Merkator was present at the London Tech Week 2018, Europe’s largest technology and innovation festival. This year we mainly focused on the AI Summit held at ExCel London, where the biggest names in global technology like IBM Watson, Microsoft, and Google including the most inspiring startups, consultancies and thought-leaders joined more than 15,000 attendees and 6,000 delegates.

Searp en Mike share their experience and thoughts about this event. Enjoy!

Artificial Intelligence or computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making and translation between languages, is reaching a peak in the hype cycle. But beyond the hype, AI is already delivering real value in business. It’s being implemented across all industries and business functions creating unprecedented efficiency in human productivity. During the summit several enterprises described their implementations and upbeat views on the technology.

The BBC showed how they use AI technologies to increase the scale of the BBC’s live event coverage by setting up several fixed, ultra-high-definition cameras to produce virtual camera views and create algorithmically produced content. This will make media production cheaper and more effective.

A law firm, still at the start of its AI journey was triggered by “the world’s first robot lawyer”, an artificial-intelligence lawyer chatbot that successfully contested 160,000 parking tickets across London and New York for free. By using AI during contract review this process can be accelerated and enhanced, learning from the law firm’s experience. Also tools like Ross, “the world’s first artificially intelligent attorney” built on IBM’s cognitive computer Watson show the possibilities in this sector.

Multiple companies presented RPA (Robotic Process Automation) that will automate simple and complex repetitive tasks by an AI powered rule-base. The RPA can act as virtual assistants to trigger response and communication with systems in the same way a human would. Data entry and processing will be optimized with self-learning robots that can recognize data and respond to changes. Neural networks (or Deep Learning) are the new kind of software, as Andrej Karpathy wrote in an article about what he calls “Software 2.0”.

On the other hand, one of the biggest shortfalls of AI today is the lack of common sense. Semantic networks like ConceptNet can be used to support some reasoning, but mainly all AI does is predicting probabilities and aggregating data into existing business processes. Applying the right algorithms for your process is key. AI is great for providing answers but you still need someone to ask the questions. And interpret the answers. These are still human tasks. Straightforward and repetitive tasks can and will be replaced by AI algorithms such as RPA, inevitably resulting in job loss. Some believe however, even more new jobs will be needed for creating, applying and understanding these algorithms. Time will tell.

Then there’s the ethical side of things. Who writes these AI algorithms? Who is to blame when they go wrong? How do machines affect our behaviour and interaction? Also, biased data will deliver biased results. Will extensive learning make a model biased in time? What are reliable data sources? Which datasets were used to reach a certain prediction? All these questions can only be answered by humans. Constant monitoring and analyzing is essential.

AI is reshaping every sector though. This 4th industrial revolution already changed the retail and telecommunication tremendously. Today entertainment and media are changing rapidly, where automotive and industry will be next. This will have a huge effect on the infrastructure of our future smart cities. And the Geographic Information Systems of today.

Andrew Ng, co-founder of Coursera and former chief scientist of Baidu: “Just as electricity transformed industry after industry 100 years ago, I think AI will do the same.”

Searp Wijbenga

Searp Wijbenga

Senior Geo-ICT consultant @Gasunie

Searp Wijbenga is a Senior Geo-ICT consultant with over 15 years of experience in complex GIS projects in the Telecom and Utilities sectors. Searp started his career at Dutch Telecom operator KPN and than moved to Atos Origin where he was responsible for technical application management of several GIS solutions. Searp joined Merkator BV early 2009 and has been contributing to the delivery of several geospatial workflows at NV Nederlandse Gasunie (The Netherlands). He has a vast knowledge of Intergraph’s Geospatial suites (G/Technology and GeoMedia) as well as several Open Source solutions such as Udig, PostGIS and GeoServer. At present Searp is also the Geo Service Manager for the University of Groningen (RUG). He holds a Degree in Informatics (Noordelijke Hogeschool Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, 2001).

Mike van der Woning

Mike van der Woning

Senior GIS consultant @EZ

Mike van der Woning is a GIS Consultant for Merkator BV since 2009. Before joining Merkator Mike worked as a Technical GIS Specialist for KPN Telecom and Atos Origin. He has 12 years of experience in complex Geospatial environments based mainly on Esri technologies, such as ArcGIS for Desktop and Server and ArcSDE. Mike owns a Master in Social Geography (2000, Groningen, The Netherlands).