Artificial Intelligence should always bring added value to your customers, claims Megan Bloemsma, Data & AI Specialist at Microsoft. “A good investment in AI technology is often a use case that either solves a customer’s problem or positively adds something to your solution."
AI has been a hot topic recently, and for a reason: with the right implementation, AI can bring significant benefits to businesses in almost all sectors around the world. Our passion at ContractZen is to use the latest cloud and software development technologies to bring companies of all sizes solutions that previously had been available only to the largest of global enterprises. This is why we have teamed up with Microsoft, one of the frontrunners in artificial intelligence research. We are already utilizing Microsoft Cognitive Services to offer our customers machine vision empowered full-text-search together with our metadata-driven search.
Our service can, for example, programmatically go through thousands of documents in no time and detect any text even from old pdf-files, photos and other images using optical character recognition (OCR), and extract the recognized words into a machine-readable character stream for the ultimate search experience.
We got the opportunity to hear from Megan Bloemsma, Data & AI Specialist at Microsoft. What we were especially interested to learn about were the opportunities AI brings to businesses, the way Microsoft views AI and what the future of AI looks like.
Megan Bloemsma, Microsoft
There is no consensus on what Artificial Intelligence is. For some it is merely a data visualization, and to others AI is a robot. To me, it’s a piece of code that does something for you. For example, makes predictions, categorizations or automations. For the sake of this article we will keep this in mind when we talk about AI, but Bing around the internet and you’ll find many forms of the topic.
At Microsoft we aspire to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.
AI is one of the tools that can help with that, and it’s one that we heavily invest in. Microsoft Research has been a contributor to the artificial intelligence/data science community since the nineties. And since our new CEO Satya Nadella, we make a lot of the research publicly available, via Github or through publication of research papers.
AI is a huge focus within our company, which means that we are integrating it into all of our tech. Think about integrating machine learning in PowerBI, so you can ask questions about the data visualization such as interpreting the results. But it’s also building tools that can help you build an algorithm, like Azure ML Studio in combination with the AI Gallery.
We’re trying to make ethical AI, creating awareness of the biases we put in our algorithms and encouraging others to do the same. Proactively leading in privacy and compliance is also on the top of our minds, setting us apart from other technology companies.
That being said, artificial intelligence is not a magic bullet. Just as with any other addition to your business it needs to add value and serve a purpose.
When you’re creating a use case (to implement AI), asking “how will this technology help my customers” is often a good start. It will help you determine the added value to your customers. A good investment in AI technology is often a use case that either solves a customer’s problem or positively adds something (for example a feature) to your solution. In my work at Microsoft a lot of my days are filled with helping companies to find this use case: it is worth spending some time into.
Technology keeps accelerating, and it seems almost every week that there’s something new being introduced to the field. One of the things that I’m currently very excited about is automated ML (Machine Learning).
As a data scientist you usually know based on experiences and literature which model is most likely to fit. But testing these models and making sure you pick the right one is a process that takes some time. Automated ML is a technology where the machine does the processing to decide which mathematical model produces the best results for your algorithm. It was created by Microsoft Research and is available in our Azure ML Services.
This technology makes me think about the future of data science, and how the role of the data scientist might change. When the topic of AI comes up, you often hear the reaction that ‘the robots will take over our jobs’. And with automated ML this is no different: will the machine be able to do the work of the data scientist in a few years?
In my opinion, the answer is no. Although there is a good chance that machines will take over parts of human tasks, a complete take-over seems (with current technology in mind) a step too far. But even if we reach the point of human parity, or exceed this point, it is important to remember that humans are always necessary in the artificial intelligence process. We are needed to provide the input for the algorithm to learn, but also to interfere with the machine when necessary. Because we need to think twice about whether we want completely autonomous machines. At Microsoft we’ve learned this through Tay, our Twitter bot that went rogue in 24 hours. And we shared our learnings from this experience, as we encourage others to do as well.
Artificial intelligence brings a lot of opportunities, and at Microsoft we want to share learnings and tools to make sure we can all benefit. Humans will remain necessary, even if it’s only in an interfering role. As a business you have to ask yourselves how this technology will add value to your customers. But with the right use case, AI can truly provide some magic.
ContractZen is a Finnish cloud technology company founded in 2014. Its all-in-one SaaS solution includes metadata-driven contract management, all-digital board portal, virtual data rooms (VDR), secure e-signatures, and more. Secure and easy to use on any device, ContractZen improves corporate governance and business operations by reducing costs, accelerating processes, and minimizing risks. The company has customers in over 30 countries and is owned by leading Finnish and international lawyers and other private investors. ContractZen has offices in Helsinki and Palo Alto. You can read more about ContractZen here.