power we can do that in minutes. And because we can apply intelligence at the same time, we can make inferences about what that document is about. We can train the computer to recognise the same patterns that a human would recognise, and based on that, make a decision about that document. The technology can make connections at a speed and scale that we just couldn’t otherwise achieve.

Is Artificial Intelligence essentially pattern matching?

Pattern matching is a very specific, linear form of it. Deep learning is going beyond pattern matching and trying to establish patterns and well as find them. For example, pattern matching tells us that the document contains three letters, 2 numbers, 3 letters, so that must be a car registration. AI is much more advanced than that. For example, is there fraud happening in an organisation and a terminology is being used to create the fraud? Or how do we determine the document is about a person or a project even if they are not named, based on connections, context and a range of other factors? Or in healthcare, how can we detect a medical condition years earlier than the human eye? It’s that type of thing that goes beyond simple pattern recognition.

You mention healthcare, but are there any ethical considerations when talking about Artificial Intelligence?

A computer can tell you what it has inferred but when you look at the role of the doctor, that’s very different. For AI to reach its power, it has to be people- centric, and we’re not at the stage where computers make the final decision. The computer has no emotional realisation. When you look at the big players, like Microsoft, and all the companies investigating AI, ethics is a major issue. Thankfully, when you take what we’re doing, ethics isn’t a central aspect of it but on the grand scheme, it is both the biggest opportunity and the biggest danger if it’s not done right. We’ve also signed up to Microsoft’s partner pledge, ensuring Artificial Intelligence is developed and implemented in responsible and ethical ways.

What we do isn’t healthcare specific, so If you think about our main industries, how would AI help them?

There are two elements to this. If you look across industries, organisations are considering “how can we be more profitable?”, “how can we generate more customers?”, “how can we reduce our risk profile” and “how can we have a better outcome?” Let’s take the following examples:

  • In banking, how can we use AI to better serve our customers and help them to be smarter about what they do with their money?
  • In government, how can we use AI to better serve our citizens?

They’re all aspirational and that’s where the future is.

From our perspective, we are helping the organisation itself to become better in terms of the data it holds, so it can better and more quickly get to these aspirational use cases.

All these businesses that are striving to think about how their customers will achieve more with AI aren’t looking internally.

What we do is take all the data that organisations own and bring the power of AI onto that. We can help them to be more efficient, driving down the cost of managing information. We help them reduce the risk associated with the data and we empower them to effectively work smarter, so they can better serve their customers.

The main theme of Future Decoded this year was Artificial Intelligence; was that surprising?

No, the industry has been moving that way. Since our inception, we have been using AI but what has changed rapidly over the last couple of years is the accessibility of it. A platform like Microsoft Azure mean that we can now build upon pre-trained models. Microsoft’s research shows that organisations already on the AI journey are outperforming those who aren’t by 5%, so there is a huge opportunity. And that’s for organisations who are only dabbling in AI with the small data sets they are exploring. Microsoft’s Future Decoded was not about what AI is doing today but what it could do. It was about encouraging organisations to say ‘now is the time’ and here is the platform. Microsoft is clear in terms of its ambitions of democratising data. Some people think AI is going to remove jobs, but it’s about making people’s jobs more empowered, so they can do their jobs better and smarter. Inevitably there will be changes, but when you look at where the knowledge economy is going in general, people will be able to achieve more and be central to that success.

So AI is something organisations are already doing now, not thinking about now?

Yes. We take organisations with tens and hundreds of millions of documents and within a matter of hours, we can start exposing trends, risks and opportunities. That speaks for itself. It’s not about how smart our algorithms are; it’s about what that benefit is for our customer and their customers.. Take a bank we’ve recently worked with, for instance-  to be able to show them that 60% of their data is introducing risk into the organisation and how they can remove that risk, or control it; that type of insight enables them to take control of their future.

Finally, what would you say to an organisation considering AI?

Everyone is saying ‘Do AI’ but you have to have something to ask of AI. What is the business problem you are solving? I think organisations need to focus on that. Being able to give organisations an overview and understanding of their business lets them even ask the right questions, rather than embarking on AI because they feel they should. It’s an incredible opportunity to reshape organisations for the future and we’re delighted to already be taking customers on that journey.

For more information on how Artificial Intelligence can benefit your organisation, get in contact today on