1st QUARTER 2019 ZAR25 | US$2.50 | Euro1.60
The Voice of African AI & Data Science
imi - YOUR PERSONAL AI ASSISTANT FROM CONSTELLATION AI
DATA SCIENTISTS WIN $12 000 ON ZINDI PLATFORM SOLVING TRAFFIC PROBLEMS
GET IN THE AI FAST LANE WITH MICROSOFT
TALES FROM AFRICA’S AI ECOSYSTEM - JUST TWO LAPTOPS AND A LOT OF ENTHUSIASM
AFRICA’S LARGEST AI BUSINESS EVENT AI EXPO AFRICA - SET TO RETURN 4 & 5 SEPT 2019
CONTENTS 1ST QUARTER 2019
ALL SYSTEMS Go for AI Expo Africa 2019 - 4 & 5 September 2019
4 Get in the AI Fast Lane with Microsoft 8
We Need to Talk about AI by Constellation AI
11 Chatbots - A Must for Any Business 15 AI Expo Africa 2019 - 4 & 5 September 2019 22 Data Scientists on Zindi win $12,000 for using Uber Movement Data to solve Traffic in Nairobi 24 Data Killed the Banking Star 28 Cortex Logic Secures Investment to Grow AI Beyond Africa 30 Artificial Intelligence as a Solution to Job Security 32 Tales from Africa’s AI Ecosystem - ‘Just Two Laptops and a Lot of Enthusiasm’ 34 Voice Biometric Authentication Sector Set to Grow, but African Voices need to be Heard 41 Teaching for the Future 43 Bringing Predictability to African Security 44 How AI-Powered Chatbots are unlocking Business Value Today
ALL SYSTEMS Go for AI Expo Africa 2019 - 4 & 5 September 2019 As our AI Community continues to grow at an unprecedented rate, we’re also proud to announce that last year’s inaugural AI Expo & Conference was a phenomenal success, with delegate and exhibitor feedback ratings from respondents in the high 90’s:
99% - Learnt Something New. 97% - Said AI Expo Africa Met or Exceeded their Expectations. 93% - Rated the Programme Mix & Quality of Talks as Good or Excellent. 98% - Rated the Learning Experience as Good or Excellent. For Nick and I, this feedback is heartwarming - we set out on the AI Expo Africa journey with the clear idea that our gathering would not just be another boring business event, that cost exhibitors and delegate an arm and a leg, and where the values and ROI to sponsors was negligible. During the event, and on an ongoing basis we’ve had feedback about the business initiatives launched, new clients met and closed and ongoing talks with prospective leads generated from the event. If you missed last year’s event - make sure that you’re in on the largest AI business gathering in Africa in 2019 - we’re looking to grow the event and community event further this year - www.aiexpoafrica.com Super Early Bird Tickets are on Sale now:
It’s been a great start to 2019 with the appointment of the AI Expo Africa Advisory Board and a diverse mix of people from across the region getting behind the growth of our uniquely business-focused AI community which has almost doubled in size since January this year. We launched ticket sales for AI Expo Africa 2019 via our secure platform partner Quicket and booth packages for the show are now being booked - So, be sure to get your ticket, or booth sponsorship, secured as soon as possible. We have a packed edition of Synapse, so please enjoy our 3rd edition and drop us a mail if you want to publish in the next edition June 2019. Nick Bradshaw - AI Media CoFounder & Community Director
Roy Bannister - AI Media Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief
Missed Last Year’s AI Expo Africa? Click the Video below to Watch a Short Showreel:
Conversational AI Assistants
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GET IN THE FAST LANE: How to Connect and Collaborate with a Global Partner Network
1ST QUARTER 2019
From student startups with an idea big enough to change the world, to an established IT solution-provider, if you develop, market and sell your own software and apps, Microsoft can give you the resources you need to scale your business. “It’s a win-win situation,” says Rochelle Mountany, Partner Development Manager for Independent Software Vendors at Microsoft South Africa. Her case is convincing. Here’s why.
YOU’VE HEARD it a million times before: “access to market is everything”. But when it comes to scaling a software business today, it’s often easier said than done. “We believe in the power of partnerships and connecting the right people to the right platforms,” says Rochelle. “However, the best time to build a network is always before you need one,” she observes. Microsoft has an incredibly powerful partnership offering for tech companies, literally taking businesses to a world stage through their very rich ecosystem of customers and partners. Case in point: Cape Town based Stone Three was founded in 1999 by Francois Swanepoel and Dave Weber and has since evolved into one of South Africa’s leading Industrial IoT firms. Stone Three is one of a number of South African business to have taken advantage of this unique Microsoft partner offering and as a result are currently enjoying global support from the partner network as they enter new and exciting markets. Stone Three focuses on AI solutions for three core industries – mining, healthcare, and communications. From patient heart sound analysis to productivity and safety monitoring in heavy industries, the team has a range of AI products they’ve built into market where they’ve developed the domain knowledge to participate very competitively. Stone Three supports clients along a spectrum of productivity aspects, from developing their own intelligent sensors through to ML-driven analytics at scale, overlaid with an ongoing Remote Monitoring and Diagnostics service that provides clients with sustained value from the deployed technology.
Stone Three is one of a number of South African business to have taken advantage of this unique Microsoft partner offering and as a result are currently enjoying global support from the partner network as they enter new and exciting markets. - Rochelle Mountany, Microsoft South Africa
Mark Silberbauer, product manager for Stone Three further explains the company’s unique offering. “We have a very strong machine learning and machine vision capability, and along with the software engineering and experience, we can take that ‘rocket science’ type solution solving ability and quickly deploy it for our clients.” The Stone Three relationship with Microsoft kicked off after a successful workplace safety project with mining group Anglo Platinum in February 2018, where Azure proved “extremely useful”. Although an established company, the team doesn’t have an established sales arm and doesn’t intend to build it out. This is where the Microsoft partner offering comes to life. “Microsoft has given us exposure to markets that would normally take us far longer to penetrate,” says Mark. Continued on page 6
Get in the fast lane: Continued from page 4
We have a very strong machine learning and machine vision capability, and along with the software engineering and experience, we can take that ‘rocket science’ type solution solving ability and quickly deploy it for our clients. - Mark Silberbauer, Stone Three
“From the outset we’ve accumulated many promising global leads – 13 solid leads within 12 months. Microsoft also arranged an inhouse threeday training session around Machine Learning with an AI tech lead for EMEA which was hugely valuable for us. We see a promising journey ahead with Microsoft, a big part of that being the benefit of co-selling.” Rochelle agrees. “It’s about connecting the dots and building on the existing trust and security we’ve worked hard to establish with our partners, and technical training and invitations to participate in industry events is part of the added value we want to provide,” she says. “We want to open doors for promising businesses like Stone Three and build strategic partnerships that put South African businesses on the fast track to sustainable growth and profitability.” “Our goal is not to re-write the existing guidance on how to perform or scale your business; instead, we point you to the right resources that will help you become part of a global community that connects you to the right relationships, insights, tools, and programs you need to solve problems for your customers, secure new clientele, and drive real progress.” So, what’s the win for Microsoft? “It’s very simple - our customers and partners leverage the power of the world’s most trusted cloud platform and use it to run their software. The more a company grows, the more cloud is required to scale up. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship” she says. It’s clear that partners are the growth engine for Microsoft, and Microsoft is the growth engine for partners. Sounds simple enough, and it is. To tap into the resources in the Microsoft Partner Network and, as your business grows, leverage the Microsoft Go-to-Market Services, navigate to https:// partner.microsoft.com/en-ZA/ or contact Rochelle directly on Rochelle.Mountany@microsoft.com. ai
SAVE THE DATE AI Expo Africa 2019
4 & 5 September 2019
Century City Conference Centre, Cape Town www.aiexpoafrica.com
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT
Yes, artificial intelligence. Suddenly, it’s all around us. Everyone is marvelling at this new and wondrous technology, this harbinger of an uncertain future where humankind is either freed from the drudgery of menial tasks or made obsolete by the very machines we’ve created in our likeness. by Christopher Ball Constellation AI, VP - Research & Design THIS SO-CALLED “artificial” intelligence is poised to fundamentally change the world around us, and it will doubtlessly do so in ways we could never fully predict. Folks are saying we’re entering the next industrial revolution, a time the World Economic Forum has described as the advent of “cyber-physical systems”. We’re leaving the realms of science fiction and entering the era of science fact: spawning entirely new capabilities for both man and machine as technology becomes further embedded in society, and, indeed, even in our own bodies.
“ 1ST QUARTER 2019
The truth is, there are certain things humans do that machines are just not capable of (yet).
But if we’re to remain masters of our own destiny, if we’re to design intelligence that works for humankind rather than simply replacing it, we need to take control of the narrative before it takes control of us. We need to look at AI not as simply a mechanism to grease the cogs of productivity, but as an innovation that – as in previous industrial revolutions – has the potential to lift humanity into a higher realm of prosperity, happiness, and peace. What’s in a name? There has been always something unnerving about the artificial. The textbook definition of “made or produced by human beings rather than occurring naturally, especially as a copy of something natural” immediately places the artificial in subservience to the Continued on page 10
We need to talk about AI
1ST QUARTER 2019
Over time, imi will augment your intelligence in new and incredible ways to become an indispensable part of the human experience, part of your human experience.
Continued from page 8 natural: the former is merely an imitation of the latter. This is why ‘artificial’ intelligence is at once a loaded and limiting concept. The truth is, there are certain things humans do that machines are just not capable of (yet), and there is a whole host of capabilities that machines are perfectly suited for over and above humans. Machines don’t feel, they aren’t able to grasp the effect of emotion on decision making, they can’t match the impulsive nature of the human spirit; yet, they never tire, they have the ability to process vast quantities of information in a short amount of time, and they can identify patterns and connections the human brain would never be able to discern. In this way, we should be designing for the collective intelligence of man and machine, an intelligence that is an enhancement of humanity’s potential rather than merely an imitation of it. Were AI to stand for anything, it should stand for Augmented Intelligence, where the machine works in tandem with the human, not for, not against. It’s all about people It’s no surprise AI is becoming the darling of corporate operational strategies: big companies will always want to embrace ways to streamline, optimise, and cut the cost of human labour, and AI (especially in the form of simple chatbots) is an easy way to replace an expensive human with a much cheaper-to-run technology. But if we let the story unfold in this way, if the tale is merely to improve the efficiency of the machine, we’ve missed the greatest opportunity in our lifetime to improve the lives of those around us. Likewise, if we continue to view data as a method to ever better predict human behaviour, as a blunt tool for modelling types of people but not the people themselves, we will continue to design systems focused on a personalised experience, and we’ll never be able to create truly unique,
individualised experiences with the power to elevate rather than merely assist. This will be an industrial evolution, not a revolution. The success of AI will be determined by how firmly we can keep hold of our focus on the real star of the show: the human being, and how the two systems, living and not yet alive, work with synergy and in harmony. An individualised AI At Constellation AI, the core of our mission is to improve lives. We’re building breakthrough AI technology that uses natural human language to create a highly individualised profile of a human being. Our first product is an intelligent personal assistant that goes beyond the simple tasks of making dinner reservations and booking flights: imi will listen to you, imi will learn what it means to be you – now, in the past, and in the future – and imi will help you figure it out by leading you to insight about your emotions, your decisions, and your motivations. Over time, imi will augment your intelligence in new and incredible ways to become an indispensable part of the human experience, part of your human experience. We see a future where this individualised profile could be plugged into any kind of experience to create something unique to you. Imagine a playlist driven purely by your own personal dataset; imagine a tv programme constructed in real time for you, using what imi has learned about you over time: your tastes, your emotions, your particular need at any particular time for a piece of content to lift you up or level you out. A future where technology works alongside humanity to enable the best of each is ours to design. But we must change the dialogue, we must avoid the glittering temptation to enslave machines (and enslave ourselves) by focusing on the purely functional applications of AI. Sure, we can save time and money in a call centre, but if we can augment rather than imitate human intelligence, we are truly standing at the gates of a brave new world. ai
A Must for Any Business higuru A4 Ad.pdf 1 2019/02/21 14:19:58
It is not easy for companies to build a solid brand reputation, win over new customers and evolve their offering to grow their market and profitability. In this light, it is disastrous to think that their communication channels end up reversing the effect of all their efforts.
AI can now help improve the quality of customer support using chatbots. Businesses can offer their customers efficient and prompt responses to queries in just a few seconds. AI and chatbots not only enable businesses to communicate with consumers in a more responsive manner but, if implemented correctly,
the application. It ensures that the system maintains consistent behaviour, aligned with business aims. Businesses must focus on the experience, rather than the technology, when connecting with customers - help them wherever and whenever they need it, and put them in contact with the best person to help them. The result, a more satisfied and engaged customer and a more profitable engagement. Continued on page 13
A passionate marketer with a keen interest in combining the practice of digital strategy with marketing creative, Tammy uses her creative flair and insatiable interest in technology to be an ardent story teller when it comes to business and customer relationship improvement.
1ST QUARTER 2019
At hi.guru we take the hassle out of these difficult questions. Not only can our chatbots help directly impact your business growth, but they are also highly customizable and conversational. - Ingrid Olivier, MD higuru
CREATE BETTER CUSTOMER
Alongside a highly skilled team,
they can truly boost a brand and increase she pursues her passion for staff productivity, two common threads growing businesses through that most businesses aim to achieve. better customer engagement. Customers however still want to feel Ingrid’s unique expertise is based valued, and this is attained through humanlike customised interactions that provide on 15 years+ in solution design, specific solutions to their problems, market analysis, measurement rather than automated replies. The use of and all things customer cognitive technology can give customers experience related. She holds this experience in a fraction of the time. a master’s degree in Marketing To avoid inadvertently destroying Management from the University customer experience responses should AI-driven business not always be automated but should of Pretoria in South Africa. conversation also be vetted by platform users, platform that especially during the helps early “learning” you engage with phase of implementation. Certain your customers across the interactions, especially those where you need empathy shouldcommunication be handled by channels theytowant to use, a human. It is important identify in anytime, which category an interaction falls and anywhere. apply AI accordingly. It is furthermore critical to think about who QA’s the bot? Implementation of AI technology to improve CX always needs to include a system of self-measurement. A sophisticated platform will then ultimately anticipate varied and complex communications from customers and COMMUNICATE USE AI & OPTIMISE YOU respond accordingly. Combining the best SIMPLY. CHATBOTS. BUSINESS. of linguistic and machine-learning models Tammy Esquino in a hybrid approach which then allows Marketing and Social Media enterprises to build AI applications quickly i.guatr u LIVE CHAT NOW Manager hi.guru and then use real-life inputs to optimise www.h
THE PROBLEM with many conversations between businesses and their customers is that they have to take place via rigid, single-channel structures, such as a call centre or via email. What customers want is to engage with businesses using the multiple channels and types of conversations of their choice. It should be easy to get support, find sales information or get answers to any enquiry. The critical point here is that it should be the channel of choice throughout their interaction. The caveat is that businesses add a multitude of channels which they cannot efficiently support, which then results in even more negative customer experience. Who has not e-mailed a company with an inquiry only to be told to please, “Phone the following number to assist”, a prime example of how customers are pushed out of their channel of choice into the businesses’ channel of choice.
Ingrid Olivier Managing Director of hi.guru
CREATE BETTER CUSTOMER CONVERSATIONS
AI-driven business conversation platform that helps you engage with your customers across the communication channels they want to use, anytime, anywhere.
USE AI & CHATBOTS.
3 OPTIMISE YOUR BUSINESS.
LIVE CHAT NOW
Continued from page 11 hi.guru has the answer At hi.guru we take the hassle out of these difficult questions. Not only can our chatbots help directly impact your business growth, but they are also highly customizable and conversational. By using natural language processing (NLP) our bots enable customers to speak to you naturally which dramatically enhances resolution and optimizes results. Equally, we offer a unique solution to create, manage and enhance bots for any industry and business size. By using our chatbot functionality we enable you, as a business, to automate messaging conversations on your website, email and social platforms, such as Facebook Messenger, Telegram and WhatsApp.
The Value of Chatbots One way to stay competitive in modern business is to automate as many of your processes as possible. The value in chatbots comes from their ability to automate conversations throughout business and enable staff to focus on more complex tasks, ensuring constant customer satisfaction and quick resolution. Take a look at our video to see just how we at hi.guru use chatbots, AI, NLP and rich media exchange to streamline, enhance and optimise conversations between businesses and their customers. Whether you are a large corporate or smaller enterprise, hi.guru can easily customise a unique chatbot solution that works best for you and your customer and ensure your presence is well cemented in the digital landscape. We offer a 30-day free trial to give you a snapshot of just how your business can be improved with the help of technology. Visit the hi.guru website and sign up to start your free trial. *hi.guru app also available from the iStore* https:// itunes.apple.com/za/app/hi-guru/id1418542384?mt=8 ai
1ST QUARTER 2019
Certain interactions, especially those where you need empathy should be handled by a human. Tammy Esquino, hi-guru Marketing Manager
Some Food for Thought • Chatbots and AI enable customer engagement cost reductions of between 84%-96% • Chatbots also assist in expanding up-sells, total sales and sales per customer which largely results in a 400% increase in revenue per engagement. • Most importantly chatbots can increase customer satisfaction by 80% per engagement.
2 Days 800+ Delegates 11 Keynotes 56 Talks 8 Workshops Demo Zone Exhibition Innovation CafÃ©
Prospectus www.aiexpoafrica.com CENTURY CITY CAPE TOWN SOUTH AFRICA
WELCOME After the amazing success of AI Expo Africa 2018, we are proud to announce our 2019 event will be staged again in Cape Town on the 4th and 5th September with a VIP opening event on the evening of 3rd September.
Why attend? The community feedback and media coverage from the inaugural event has cemented AI Expo Africa as "the" largest business focused AI gathering in Africa. AI Expo Africa 2019 is focusing on real world applications and trends driving the exponential Economy in Africa and is regionally focused. You will enjoy a packed two-day programme allied to a unique exhibition area aďŹ&#x20AC;ording delegates, exhibitors and sponsors learning and networking opportunities built around our 6 core themes, namely;
Innovation The Innovation CafĂŠ showcasing the African AI startup ecosystem
Knowledge Exchanging & sharing state of play of AI in Africa now & the future
Connecting Meet AI businesses, start ups, investors, deployment & service providers
Education How people and business can educate themselves about disruptive AI trends
Support The role Government, skills, training & investment will play in growing AI in Africa
Business Organisations seeking AI solutions with technology suppliers & platform vendors
AI EXPO AFRICA 2018
Testimonials “Exceptional experience for LightBlue to position IBM Watson and Live Person - truly great opportunity to learn and exchange ideas”
“Great event, had a fantastic panel discussion regarding youth and woman” BRIGITTE BINNEMAN, TECHNOLOGY INNOVATION AGENCY
ALESSANDRO VIGNAZIA, LIGHTBLUE COGNITIVE SOLUTIONS
“Amazing conference Nick and Roy and team! Can’t wait to be back in 2019!” ZACHARIAH GEORGE, STARTUP BOOTCAMP AFRICA
“An awesome event. Great job by Nick and team” EKOW DUKER, IXIO ANALYTICS
“Excellent event” SUGENDRAN PILLAY, STANDARD BANK
“Such an awesome 2 days. Well done to you and all your team for an excellent conference. Venue also really good”
“Excellent conference, thanks Nick. Looking forward to next year”
LAURA WIER, DVT
DEON DU PREEZ, SAP
Listen to Platinum Sponsor, Brett StClair, CEO SIATIK, describe the value they obtained from attending
Watch Clip - Click Here
AI EXPO AFRICA 2018
Sponsors & Community Partners At our inaugural 2018 event we were supported by over 40+ sponsors and 20+ community partners. In our survey our community reported an extremely high level of satisfaction.
of respondents said they
LEARNT SOMETHING NEW
of respondents said AI EXPO AFRICA MET ALL THEIR
rating the OVERALL
as Good or Excellent
rating the PROGRAMME MIX AND QUALITY OF TALKS as Good or Excellent
DIAMOND SPONSORS PLATINUM SPONSORS
INNOVATION CAFÃ&#x2030; SPONSORS
AI EXPO AFRICA 2019
The Programme AI Expo 2019 builds upon the successful format from 2018 with the addition of an extra track dedicated to technology demos and the inclusion of executive AI master class workshops.
The 5 track programme for 2019:
We will be showcasing innovations and real world applications of the complete spectrum of AI / Cloud based technologies such as; automation, agents, NLP / NLG, interfaces, machine / deep learning, devices, voice interfaces, IoT, RPA, analytics, compute, cloud platforms, hardware, components and APIs.
Become a speaker We invite speakers from all corners of the AI community, including vendors, start ups, platform providers, researchers, policy makers, investors, Government, education, service providers and sponsors to submit papers for our packed programme.
> > > > >
INNOVATION & RESEARCH CASE STUDIES VENDORS & PLATFORMS TECHNOLOGY DEMOS WORKSHOPS
Submit your 150-word abstract and title for review today: firstname.lastname@example.org
AI Expo Africa 2019 will be held at the prestigious Century City Conference Centre which combines the convenience of conference venue, hotel and social surroundings in the heart of the newest development in Cape Town: http://ccconferencecentre.co.za
CENTURY CITY CONFERENCE CENTRE
CENTURY CITY HOTEL
CENTURY CITY SQUARE
AI EXPO AFRICA 2018
AI EXPO AFRICA 2018
Awards Kree Govendor
Best Plenary Keynote Transunion
Best Track Keynote Microsoft
Best Flash Talk BCX
Best Product Demo
Best Expo Stand
Best Innovation Café Stand
AI Expo Africa Director’s Commendation
Prize Draw Winner
Selected Press & Media
Contact us to discuss your package needs and pricing email@example.com
Data Scientists on Zindi win $12,000 for using Uber Movement Data to solve Traffic in Nairobi
Zindi (www.zindi.africa) with Uber Movement and MobiTicket recently tackled Nairobi’s traffic problems.
NAIROBI IS one of the most heavily congested cities in Africa. Each day thousands of Kenyans make the trip into Nairobi from towns such as Kisii, Keroka, and beyond for work, business, or to visit friends and family. The journey can be long, and the final approach into the city can impact the length of the trip significantly depending on traffic. How do traffic patterns influence people’s decisions to come into the city by bus and which bus to take? Does knowing the traffic patterns in Nairobi help anticipate the demand for particular routes at particular times? This is where the partnership between Zindi, Uber and Mobiticket comes in. Zindi is the first data science competition platform for Africa. Launched in September 2018, Zindi hosts an online community of nearly 2,000 data scientists from across Africa and beyond. Zindi’s mission is to develop the data science ecosystem in Africa and to mobilize a vibrant community of data scientists solving the continent’s most pressing problems. Uber and Mobiticket teamed up to predict demand for public transportation into Nairobi, using the Zindi competition platform as hosts from 6 September 2018 to 14 January 2019. Before the launch, Zindi engaged with the hosts to develop, curate and prepare the data-driven challenge for its launch online. The Nairobi Traffic Challenge launched successfully and attracted 591 data scientists in total, with 204 active participants submitting solutions and entering the leaderboard. By closing time, this challenge had drawn over 35,000 page views. The aim of the competition was to create a predictive model using traffic data provided from Uber Movement and historic bus ticket sales data from Mobiticket to predict the number of tickets that will be sold for buses into Nairobi from cities in “up country” Kenya. The value proposition was that the model could help with a) fleet management, b) targeted promotions and advertising, c) allow Mobiticket to explore possible use cases for machine learning and inform Mobiticket on what data is needed, and d) open the door to other use
cases that may help mitigate traffic in Nairobi. The Zindi platform offered data scientists from all over Africa the opportunity to access the competition online, build their profile and skills, and connect with their peers throughout the region. In addition, the top three best-scoring models won cash prizes, 1st place: $7,000 USD, 2nd place: $2,000 USD and 3rd place: $1,000 USD. Mr. Mohamed Salam Jedidi from Tunisia walked away with 1st place as well as the Uber Movement Prize of $2,000 USD, awarded to the highest-ranking model that uses data extracted from the Uber Movement (www.movement.uber. com) platform. 1st Place winner Mr. “Zindi has succeeded to gather Mohamed Salam Jedidi and create an online space through (Tunisia), employed data its platform where Africans can meet, scientist at InstaDeep compete and share their knowledge. I expect Zindi to create bridges between African countries by organising offline events and offers opportunities to African talents in AI to collaborate on common projects in order to build, together, the Africa of tomorrow.” says Mr. Jedidi. “As a start-up looking to digitize the transport sector through online/mobile bookings and cashless payments, our data is growing exponentially. We don’t have the resources to spend on expensive data science consultants. Zindi allowed us to crowdsource a custom-built machine learning solution for our business and identify local data science talent,” says Daniel Mutonga, Sales Executive of Mobiticket. This competition was also sponsored by insight2impact, a resource centre supporting the use of data for decision-making, with a focus on financial and economic inclusion. Visit the Zindi site (www.zindi.africa) to find out what Zindi can do for your organization, or to arrange a free consultation on hosting a Zindi competition, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. ai
Data Killed the Banking Star Online tech giant Amazon is threatening traditional banking through its unconventional business model. Paul Stemmet co-founder and CEO of YAP
1ST QUARTER 2019
IMAGINE HAVING a bank account where you don’t have to pay any bank charges – the only catch being that the ‘bank’ has full access to all your data and it being able to use this data against you to generate sales. Scary isn’t it? Yet, a few years from now our children will most probably think it strange that we were so paranoid about how ‘personal information’ gets treated by digital companies. Traditional banks have been guarding this type of information for decades and have used it vigorously to regulate and decide who qualifies for which services. With the vast improvements in machine learning, the traditional way of evaluating customers and banking has becoming dated. Banks are taking desperate measures to up their game through improved online services and customer loyalty programmes with linkages to awards partners. Where they have been trying to hold the fort against fintech companies, while the real threat is coming from online giants, like Amazon.
Amazon Banks have been systematically primed over the years while waiting for Amazon to make its big move, resulting in them being like the proverbial slowly-boiled frog that only realises the danger once it is too late. The truth is that Amazon is already offering many of the smaller tasks associated with banking, with consumers for long now already being able to make deposits and ‘save’ money through unlicensed transactions. While most of these services are not yet available in South Africa, the company has issued more than USD3-billion to 20 000 business in the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom. Last year it partnered with the Bank of America to issue loans on an invitationonly basis and is currently exploring similar opportunities in India and Mexico. This is great news for entrepreneurs and start-ups, who because of ‘high perceived risks’ struggled to secure loans in the traditional banking system and when they did, were subjected to significantly higher interest rates
than permanent employees. On the consumer side, Amazon has been allowing merchants to offer flexible financing programmes through its Bill Me Later payment platform and consumers have access to various payment Cards, with the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card offering 5% cash back at Amazon & Whole Foods, 2% cash back at gas stations, restaurants and drugstores and 1% cash back on everything else. The way in which money can be deposited is also becoming more convenient. It can be done via gift cards, electronic transfers and, in India, people are even now being employed to collect cash from homes. Sales in India, nevertheless, suffered a blow due to new regulations aimed at to protecting local retailers against online sales companies. Amazon’s biggest appeal as non-traditional financial institution is that it is able to offer its services at significantly lower prices than traditional banks. Why? Because unlike banks, the tech giant’s aim is not to make money from banking but from its other sales platforms. According to the CB Insights Report, Everything You Need to Know About What Amazon Is Doing in Financial Services, Amazon’s main goal is to increase participation in the amazon ecosystem, by increasing the number of merchants on Amazon and enabling each merchant to sell more; increasing the number of customers and enabling each customer to spend more; and by reducing any buying or selling friction. In other words, the company is taking core components of modern banking and tweaking it to suit its customers. The biggest problem the traditional banking system or regulators have with this, is that Amazon also offers other services. From a legal point of view, the company, which at the moment enjoys a lot of free-rein in unchartered regulatory territory, might have to sharpen the way in which it uses data and banking services to comply with the laws and regulations in operating counties. Chances are also that tech giants will be subjected to fewer regulations than traditional banks. Continued on page 26
Accelerating Digital Transformation
Impactful Decision Making
Reinvent Problem Solving
Unmatched Customer Experience
To Schedule a Demo on Mosaic, Contact E: Makoro.Molefe@lntinfotech.com | T: 0113179200 | W: www.Lntinfotech.com
Data Killed the Banking Star Continued from page 24
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Conflict of interest should also not be an obstacle in South Africa, where major retailers for many years have been offering services and credit at the same time. On the consumer and merchant side, improved information should translate into better shopping experiences, with the company being able to push products according to consumer preferences and budget, and even offer discounts or credit to render products more affordable. Ikea is already starting to rent out some of its produce to raise affordability and address consumers’ need to keep up with fast changing fashion trends, something that Amazon is also looking into. Greater access to information may, however, backfire for consumers, if only ‘top end’ products within their budget range or products of companies with whom Amazon has a special arrangements are pushed when they want to buy something. For online shoppers who only make use of Amazon, the world created by Amazon may become their only point of reference, rendering them blind and unaware of other options.
Market Amazon is not yet in South Africa, but millions of South Africans are already buying stuff through the online platform. The retailers’ entrance will greatly disrupt online sales, since many of the import taxes associated with current purchases will then be scrapped and the company, with all its partnerships with international merchants, will be able to supply a much greater variety of offerings than any other South African platform. The most devastating blow will probably be to retailers. Besides free delivery, with its vastly mined data, Amazon is able to better match freebies and discounts with clients’ spending habits than these retailers. The high
cost of transportation, with which even TakeaLot is still struggling, is probably the biggest reason why Amazon has not yet ventured into the country. The market is nevertheless open for this type of banking. According to Bain & Company’s article Can Amazon Take Customers Loyalty to the Bank, Amazon is crushing traditional banks on loyalty scores, with the majority of Americans who participated in a survey rating the company much higher than traditional banks. In the same survey, 65% of Amazon Prime customers admitted they would sign up for a bank account with Amazon, specifically a free account that offered 2% cash back, while 43% of the non-Prime customers and 37% of non-Amazon customers said they would. It is important to note that Amazon’s customers control up to 75% of US household wealth and the company boasts 90% membership renewal rates. With most South African Banks receiving negative ratings on social media, it is obvious that many South Africans have become open to new fintech offerings. It also would not be difficult for Amazon to operate in South Africa, as our banking system is highly advanced, with clients being able to use a range of technology to make and receive payments, and highly integrated in comparison even with America. ai
MORE ABOUT THE WRITER: Paul Stemmet is the co-founder and CEO of YAP, a company aimed at optimising advertising returns for publishing companies, as well as Shinka, which uses human-machine assisted technologies to advise media and advertising agencies on ways to improve marketing strategies. Besides this, he is the Chief Data Officer at Ole! Media Group, with previous experiences including time spent at World of Avatar, Mxit and Sybase SA. For more information contact him at: Email: email@example.com Cell: 0762754279
South African AI Tech Start-Up, Cortex Logic, Secures Investment To Grow Artificial Intelligence Products & Services Business Beyond Africa
1ST QUARTER 2019
South African based Artificial Intelligence Software & Solutions provider Cortex Logic secures growth investment to expand it’s reach to new clients in Europe & USA.
CORTEX LOGIC is an African Artificial Intelligence (AI) software and solutions company that helps businesses solve complex business problems using the power of AI. Cortex Logic leverage their unique AI Engine for Business that solves strategic and operationally relevant problems by mobilising Data Science, Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data & Analytics. Cortex Logic Founder and CEO Dr Jacques Ludik said, “The investment is a great endorsement not only of our team, products and growth strategy but also an acknowledgement the reality that enterprises around the world are now deploying artificial intelligence powered solutions to secure a competitive advantage - this cannot the ignored. Operationalisation of real-world Artificial Intelligence / IR4.0 technologies are now firmly on every executive scorecard either at the piloting phase or in production and deployment.” Ludik stated, “We have already established Cortex Logic here in South Africa and our expansion plans not only encompass Africa but also UK and USA. We have a range of artificial intelligence based business technologies, platforms and services. We are consulting with and supporting some of the most prominent brands in SA of which a number are JSE listed and global businesses in a range of sectors, from mining to banking, health to insurance and communications to retail. Every sector of commerce will be impacted by AI and we are now attracting interest from Europe and USA, so this is just a natural step in our growth plan.” Ludik concluded, “The investment allows us to on-board more staff and grow our operation. We are currently recruiting for data scientists, developers and analysts with experience in machine learning, deep learning and complex solution development. Housing our core team in our new Cape Town Office HQ means we have a great working environment to offer new staff allied to an excellent talent pool for growth.” About Cortex Logic Cortex Logic is an African Artificial Intelligence (AI) software and solutions company that helps businesses thrive in the Smart Technology Era. We provide an AI Engine for Business that solves strategic and operationally relevant problems by leveraging Data Science, Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data & Analytics. We help platform businesses and corporates operationalise real word AI by unlocking the value from all available structured and unstructured data and supporting you through the change programme to deliver the step change and business advantage AI based technologies offer. We work in all major market segments with clients in banking, insurance, healthcare, mining, manufacturing, retail and tel coms. Learn more at www.cortexlogic.com Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org ai
Our expansion plans not only encompass Africa, but also UK & USA - Dr Jacques Ludik, Founder & CEO, Cortex Logic
Artificial Intelligence as a Solution to Job Security The road to a Universal Basic Income. By Olorato Mosiane
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The Story of Auxygen Technologies Auxygen Labs is a company which is trying to leverage recent advancements in A.I. in order to establish a Universal Basic Income (UBI). This is an alternative and radical approach to the implementation of the UBI as compared to the suggested versions in the world, involving little to no Government involvement. The company is attempting to use the breakthroughs it has undergone in order to provide other financial services while providing a universal basic income. The company has a futuristic view on how to engage with the financial market.
The problem Over the years we have seen recent advancements in artificial intelligence, which will inevitably pose a threat to all kinds of job industries, from agriculture to the energy sectors. Advancements in the field of A.I. such as in the case of DeepMind’s AlphaGo, show that computers are surpassing or coming close to human level performance when it comes to specific tasks especially those that are repetitive. These ‘quantum leaps’ are aimed at reducing human error and/or optimizing tasks to get the best performance, which will be costeffective, initially for companies, and eventually, for individuals as the technology becomes increasingly mainstream. This, in essence, means that once A.I. algorithms can outperform humans in a specific area, companies will opt for creating/ buying an algorithm that can perform the tasks, faster, cheaper and with virtually no errors. Thus, in the near future, artificial intelligence will inevitably take over entire professions, eliminating humans from that niche on the job market. Currently, there is a lot of concern in the A.I. community with regards to this challenge, and one commonly cited solution is the Universal Basic Income. The idea for a UBI has been thrown around since at least the 16th Century by different proponents, but in almost every iteration, it relies heavily on Government support. The main challenge to the establishment of a UBI in most societies has always been politics and governance. The Proposed Solutions To solve the problem, why don’t we ask A.I. to help instead? One of the recurring questions asked by detractors of the UBI is: “where is the money going to come from?” Enter: Auxygen The money is going to come from algorithmic trading. I know, I know that there are people working on using A.I. to trade. Artificial intelligence has proven itself in some instances and in some areas, it is just a work in progress.
By Clemence Padya
The financial industry can be leveraged to, at the very least pay everyone the basic amount needed to live off (~R10,000.00) which is above the minimum wage in South Africa (~R3,200.00). At Auxygen Labs, we believe that we have come up with a unique way of reframing the trading problem (company secrets sorry) and thus, allow A.I. to do what it does best, solving human problems in the form of a non-human trader. The results speak for themselves. The UBI System Taking the trading solution into consideration, to establish a universal basic income all one has to do is use this algorithm to generate enough money for a person to obtain a basic income every month. We have also created a trading strategy (once again, company secrets… sorry) in which this is possible. This can be seen in our current WhatsApp group (link: https:// chat.whatsapp.com/KQbnMn7HtcnCJXgmLDmVFn or contact 0725105554, email@example.com), where we send signals of upcoming trades. We are fairly confident, based on our research, that our work is the first of its kind. Where we are overall As previously mentioned, we have an active WhatsApp group. In the group, people can see that on their initial investment they can make, say approximately 10% profit in the month, and due to the nature of A.I., the algorithm and the strategy is constantly improving with time passes as data gets collected. However, The biggest challenge with the WhatsApp group is that it doesn’t afford our users the flexibility to trade at their own discretion. In the group, signals are sent 6 times a day: twice in the morning, afternoon and evening. A ‘heads-up’ text is sent to the group 5 minutes prior to the signals, to allow the user to prepare. Going forward, there are different paths that this kind of solution can go, from making a FinTech Bot (Which send signals to users on request), to developing some kind of investment firm (which can be used to grow wealth). It can also be used as a technical indicator. At this point, even though we are still growing, we have indubitably surmounted the greatest problems associated with building an intelligent non-human trader. What we need at this point is funding for R&D as well as establishing a working track record. Additionally, due to the financial challenges involved in such an endeavor, we are currently charging users a small fee, for the upkeep of our algorithm, though it is our intention to ultimately have the final form of the algorithm trading to build up financial reserves which provide a UBI service, future-proofing people’s incomes. ai
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Members of InstaDeep’s Nigeria team in their Lagos workspace, including co-founder Karim Beguir (third from right).
The Bright Continent:
Tales from Africa’s AI Ecosystem ‘Just Two Laptops and a Lot of Enthusiasm’ Ignoring his friends’ advice, Karim Beguir left his career five years ago in London as a financial engineer and returned home to Tunisia to found an AI startup. And he hasn’t looked back since.
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by ISHA SALIAN Article & Images courtesy of NVIDIA
A packed house: The NeurIPS Black in AI event was attended by around 300 people.
At NeurIPS, the world’s top AI research conference, Beguir spoke earlier this month to 300 attendees at the Black in AI gathering. And his company, InstaDeep, presented two papers — a rare feat for an African startup. “We started from literally nothing — just two laptops and a lot of enthusiasm,” said Beguir. “If told a few years ago that we would reach such a level of recognition in AI research, I would’ve considered it impossible.” As deep learning and AI innovation take root worldwide, Africa’s AI ecosystem is gaining traction. The business value of AI in sub-Saharan Africa is forecasted to grow more than 30x over the next seven years to $46.6 billion. Hundreds of startups already make their home in Africa — mainly in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya — and raised $560 million in VC funding in 2017. That’s 14x the amount raised in 2012. As many Africa-based companies and researchers adopt AI technology, their growth is being fostered by NVIDIA GPUs and online deep learning resources.
South African deep learning developer Windy Mokuwe holds an NVIDIA TITAN V GPU, which she won for her poster at the 2018 Deep Learning Indaba.
Paving the Path for Future Leaders From DEMO Africa to Deep Learning Indaba and AI Expo Africa, conferences focused on AI and emerging technology have sprung up across the continent in recent years. InstaDeep won best poster at this year’s Deep Learning Indaba, which also featured Beguir as a speaker. InstaDeep, another Inception program member, works with large companies across Europe in the energy, manufacturing, mobility and transportation sectors to build AI solutions for optimization tasks. It now has 60 employees, more than $7 million in funding and offices in Tunisia, Nigeria, Kenya, England and France. The company invested in an NVIDIA DGX-1 system and also uses GPUs in the cloud to power its work. “We want to prove that Africa has a significant role to play in the AI ecosystem,” said Beguir, “And that you can find talented researchers anywhere in the world.” Another poster winner at Deep Learning Indaba was South African graduate student Windy Mokuwe. Each winner received an NVIDIA TITAN V GPU to power their future work — Mokuwe’s first GPU. All 500 conference attendees received credit towards online training with the NVIDIA Deep Learning Institute. The platform uses GPU-accelerated workstations in the cloud to give developers hands-on experience with deep learning, even without having GPUs onsite. “These kinds of events are great in that they make us be aware of opportunities or skills that we can grab,” Mokuwe said. “It’s helping us to understand what we can be and use our degrees to do.” Mokuwe grew up in a rural area in Limpopo, a South African province where more than three-quarters of residents live below the national poverty line. She now studies at the University of Pretoria, but says computer science programs at most local universities don’t have courses focused on AI and machine learning. Her deep learning experience comes from an internship with South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. InstaDeep’s Beguir, who grew up in Tunisia but spent a decade working in New York and London, sees his return to Africa as an opportunity to mentor young engineers in the importance of AI adoption. “It’s important that we break the psychological barrier in Africa that good things happen elsewhere,” he said. “It’s essential to bring back hope by creating success stories. A few positive examples would go a long way.” Beguir says he finds it fulfilling to see his journey resonate with the young people he mentors. And, he notes, it’s still early days. “The ecosystem is literally being built in front of our eyes,” he said. “We have a chance to steer the AI opportunity in Africa towards a positive outcome. ai
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African Startups Fostering GPU Adoption African startups spanning industries are adopting GPUs — like Nigerian company Ubenwa, that detects birth asphyxia from a newborn’s cry using neural networks. • South Africa’s Cyberflex, a member of our NVIDIA Inception virtual accelerator program, is using deep learning to help small and medium-size businesses acquire more site traffic and customers with a recurrent neural network offering powered by NVIDIA GPUs hosted on Google Cloud. Its director, Norman Faught, is a data scientist who gained his machine learning skills online through Coursera. • Moroccan entrepreneur Younes Moumen taught himself AI skills through his interest in video game development. Now the co-founder of the Inception startup ATLAN Space, Moumen’s company is using NVIDIA GPUs in the cloud and
autonomous drones equipped with the Jetson TX2 module to track illegal fishing in the Seychelles. • Another startup, Nigeria-based financial technology company Aella Credit, uses cloud-based NVIDIA GPUs to power its AI. CTO Wale Akanbi, a self-taught AI developer, is building deep learning tools to determine individuals’ eligibility to borrow money and to predict their ability to repay loans.
AI Ecosystem in the Making Many believe that Africa, compared to other continents, could experience greater benefit from tech innovations because there are many areas with less legacy technology in the market, which could slow the rate of AI adoption in other regions. ABI Research estimates that 1,500 enterprises in the Middle East and Africa adopted AI in 2018 — a number that’s projected to rise to nearly 56,000 in 2022. “The limited reach of institutional banks and hospitals across Africa has necessitated the wild growth of AI-powered mobile finance service offerings, mobile health knowledge and diagnostics platform,” said Alexander Tsado, product marketing manager at NVIDIA and director at the Africa Alliance for AI organization. “Africans at home and in the diaspora recognize this opportunity and are collaborating at an unprecedented rate to apply AI across domains.” Startups play a key role in AI development across Africa. In areas where governments haven’t prioritized AI adoption, and cutting-edge hardware is hard to import, small companies can quickly deploy deep learning software that uses GPUs in the cloud. These startups can also serve as a training ground for young engineers who haven’t yet built AI tools.
Voice Biometric Authentication Sector Set to Grow, but African Voices need to be Heard by Andrew Dawson, MD Future Fragment
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I READ this blog recently and it encapsulates the current market landscape around Voice-Based Biometrics and Authentication in a manner that I could not improve on, so I have included it as my introduction (my gratitute to Sugantha Chinnaswamy from Tata Consulting for her succint summation): “As people become increasingly comfortable with biometrics, voice authentication is finding wider application across industries, including healthcare, banking, and education. The voice biometrics market is set to grow at an explosive CAGR of 19.4% between 2017 and 2021. Voice recognition systems monitor the cadence and accent, as well as indicate the shape and size of the larynx, nasal passages, and vocal tract of a person, to help identify and authenticate the individual. How does the system work? A user must first create a voice print by recording his/her name, age, address, and a set of secret sound notes. The voice recognition system captures the voice print and analyzes the speech and breathing pattern. The voice print is then encrypted and stored in the Active Directory as part of the user’s authentication profile, along with other authentication credentials. Whenever a user who has signed up for voice authentication calls, his/her voice is matched against the voice print stored in the Active Directory, resulting in rapid and seamless authentication.
Inc. In an industry where data security is paramount, physicians can use voice biometrics to dictate and record patient’s health conditions directly into the system and securely retrieve patient’s personal history. This can significantly benefit patients who need to share medical records between various doctors. The system can also help dramatically reduce fraud for providers and payers by automating payment collection, and improve patient satisfaction by offering an additional payment option. Banking: Customers can use voice authentication to operate bank lockers. Banks, on the other hand, can leverage the system to enable highly secure and advanced voice-based payments. With fraud on the rise, credit card companies and banks such as Citibank and ANZ use voice biometrics to proactively identify fraudsters and authenticate callers at their call centre. Education: Educational institutions can use voice recognition to provide flexibility to students with visual disability, helping them take online exams using voice authentication. Independent Software Vendors (ISV): For ISVs, voice authentication can enable enterprise sign on mechanisms such as those based on Active Directory, enabling authentication uniformity across enterprise applications and strengthening compliance with accessibility standards.
How Enterprises are Using Voice Biometrics for Authentication
Addressing the Challenges of Voice-Based Authentication
Voice authentication offers a flexible and costeffective form of biometric authentication as it does not require hardware integration that might be needed in the case of other modalities such as fingerprint matching or retinal scan. Enterprises can leverage voice recognition to enhance security and provide a choice to customers in terms of how they wish to authenticate themselves. Some of the use cases of voice-based authentication across industries include: Entertainment: Voice recognition can be used to change TV or radio channels, open and close screens, and play movies. It can also help personalize customer experience. For instance, services such as Netflix and Hulu can be personalized by determining the age of the user through voice analysis, enabling them to access age-appropriate content. Healthcare: The global healthcare biometric market is expected to reach USD 14.5 billion by 2025, according to a recent report by Grand View Research,
While the voice of an individual is unique, secure authentication through voice recognition can be a challenge in some cases – for instance, if the user has a sore throat or cold. It is therefore important to prevent unauthorized users from hacking into the database by mimicking someone else’s voice. The ideal way to do this: whitelist the voiceprints and store them in the Active Directory – a process wherein a customer who uses the voice recognition system is enrolled into a whitelisted member database, and his or her voice print is used as valid voice print for authentication. Using the Active Directory, the unique voice cadence of each enrolled member is compared to both a whitelist of valid customer voiceprints and a blacklist of known fraudster voiceprints. While whitelist authentication is underway, passive fraud detection can be equipped to return an alert in real time - if the caller’s voice is a match to a record in the blacklist database. Continued on page 36
African Voices need to be Heard Continued from page 34 Speaking up for Voice Biometrics: The Future of Authentication As the technology goes main stream, the advantages of voice recognition are becoming clearer. It paves the way for greater efficiencies and stronger security. Paying bills through voice recognition, for instance, speeds up the process, and eliminates manual entry of password and other details for improved accuracy and consumer satisfaction. Consumers’ increasing dependence on voice search and organizational platforms with machine-to-machine communication capabilities are set to considerably impact the future of commerce, payments, and home devices. This presents enterprises with an opportunity to leverage the trend to their advantage. Once a customer is enrolled in the voice recognition system, his/her voiceprint can be seamlessly accessed across a company’s support channels, resulting in a seamless customer experience”. So, Where are we with Local Offerings There are a number of local offerings “Voicevault”, and “OneVault” being the two that spring to top of mind, both of which appear to run off internationally-based data sets and platforms. There has definitely been growth in the hosting of local voice components, but the question remains, is the depth
of training being completed on the data sets sufficient and in depth enough to allow for the deeper nuances of the Africa inflections to be recognized and authenticated. Local Challenges: Customer Contact Centers that are using Internationally developed software that has its data set roots in the American and or European languages are immediately prejudiced when trying to interpret the African nuances and inflections in our voice. Voice recognition and authentication becomes challenging and customer user experience in the authentication process is negatively affected. The technology is not necessarily the challenge, the issue is the availability of good quality African voice clips to allow for the AI instructions to Machine Learning process to improve the biometric models to allow for improved recognition. The Logical Solution: The key to any AI based offer is the quality of the data that it reads from, the only way we can raise the quality of existing authentication layers is to create an African centric data base of voices and run interpretive models against the data. Hence the need for an African Voice Exchange (AVOX), only through an exchange that secures the voice nuances from multiple African countries can we hope to drive the levels of accuracy in Voice Biometrics. Continued on page 37
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AVOX MOBILE APP FLOW
Customer Value Proposition Future Fragment has the technical skills set to be able to capture (See Mobile UI and workflows) the voice clip and index that voice clip in a manner that will allow for the correct model algorithms to be brought into play to ensure accuracy in interpretation. Our team of Full Stack Developers and Data Scientists have spent the last 18 months building our own proprietary repository for data (Image and Voice). We have just been invited to become a “Standard and Validated AWS Technical Partner” in the AWS framework on the back of our cutting-edge software and platforms. This recognition adds credence and credibility to the quality of the technology stack we have built and deployed. Off the back of the Voice Exchange the opportunity for product development is immeasurable, bearing in mind that the Future Fragment product development blue print has Voice to Text, Emotion Detection Services as its key next step developments. Neither of which are really feasible from a development for Africa context without the Voice Exchange. We have patented our EDS process in the interim. In my continual research on the opportunities in the Voice space I subscribe to the International Voice Technology Review Blog, and this article written by Carl Robinson identifies a list of existing European and USA based companies whose offerings could be re-packaged for our Africa conditions BY FF on the back of the exchange: Voice Emotion Analytics Companie By Carl Robinson This blog post is a roundup of voice emotion analytics companies. It is the first in a series that aim to provide a good overview of the voice technology landscape as it stands. Through a combination of online searches, industry reports and face-to-face conversations, I’ve assembled a long list of companies in the voice space, and divided these into categories based on their apparent primary function. The first of these categories is voice emotion analytics. These are companies that can process an audio file containing human speech, extract the paralinguistic features and interpret these as human emotions, then provide an analysis report or other service based on this information. audEERING https://www.audeering.com audEERING is an audio analysis company based just outside of Munich, Germany, that specialises in emotional artificial intelligence. Their team are experts in voice emotion analytics, machine learning and signal processing, and many of their founders have PhDs. Since 2012, they have carried out projects for major brands in many industry verticals, including market research, call centers, social robotics, health and many more.
Their product portfolio comprises software systems for automatic emotion and speaker state recognition from speech signals and methods for music signal analysis. They offer a range of commercial web-APIs, mobile SDKs, and embedded Linux and Windows SDKs. A very research-oriented company, audEERING are also the developers of openSMILE, an open source research toolkit for audio feature extraction. It is the most widely-used tool for emotion recognition tasks in research and industry, and considered the state-ofthe-art in affective computing for audio. audEERING are also responsible for creating the GeMAPS standard acoustic parameter recommendation, a research project that aimed to identify the most effective audio features for use in emotion recognition tasks. The feature sets defined in GeMAPS are easily imported within openSMILE. which standardises their implementation across research projects. audEERING produce a number of packaged products too, including: Audiary – a voice enabled diary that allows patients with chronic diseases to record the state of their health, and log their medical adherence. The sensAI technology it incorporates offers a complete analysis of the user’s emotional state. CallAIser – a call centre speech analysis software that reports the parameters of telephone conversations such as duration and relative share of the dialogue, along with the speakers’ mood and the atmosphere of the conversation. This can detect and prevent escalations before they happen, allowing a more experienced call centre agent to take over and calm the situation down. sensAI-Music – software that automatically detects tempo, meter, tune and vocals, and calculates the genre of a track, as well as its emotional setting. sensAI-Music helps DJs with planning set lists and dealing with large music databases, and allows for synchronisation of music tracks, with videos, lighting effects, and animated avatars. “When the interaction is frictionless and seamless, you’re actually more happy with it, you’re less stressed, because it just feels natural.” Florian Eyben, CTO of audEERING Beyond Verbal http://www.beyondverbal.com Beyond Verbal was founded in 2012 in Tel Aviv, Israel by Yuval Mor. Their patented voice emotion analytics technology extracts various acoustic features from a speaker’s voice, in real time, giving insights on personal health condition, wellbeing and emotional understanding. The technology does not analyze the linguistic context or content of conversations, nor does it record a speaker’s statements. It detects changes in vocal range that Continued on page 38
Continued from page 36
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African Voices need to be Heard
African Voices need to be Heard
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Continued from page 37
indicate things like anger, or anxiety, or happiness, or satisfaction, and cover nuances in mood, attitude, and decision-making characteristics. Beyond Verbal’s voice emotion analysis is used in various use cases by clients in a range industries. These include HMOs, life insurance and pharma companies, as well as call centres, robotics and wearable manufacturers, and research institutions. An example use case would be to help customer services representatives improve their own performance, by monitoring the call audio in real-time. An alert can be sent to the agent if they start to lose his/her temper with the customer on the phone, making them aware of their change in mood, and affording them the opportunity to correct their tone. The technology is offered as a API-style cloud-based licensed service that can be integrated into bigger projects. It measures: Valence – a variable which ranges from negativity to positivity. When listening to a person talk, it is possible to understand how “positive” or “negative” the person feels about the subject, object or event under discussion. Arousal – a variable that ranges from tranquility/ boredom to alertness/excitement. It corresponds to similar concepts such as level of activation and stimulation. Temper – an emotional measure that covers a speaker’s entire mood range. Low temper describes depressive and gloomy moods. Medium temper describes friendly, warm and embracive moods. High temper values describe confrontational, domineering and aggressive moods. Mood groups – an indicator of speaker’s emotional state during the analyzed voice segment. The API produces a total of 11 mood groups which range from anger, loneliness and self-control to happiness and excitement. Emotion combinations – A combination of various basic emotions, as expressed by the users voice during an analyzed voice section. “We envision a world in which personal devices understand our emotions and wellbeing, enabling us to become more in tune with ourselves and the messages we communicate to our peers. Understanding emotions can assist us in finding new friends, unlocking new experiences and ultimately, helping us understand better what makes us truly happy.” Yuval Mor, CEO Affectiva https://www.affectiva.com Affectiva was spun out of MIT Media Lab in 2009 in Boston, United States by Rana el Kaliouby and Rosalind Picard. The company are specialists in both face and voice emotion analytics, capable of identifying 7 emotions, 20 expressions and 13 emojis, and classification of age, gender and ethnicity.
While the intial market focus for Affectiva was advertisers, brands, and retail establishments, their services are used in a wide range of other markets. These include political pollsters, game producers, education apps, health apps (e.g. AR for autism), legal (e.g. video depositions), web media products (e.g. giphy), and even robots and IOT devices (offline, throught their SDK). They are now used by one third of Fortune Global 100 and 1,400+ brands and market research firms. They have a range of products on offer: Emotion as a Service – cloud-based solution that analyzes images, videos and audio of humans expressing emotion. Returns facial and vocal emotion metrics on demand, with no coding or integration required. Emotion SDK – emotion-enables apps, devices and digital experiences, so they can sense and adapt to expressions of emotion, all without the need for an internet connection. Affectiva Automotive AI – a multi-modal in-cabin sensing AI that identifies, from face and voice, complex and nuanced emotional and cognitive states of drivers and passengers. Affdex for Market Research – cloud-based facial coding and emotion analytics for advertisers, allowing them to remotely measure consumer emotional responses to digital content. In-lab Biometric Solution – provides researchers with a holistic view of human behavior, integrating emotion recognition technology and biometric sensors in one place. Affectiva supports desktop, mobile, IOT/embedded, SAAS, and automotive, across multiple platforms including iOS, Android, Web, Windows, Linux, macOS, Unity and Raspberry Pi. Their long term strategy is to put an emotion chip in everything. Nemesysco http://www.nemesysco.com Nemesysco is a developer of advanced voice analysis technologies for emotion detection, personality and risk assessment. Founded in 2000 in Netanya, Israel, they provide advanced and non-invasive investigation and security tools, fraud prevention solutions, CRM applications, consumer products and psychological diagnostic tools. All Nemesysco’s voice emotion analytics products and services are based on Layered Voice Analysis (LVA), their proprietary and patent protected voice analysis technology. Nemesysco’s clients are typically call centres, insurance companies, financial institutions and law enforcement agencies. Call centres use Nemesysco for quality monitoring of their calls, either in real-time or immediately after, to identify the ones that are mistreated by agents. Their Continued on page 39
African Voices need to be Heard
Audio Analytic https://www.audioanalytic.com Audio Analytic was founded in 2010 in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Its sound recognition software framework has the ability to understand context through sound, allowing for detection of not only emotion, such as aggressive voices, but also many other specific sounds such as gunshots, smoke alarms, windows breaking, babies crying and dogs barking. Audio Analytic’s software has been embedded into a wide range of consumer technology devices for use in the connected home, outdoors, and in the car. The technology runs exclusively on the ‘edge’ (i.e. on-device), using cloudless AI. All sound identification, analysis and decision making is done locally, which uses minimal resources and ensures total privacy. In order to train their detection algorithms, Audio Analytic have built the world’s largest dedicated realworld audio data set, recorded in their dedicated sound labs and through data gathering initiatives. The sounds are labelled, organised and analysed in Alexandria, their proprietary data platform. “We envision a world where the consumer devices around us are more helpful, more intelligent, more… human. We envision a future where omnipresent, intelligent, context-aware computing is able to better help people by responding to the sounds around us, no
Aurablue Labs http://www.aurablue.in Aurablue Labs is relatively new company, founded in 2016 in India. It leverages the power of deep learning to recognize emotions from speech signals. Despite their small size, they have developed state-of-art voice emotion analytics technology that is able to identify emotions by continuously listening to normal day-today conversations. This allows users to discover and track anger and happiness by analyzing the tone of their voice, irrespective of the language that they speak. While there are very few details of the product on their website, Aurablue Labs claims it can be used in a variety of interesting use cases. In call centres it could be used to analyse voice data and measure the quality of service delivered by agents. It can also be used by taxi firms to rate drivers based on aggression in their tone. Consumers can apparently use Aurablue technology to continuously monitor their stress levels during the day, and receive alerts when it gets too high. They have also integrated their technology into the Beatz Smart Jukebox, a music player on Android that automatically adapts the playlist according to your detected mood. VoiceSense http://www.voicesense.com VoiceSense are another voice emotion analytics company based in Israel that uses Big Data predictive analytics, rather than their demographic and historical information, to predict the behaviour tendencies of individual customers. The company founders specialise in psychology, signal processing and speech analysis. VoiceSense have developed an emotion detection analytic engine, which provides real-time indications of the four basic emotions: happiness, anger, sadness and contentment. The analysis is fully language independent, speaker independent, and has a short response time of 5-10 seconds. It reflects emotional changes in the speech over the last 30 seconds. Given real-time audio data, the analytic engine provides a description of the person’s attitude and behaviour in the current moment. VoiceSense also offers a personality classification feature, which works by exploring the typical speech patterns of an individual over the long term, and identifying the characteristic behavioural tendencies of the person. VoiceSense validates it’s personality classification using well-known personality systems, such as the Big 5 personality inventory. Continued on page 40
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system also collects emotional profiles of customers and agents in the CRM system, allowing the most suitable agent for the customer’s emotional profile to be matched, and the most suitable products to be offered. Insurance companies use Nemesysco’s products to conduct risk assessment and detect fraud in insurance claim calls in real-time. The technology analyses the unique vocal characteristics that may indicate a high probability of fraud or concealment of information. Banks and financial institutions use Nemesysco to perform credit risk assessment, for immediate fact verification and fraud intention detection. The voice analysis platform improves risk scoring models and reduce uncertainty for lenders, allowing them to verify past events and current information, and identify potential sensitivities. Law enforcement agencies use the Criminal Investigation Focus Tool to detect and measure psychophysiological reactions in suspects. This allows them to perform real-time analysis during investigations (either face to face or over the phone), and analyse recorded audio and video material offline. Many different emotional reactions can be detected, with the system displaying a label for each segment of audio e.g. ‘low risk’, ‘high risk’, ‘excited, or ‘stressed’. In addition to criminal investigations, these techniques can also be used during the recruitment process for sensitive job roles.
matter where we are, and taking appropriate action on our behalf. Our mission is to map the world of sounds and give machines a sense of hearing, whether that is in the home, out and about, or in the car.”
Continued from page 39
African Voices need to be Heard
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Continued from page 39
their time allocation to this project
A profile for the user is created, specifying the detected levels of risk affinity or aversion, tendencies for impulsive behaviour and rule abidance, personal integrity, sociability, conscientiousness and well-being. Prediction scores are then calculated for specific consumer behaviours, which are then automatically incorporated into decision-making processes and stored in the CRM. Their flagship product, Speech Enterprise Analytics Leverage (SEAL), assembles these technologies into a speech-based solution that can accurately predict future consumer behaviour. It does this through the analysis of prosodic (non-content) speech parameters such as intonation, pace, and stress levels, in both recorded voice files and live audio streams. The system is backed by research and patents, and supports cloud, mobile and local environments. SEAL can be applied to numerous use cases, such as: Customer Analytics e.g. churn prediction Fintech Analytics e.g. loan default prediction Healthcare e.g. PTSD tracking HR e.g. staff retention prediction Personal Assistant e.g. content recommendations Call Centre Interaction Analytics e.g. customer dissatisfaction monitoring”
Stuart Jacobs (Co-Founder) Director Oracle Certified Java 7 Associate, Mikrotik Certified Networking Technician Associate 5 years Full Stack Development experience, with 4 years Java Experience
So, How do we get the Voice Clips to begin Mapping African Voices? The Future Frgament team has built an application called Avox that is downloadable to both Android and IOS devices and will be available from the different App stores in each country. We are looking for support from the relevant AI communities to get the data collected by means of local initiatives, competitions etc.. We have approached Vodacom who is very keen to work with us but I am keen to retain our independence as far as is possible.
Partnership opportunity Future Fragment has invested in the research and development of the platform to drive the evolution of Avox and the subsequent financial return from the use of the exchange in new product developments, there is an opportunity for a Telco or similar styled institution to partner with Future Fragment to garner the content (Voice clips) needed for the Exchange to build its models from different countries in Africa. The objective being to create an accurate Biometric Data base of African voices for use in Voice Biometric solutions back into Africa. The Team Future Fragment has a very qualified and experienced team driving the innovation, for the purposes of establishing the credibility of the development team and Data Scientists please find a list of the staff (with an abbreviated credentials Bio) and
Teaching for the Future
University roles In the university ecosystem, a pattern of specialized teaching is emerging in Europe, North America and China in the form of dedicated one-year taught Masters degrees in AI and ML. One such programme is being launched in the Tübingen AI cluster, which is a focal point of the German
national AI strategy. The UK’s Cambridge-Oxford-London AI triangle has taught MSc degrees in AI at each of its corners. Due to the rapid and pervasive growth of AI as a field, leading universities such as Carnegie Mellon University in the US are already setting up undergraduate programmes that specialize in AI. To our knowledge, the only dedicated AI Masters programme on the African continent is a very innovative African Masters of Machine Intelligence (AMMI) recently established at AIMS (the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences) in Kigali. AMMI is generously funded by Facebook and Google, and has an intake of around 30 students a year, with a new hub in Ghana in the pipeline. We need more formal programmes like these in Africa, to purposefully spearhead growth of the African AI talent pool! What is next for southern Africa, given these investments internationally and further north? At Stellenbosch University, a coursework-based MSc in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence is actively being developed, with plans to have its first intake of students in January 2020. The blueprint of the degree is inspired by similar one-year Masters programmes like University College London’s Machine Learning MSc, the University of Cambridge’s MPhil in Machine Learning, Speech and Language Technology, and the University of Edinburgh’s Artificial Intelligence MSc. AI today is fast-paced and diverse, and to ensure diversity and relevance as a flagship degree, the Stellenbosch MSc programme makes provision for researchers and academics from beyond our shores to teach certain advanced modules, or parts of modules. Moreover, starting a new programme is akin to founding and growing a startup, with the same estimation and belief of what the future might need. In the blueprint for the Stellenbosch MSc, we have chosen to include two modules that are somewhat novel to AI curriculums, “Applied Machine Learning at Scale” and “Artificial Intelligence and the Brain” (the list of modules can be found at stellenbosch.ai). ML is finding Continued on page 42
AMONGST THE many avenues of growth, this article considers one of the most fundamental roads: education. Tech startups and companies leading the AI revolution are built on the foundation of a strong talent pool. However, the size of the current talent pool will not match the projected growth of AI in business, and the sector will face a growing skills shortage. A recent Tencent Research Institute report suggests that there are around 300,000 AI researchers and practitioners in the world, with a market demand of millions. Element AI, a leading Canadian lab, estimates that there are only 10,000 individuals worldwide with the right skillset to initiate serious AI projects. This shortfall is as prevalent in Africa as it is worldwide. In Africa, there are many more grassroots initiatives, which make the present a very exciting time for AI in Africa. Across the continent, growing and flourishing grassroots movements can be seen, which are building and equipping communities of AI aficionados. The Deep Learning Indaba movement has inspired and stirred up the AI community across Africa; the main Indaba in Stellenbosch brought 550 researchers and practitioners from 35 African countries together in Stellenbosch last year. Its offshoots, the IndabaX events, will be hosted in 26 African countries concurrently in 2019! Additionally, Data Science Africa plays a leading role in equipping people through workshops. Finally, the proliferation of cheap or free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) provides accessible introductory entry points into AI and ML. Despite these exciting developments, we are not blind to the challenges of strengthening our human capital of AI researchers and practitioners. To have a clear voice at the forefront of AI research and development, we should pool our collective resources together even more.
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It is widely recognized that advances at the forefront of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) have the potential to disrupt industries. In light of this, numerous governments have hedged their bets and produced a wide variety of national AI strategies. Here in sub-Saharan Africa, Gartner forecasts a thirty-fold growth in the business value of AI over the next seven years, to $46.6 billion. With these estimates of growth and potential, how can we best position ourselves to benefit from and, more importantly, contribute to the fast-changing world of AI?
Continued from page 41 its way into the terabyte and petabyte world of banking, online search and auctions, retail and media. In light of this, the “Applied Machine Learning at Scale” module will help students wear the “computational thinking” hat of scalability and distributed systems when designing ML solutions. The future research agenda for further advances in AI is increasingly looking to the neuroscience community for templates like short and long term memory formation and retrieval, one-shot and continual learning, attention mechanisms and many others. The “Artificial Intelligence and the Brain” module will lay the groundwork for students to contribute novel ideas at this exciting intersection of silicon and wet science. Call to action, call for support The Stellenbosch AI MSc programme is keen to work alongside dedicated industry partners towards training the next generation of students to understand, utilize and contribute to the forefront of AI research. Our industry partners supporting our mission will have a guiding voice on the programme’s advisory board. Partners could offer internships, suggest topics for students’ research projects, and even co-supervise these research projects if the interest is mutual. We are making every effort to ensure that talented and hardworking students from across Africa will be able to be in the class of 2020. Yet, we cannot do so on our own. Scholarships are part of the investment to build tomorrow’s AI talent pool in Africa, and, in this regard, we will heavily rely on industrial partners to be the wind beneath the programme’s wings. We invite you, dear reader, to join us in this exciting project for teaching ML and AI in the future. Together, we can do so much. More information can be obtained from Dr Willie Brink at wbrink@ sun.ac.za Authored by: Dr Willie Brink (Applied Mathematics, Stellenbosch University) Dr Herman Kamper (Electrical and Electronic Engineering) Dr Steve Kroon (Computer Science) Dr Ulrich Paquet (DeepMind; Applied Mathematics) Prof Hugo Touchette (Applied Mathematics) https://www.gartner.com/doc/3868267/forecast-business-valueartificial-intelligence https://www.theverge.com/2017/12/5/16737224/global-ai-talentshortfall-tencent-report https://www.elementai.com/news/2018/the-global-ai-talent-poolgoing-into-2018 ai
Willie is a senior lecturer in Applied Mathematics at Stellenbosch University. He works on representation learning and reasoning in Computer Vision, and visual-semantic embeddings. He is a co-founder of the Deep Learning Indaba movement, and passionate about strengthening Machine Learning and AI in Africa. Herman works on methods that would allow machines to acquire speech and language processing capabilities with as little supervision as possible. This would enable language technology in severely low-resource languages, and could tell us something about how humans acquire language. Steve wants to understand what makes machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques tick. He is particularly interested in how various heuristics and algorithms can be interpreted in the context of Bayesian inference. Ulrich is a South African research scientist at DeepMind and extraordinary professor at Stellenbosch University. He loves seeing things grow in Africa. Long ago, he lived life on the edge in two high tech startups, managed a team in Apple, and with Noam Koenigstein developed the core of the Microsoft recommender system. Prof Hugo Touchette is interested in anything random and unpredictable. He works on modelling and predicting the evolution of noisy systems, using tools from probability theory, statistics, simulation, control and, more recently, mach ine learning.
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Bringing Predictability to African Security: How machine learning can be used as an early warning system for violence and instability.
Costs of violence and instability CoupCast’s 2019 forecasts show that the top-10 countries most at risk for a coup event lie in Africa. Similarly, Africa sees the greatest likelihood for election related violence in 2019, with 7 African countries in the top 10. The historically high probability of regime-change by way of coup and high incidence election-related violence bears significant influence on the characterization of Africa as an “unstable” continent. Unpredictability and instability impose significant negative externalities on a continent already struggling to attract scarce foreign direct investment. In 2017, the Africa attracted a paltry 5.8% percent of global FDI compared to Latin America at 21% and Asia at 66%. The low FDI inflows in turn impede upon the ability to address stubborn poverty plaguing many African countries – with Africa home to 10 of the least developed countries in the world. While it would be unfair to say that Africa has not made any gains over the past two decades, the data is clear. Governments should expect to deal with continued risk of instability, irregular leadership change, and political violence. As long as these phenomena continue to haunt African leaders, economic growth will continue to be stunted.
Data Source: Rulers, Elections, and Irregular Governance Dataset (REIGN) Early warning forecasting and the proliferation of AI in Africa In recognizing inherent limitations to AI based predictive analytics premised on data availability on which machine learning algorithms depend, AI based predictive analytics must not be seen as a silver bullet to forecasting political events and outcomes but rather as a new tool for governments and regional bodies to more systematically predict security risks and to allocate resources accordingly. AI and machine learning are currently seeing a rapid proliferation in Africa. Given the power and relatively low cost of machine learning systems to produce powerful outcomes, African governments and civil society stand to gain much from the intersection of social science approaches to security and machine learning forecasting. CoupCast and ELVIS serve as examples of how data can be used to produce early warning systems for serious security problems. Looking forward, those interested in developing data driven early warning system should seek to do the following. First, AI advocates should seek to partner with political experts and academics familiar with the unique security and political environment that African countries face. Second, global governance groups and regional political bodies should seek to invest in the training and education of indigenous expertise in applied statistical learning and AI systems. Finally, these political bodies should seek to empower data collection related to instability and violence. Social media chatter, district-level governance information, and acts of violence all serve as good priorities for security forecasting pioneers on the continent. While systematic data driven forecasting of African security problems is likely to be difficult, it is an important endeavor. An empowered community of African data scientists and security experts has the potential to transform the way that civil society and governments address the roots of instability and violence on the continent. ai
MACHINE LEARNING and artificial intelligence (AI) are rapidly changing the field of social science. Data-driven algorithms have begun to transform traditional scholarship of governance and conflict by allowing us to make predictions about complex political phenomena. While AI has seen the greatest gains globally in the business and health sectors, applications for forecasting security problems has been less wide-spread. Our work at One Earth Future has sought to build an open source and public machine learning project for forecasting serious security events. Our first project, known as CoupCast, examines political, economic, social, and conflict data going back to 1950 to forecast the risk of coup d’états each month for every country in existence. We utilize a stacking methodology to combine the predictions of linear probability models with those of a random forest algorithm to build a so-called “super learner” forecast. Building on this same methodology, we have also begun to roll out our Election Violence Intelligence System (ELVIS). ELVIS uses the same historical data to forecast the risk of election related violence for each major national election across the globe. Our political events forecasting endeavor has borne fruit as an analytical tool for policy makers and academics examining the triggers of political violence, but what does this type of project mean for Africa?
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Authors: John Filitz; Clayton Besaw, PhD
How AI-Powered Chatbots are unlocking Business Value Today Since the term “AI” was first coined by cognitive scientist Richard McCarthy and his team in preparation for the 1956 Dartmouth AI Conference, machines that can demonstrate human-like intelligence have been the holy grail of the artificial intelligence field.
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by Rudeon Snell, Leonardo Leader at SAP Africa
AI HAS certainly endured some rough times; falling well short of the hype popularized by media in addition to the unrealistic expectations that were created and not met by the reality of AI’s narrow capabilities. Along with the underestimation of AI project costs, this all contributed to busts and disappointments in the field. Despite these past disappointments, the recent convergence of technology improvements in the fields of computing power, automation, hardware capabilities, cloud, big data and advanced analytics have brought AI starkly back to the forefront of research and business today. AI is being hailed as the new electricity, primarily due to the transformative influence it will likely exert on all facets of our lives. And, if AI is the new electricity, then data is without doubt the grid AI runs on. AI’s growth and influence on every facet of our lives, is accelerating at an exponential rate, with businesses especially grappling with how to maximise the value from this technology, while minimising the risks posed. Consumers have found it easier to adopt and are already interacting with AI infused solutions, often unknowingly. Biometrics, voice response systems, ride hailing apps with dynamic pricing, weather forecast apps, and product recommendation bots are all imbued with AI technologies that augment their capabilities and deliver improved value to users. The universal language of chat For most smartphone users, chat is the most used feature. Globally more than 23 billion text messages are sent daily, which pales in comparison to the 30 billion chat messages that WhatsApp alone handles every day. People love texting, texting is the new talking. Research shows, more than 90% of messages are read in under 3 minutes, while a recent Pew Research Center study found that 33% of American adults preferred texts to all other forms of communication, with 78% wishing they
could text a business instead of calling. Online conversational services have also made us more receptive to non-human interactions with businesses: Gartner predicts that roughly 85% of customer interactions will be managed without human interference by 2020. This has opened the door to the rise and proliferation of AI powered chatbots, which are viewed as any computer program that simulates a real conversation, usually through the Internet or an Internet-enabled device. In fact, Facebook alone – with 1.3 billion users for its Messenger service – has 300 000 active chatbots powering 8 billion interactions between consumers and businesses every month. Chatbots are commonly powered by technologies such as Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, Generation and Understanding (NLU, NLG, NLP) which understand and interpret context and intent and continually improve by learning from Big Data. Chatbots differ slightly from virtual assistants such as Siri by focusing on accomplishing very specific tasks instead of the more general assistance characterised in virtual assistants. But why should businesses care? Customer service at the speed of thought Today, we live in a world of instant gratification. Consumer free time is measured in seconds and no longer minutes. People simply don’t want to wait 10 minutes in a call queue before their query is attended to. Customer service centres are being overwhelmed, unable to cope with the influx of queries and rising expectations of consumers to have their query or complaint resolved quickly and efficiently. This is resulting in billions of dollars in lost revenue as customer churn, primarily due to poor customer experience, increased hold times, call resolution delays, dropped calls, and more, takes its toll. Enter chatbots. Chatbots are ideally placed to help
A peek into the (chatbot-enabled) future While the business case for chatbots is clear, it’s important to understand the difference between designing, building and deploying a chatbot and getting people to use the chatbot, which demands a concerted effort by enterprises to foster adoption. Business outcomes-led initiatives are critical to driving the success of chatbots, especially for bigger enterprises such as telecom operators, financial institutions, utilities and consumer goods brands. The technology to optimise value delivery from customer services operations is already present, it just needs to be embraced, delivered, adopted and measured for value to be realised. What is beyond doubt is that, as machine learning and natural language processing and understanding continue to improve exponentially, so will chatbots also improve. Consider 3D printing, which ten years ago was limited to five materials costing an average of $40 000 per print; today you can print more than 350 material types including glass at an average cost of $100 - a 400-fold improvement. The cost of chatbots will fall just as the cost of sensors, drones, robots, hardware and computing power has fallen and continues to fall. Bots will be the catalyst for driving the next level of collaboration and communication globally. Consider the value that can be realised when your CRM, ERP, Human Capital, Customer Services, Travel Management, and Expense systems are all integrated and leveraged by a single intelligent system. This is exactly the business value SAP Leonardo’s AI powered chatbots aim to drive. Think about the levels of customer service you will be able to provide 24/7 anywhere, anytime, on any channel. One day you will have to explain to your children how you used to call customer service representatives – manually, on a mobile phone, no different to how today we tell our children about how we used to do washing clothes by hand. Bots will be everywhere! ai
ABOUT SAP As market leader in enterprise application software, SAP (NYSE: SAP) helps companies of all sizes and industries run better. From back office to boardroom, warehouse to storefront, desktop to mobile device – SAP empowers people and organizations to work together more efficiently and use business insight more effectively to stay ahead of the competition. SAP applications and services enable more than 345,000 business and public sector customers to operate profitably, adapt continuously, and grow sustainably. For more information, visit www.sap.com. For customers interested in learning more about SAP products: South Africa: +27 11 235 6000 | Kenya: +254 706 758764
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and consumers around the clock, maintaining a virtual concierge presence ready to serve anytime, anywhere in any language.
streamline engagement between consumers and brands with the express purpose of improving the customer service experience in the context of problem resolution. Chatbots can understand a user’s intent, take the appropriate action to resolve the user’s problem, and perform a smart hand-off to a human agent if required. Chatbots are thus well-placed to deliver business value. To ensure uptake, chatbots also need to be highly visible to increase the chances that users interact with them, for example on the homepage of a website, or prominently displayed on social media channels. One of the key objectives should always be time savings: customers want quick resolution to their queries, and businesses want their customer support or front desk agents to spend as little time as possible on low-key issues. Chatbots are an ideal solution to augment companies’ customer service capabilities: research shows that most customer service calls adhere to an 80/20 rule of thumb where 80% of the questions being asked are similar or the same. Automating this part of the process is where chatbots excel. By triaging enquiries for the business and providing answers quickly and efficiently to customers, human agents can then take care of more complex customer queries. As a result, inbound calls are reduced, the number of emails that need to be read decreases dramatically, agents dealing with low-level queries are freed up, and calls are more effectively routed. Best of all, chatbots are available 24/7, are not subject to mood swings or sick days, and they get smarter over time as they learn, enabling them to handle increasingly complex queries effectively. A recently concluded engagement with a SAP customer that deployed a bot, helped that customer increase their call centre productivity by 300%. The same type of benefits ring true for chatbots that augment internal organizational helpdesks such as IT and HR. Chatbots can help answer routine questions quickly and effectively for employees often providing organisations with a service capability they might not have had before. This ultimately helps companies expand their presence and availability to both their staff
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