The key to unlock profits

Industry analysts forecast that the market for business applications and services employing artificial intelligence or AI could exceed £150 billion by 2018. Despite this avalanche of spending, many business leaders have yet to discover the full extent to which AI tools can impact their businesses or how to best leverage them.

AI and cognitive computing are broad terms that encompass a wide range of technologies. Generally, these technologies are associated with rapidly scaled “data crunching” or analytics.

“AI for improved data analytics is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Josh Sutton, global head of the AI practice at Publicis.Sapient, the business and marketing transformation platform created by the acquisition of Sapient by Publicis in early-2015.

“I think about AI in terms of three categories: first, big data tools to capture ever-expanding sets of available information; second, machine-learning, deep-learning and correlation-based platforms that are used to identify what is happening; and third, causal AI, otherwise known as ‘common-sense AI’, platforms which can determine why things are happening.”

Causal AI displays the greatest potential to change the way industries operate and businesses compete

Many companies have embraced big data tools during the past five years. More recently, several technology providers have rolled out correlation-based AI tools designed to improve business decision-making by providing clients with better insight into their data. While these tools are an important component of any company’s AI arsenal, their value is limited, first by the data to which they have access, and second to the user-defined rules and constraints under which they operate.

Causal AI solves problems in the same way people do by analysing information while applying an understanding of how the world works, testing multiple hypotheses and drawing conclusions.

Catherine Havasi, founder and chief executive of causal AI firm Luminoso, explains: “When people communicate, they rely on a huge body of unspoken assumptions about the world. This set of assumptions allows people to communicate quickly and effectively with one another, but is very confounding to rules-based and algorithm-driven systems.”  Luminoso applies common-sense AI to help firms understand the meaning behind what people are saying across various social media and digital platforms.

Publicis.Sapient’s Mr Sutton adds that while he believes all three types of AI categories create business value, causal AI displays the greatest potential to change the way industries operate and businesses compete. This led Publicis.Sapient in 2015 to make an investment in Lucid, one of the leading causal AI companies. Lucid was created to commercialise one of the world’s leading common-sense AI platforms known as Cyc.

Michael Stewart, chief executive of Lucid, notes that more than one million PhD hours and hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in “teaching” Cyc how to solve problems the same way a human would.  Through its work with the United States government and commercial customers, the technology has built the world’s largest and most complete knowledge base of everyday practical concepts about how the world works. “Enabling a machine to apply common sense reasoning to problems is actually a very difficult task,” Mr Stewart says.

Although many companies are now using elements of AI, most chief executives remain unsure of the technology’s ultimate impact. Publicis.Sapient established its AI practice to help senior executives better understand how their businesses can benefit from the application of artificial intelligence and identify opportunities to leverage all categories of the technology for transformational impact.

Publicis.Sapient consultants draw upon lessons learnt from existing programmes, such as the work undertaken by the National Institute of Health (NIH) in the US to map the human genome, by the US defence body DARPA – Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – around oncology research, and by a leading global bank to ensure their traders are adhering to legal and regulatory compliance.

For example, the NIH has leveraged big data tools to capture and analyse data, correlation-based AI tools to determine which genetic sequences are associated with various health issues, such as osteoporosis, and causal-based AI tools including Cyc to determine which resulting research areas are most promising. Similarly, DARPA, which oversaw the creation of the internet, is using the Cyc platform as part of a programme to read and understand all the oncology research performed around the globe in order to identify the most promising focus areas for future cancer research.

Mr Sutton explains that Publicis.Sapient has developed a proprietary approach for helping companies leverage AI to identify opportunities for increased revenue generation, cost reduction and risk mitigation.

He concludes: “In conjunction with big data and correlation-based AI tools, common-sense AI firms, such as Lucid and Luminoso, will have a transformative impact on the business world in fields including finance, healthcare, energy and retail. The business applications for the tools that are available today far exceed what most people realise.”

There is nothing artificial about the profits AI will unlock for forward-thinking businesses.