Abbie Crome spoke to Louise Beaumont at Money2020 Europe 2019 in Amsterdam, to talk about AI and the opportunities available for managing unstructured data. It’s a mammoth task for some, as there’s so much data flowing in on a minute-by-minute basis. Do we know what to do with it?
Louise is executive chair of Signoi, a technology startup that specialises in making sense and deriving meaning from unstructured data. Listen to the full podcast below, or read the transcript further down.
I’ve just been to your very insightful talk on AI, and you presented a case study for Signoi about AI. Can you give us a brief synopsis about what you talked about?
Absolutely. Signoi is a technology platform AI, so for us that means neural nets technology, machine learning methods and advanced analytics. We spent the last couple of years building it. We launched about six months ago now, and within that six-month period, we’ve got customers in 12 sectors on three continents, and they’re using the technology to do an enormous range of things – the things that we never kind of expected. The technology is there. The advantage is the imagination you bring to the use case that you’re going to deploy.
Some companies are using it to understand the marketplace and define strategy. Some are using it to understand how their brand is resonating in the marketplace, and tweak or refine it. Some are using it to generate new brands completely. Some are using it to understand how to better market and communicate, and some are using it for new product design, innovation platforms, engagement with customers, to crack customer experience, competitor wargaming … you name it!
It’s as broad as your imagination. Some people are using it as a productivity tool, because it’s basically accessing huge amounts of data, but consuming it in a way that allows you to move fast. It kind of separates you surgically from the problems around your propensity to assume – your prejudice. It releases you from that.
Everything we do is around revealing what’s in the data. For 20 years, as human beings, we’ve been trained by those big tech titans to search. What search does is just limit you down to the things you’re looking for. It allows you to miss completely all the big, interesting things that are happening there, because you forgot to ask because you didn’t know.
What would you say are the key opportunities out there open to those who want to embrace AI?
I’ll just absolutely refute the question, because it’s too narrow. If all you want to do is what you’ve done before, but just faster, better, cheaper, then absolutely you can use Signoi to do that. Yet, you’re failing to optimise its potential. If you just use it as a productivity tool, that’s great – you can do what you’ve always done, more robustly, faster, better and cheaper. Actually, when it comes into its own is when you start doing things that your previous limitations would never have allowed you to do. That’s when it becomes interesting to do.
What are the risks of applying AI to data sets that continue to reinforce social patterns of exclusion, such as gender inequality?
That’s an interesting one, because there’s this great idea that you’ve got to train the AI. What we do is, we’re built from universal principles of psychology, econography, semiotics, and we just apply those universal principles, and the mechanism we do it via is the technology that we built; the platform that we built. So we reveal what’s in the data. If there is bias in the data, we will bring that to the fore, and you will see it. It’s not like the bias is hidden in the technology – it’s actually in the data. If your communication streams are biased, our technology will reveal it.
Is the huge task of mining data beyond many FIs, and if so, how might this affect the future of some of the smaller players, such as credit unions and building societies?
It’s about the assumption you make. If you make the assumption that there’s so much data out there and you could never understand it, or assimilate it, or bring out what’s in that data, then give up now. Go home, roll over, don’t play dead, be dead! That is absolutely an option for those who can’t hack it anymore. For those people who [recognise] that new technology has made it possible for me to do the things I couldn’t previously do, then congratulations, you’ve got some gumption. Maybe you’ve got some ambition and courage. Off you go, make it happen.