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Saying yes to crazy ideas

Artificial Intelligence

By: Howard Feldman, Consultant for Synthesis 

The term “artificial intelligence” or AI has crept in our lexicon without many of us having noticed. Along with words like “cloud,” “scale” and “data analytics”, there seems to be an acceptance that they are going to be important, and that even if we don’t fully understand them, that we should keep them nearby for when we do. Much like that life jacket, the flight attendant tells us is under our seat on an aeroplane along with a light and whistle for keeping in touch.

It is fair to say that every industry will be able to use AI in some form in the future. Personalisation is already becoming the focus area for many companies who are striving to find ways to make their customers’ experience more relevant. On-line retail has been an early adapter with users becoming used to seeing purchase suggestions based on their history and based on data collected.

All this doesn’t mean that the way forward is simple or predictable, which is why I was excited to run a strategy session for the AI team at Synthesis.

We began with the “Why” question.

When I became a mineral and metal commodity trader in the 1990s, the world was different. No internet meant that the role of the trader was to link producers of minerals (often in the developing world) with customers in Europe and the USA. Traders would expend significant energy in obscuring the identities of both parties as the connection was the value that they brought to the buyer and the seller.  With the birth of the internet, both parties could easily identify each other in no time at all, which meant that the “Why we are here” needed to change. Some traders bought mines, some became finance houses (in affect) and some provided transport. No trader would survive the transition without re-evaluating the “why” of their business.

The same question needs to be asked of every business. In some cases, the answer is simple, but in some circumstances where the journey ahead is not defined and where the exponential potential is so vast, it becomes vital to understand what the goals are, so that the next steps can be planned.

What I learned at the session was that although the layperson (me) might not be aware of it, AI is already in use. Synthesis has, in fact, been applying AI principals for some time. From projects that identified and altered logos and brand names of a company to email routers and personalisation projects within the banking industry, AI has become part of every day at the company.

Synthesis is a South African success story. The company believes that providing innovative solutions based on emerging technologies will help their clients become globally competitive. The focus is on banking and financial institutions, retail, media and telecommunication sectors in South Africa and other markets.

The Synthesis team is an impressive one. The company’s motto, “Hungry, humble, smart”, is tangible in its people, which made the strategy session all the more compelling. Although the paths ahead are many, what is clear is that with the expertise, vision and hunger, the Synthesis name is one that we can expect to hear more of in the area of AI, machine learning and data analytics.

“We say yes to crazy ideas”.