Corporates like to talk about AI. In pitch decks, at company meetings, in comments in media editorials. Wherever there is a chance to flaunt know-how and corporate innovation efforts – and in the AI world, there are plenty of these opportunities – corporates will jump at the chance to talk about how they are rapidly employing AI methodologies and technologies into their operations and offerings.
In March 2019, a report published by London venture capital firm MMC claimed that 40 percent of European startups that classify themselves as AI companies don’t actually use AI in any way that is material to their business. The same kind of report doesn’t seem to exist for larger companies, but it stands to reason that many companies will be using the AI terminology for marketing and sales purposes more so than operations.
Some companies, however, are already knee-deep in AI adoption or indeed have AI at the centre of their business and products. Here are four such companies walking the AI walk:
Mastercard is in the credit card business, so it’s unsurprising that their main use of AI systems is in fraud detection. Their software solution is called ‘Decision Intelligence’, and it uses prediction algorithms to analyse transaction data alongside customer information, to determine a fraud likeliness score for each payment.
This system not only helps Mastercard decline fraudulent transactions at the point of purchase, the prediction algorithms are also set up to try to avoid false declines when customers are making genuine, if unique or global, purchases.
As Emerj reports, the machine learning model takes various data sources into account, such as geolocation data, merchant information, device data and purchase type, as well as potential value of the specific customer to the company in the future.
A good example of a company that seems to believe the more universal application of AI across a business is Shell. In 2018, they announced that they would be deploying AI applications at scale throughout the business from on board ships and oil rigs to inside the main offices. One example is the AI-enabled horizontal drill efforts, where the technology helps steer the drill bits through shale deposits using real-time data. This helps geologists ensure they are being as accurate as possible in creating the well, to reduce drill damage and increase productivity. Another example is in predictive maintenance, where AI analytics are used to predict when equipment will fail, so that Shell’s teams of engineers can intervene before the failure. Fixing
the problem when it’s a minor one can prevent possible large breakdowns, causing unproductive downtime, or even disasters.
The company has also started an AI Residency programme, where students can work on AI projects for two years across the business. The programme recruits PhD students, or those with working experience, across computer science, data science, maths, physics or electrical engineering.
The health industry is another area ripe for disruption from AI systems, and Exscientia are focusing their efforts in the quest to design better drugs faster. According to the company, by automating the process of drug design, the AI systems can learn best practice from vast repositories of discovery data and have better information to hand than any individual researcher could acquire by themselves.
In March 2019, leading biopharma company Celgene entered a three-year AI drug discovery partnership with Exscientia, where the company will apply its full-stack AI capabilities across the whole drug discovery process: from gene to the drug candidate. Exscientia also has partnerships with Roche, GSK, Sanofi and Evotec, suggesting that their AI-powered drug discovery platform is already in use in the real-world and is being trusted by those leading the charge in the pharmaceutical industry.
As one of the ‘big four’ professional services firms, PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) is working on AI innovations both for their internal operations and processes, as well as acting as a consultant with various clients across multiple industries on their own AI projects.
In terms of internal technology advancement, PwC have developed GL.ai, in collaboration with Silicon Valley startup H2O.ai, which utilises AI for their audit work. The system analyses documents, prepares reports and detects fraud and error. This ‘revolutionary bot’ quickly analyses billions of data points to detect anomalies in the general ledger; as PwC put it, the bot can “‘x-ray’ a business”. GL.ai has been successfully trialled across 20 audits in 12 countries, including Germany, Sweden, Canada and the UK, speeding up the audit process as well as generating new insights from the data that manual analysis wasn’t spotting.
PwC as a consultant works on various applications of AI systems, such as digital twins in the manufacturing space, and software robotics for automating repetitive mundane tasks. They also produce many industry reports on the impact and future of AI, to help inform businesses of how to embrace this ever more relevant technology.
It’s not always easy to pick out the companies who are talking more-so than doing, but the reality of business in 2019 is that AI can now be making an impact on various elements of operations, customer service, and product. Companies which are actively investing in AI efforts, whether that’s through partnerships with technology firms or recruiting researchers and practitioners directly into the business, are the ones most likely to continue thriving in our ever more technologically-driven world.
This article is written in the lead up to World Summit AI 2019 (9th-10th October)
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