Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter

Ask the Experts: Rich Wilson of Deviance.ai on the Evolution and Adoption of AI

We recently spoke to Rich Wilson, Founder of Deviance, on the current adoption of AI and data, the impact of technology on some of the key industries, and how to strike a balance between data privacy and customization.

  

You have founded and helped build a number of AI and data businesses, including in the marketing space. Tell us a bit about your experience and what you’re working on now.

I have a background in software development, and during the dotcom boom I built some of the first online stores for companies like Motorola, Homebase and Ocado, and through that I was introduced to the commercial side. I found I really enjoyed being out of the office talking to people, and I realized my skill is translating technology into business and back again.

For the past seven years I’ve been working in the language analysis space and generally working with data. I’ve set up a hedge fund on the back of an experiment with fast-moving data sets, applying AI to trading.

My most recent business is Deviance, which uses AI to deliver unsearchable insights. We help brands and businesses understand how people are really feeling, helping them understand audiences at massive scale – for example, we recently analyzed four billion words and we don’t know of anyone else working with that amount of data. Brands can uncover new things about their audiences and start to track them over time and see how attitudes are shifting and changing, which is very important, especially at the moment.

 

What are your thoughts on how business leaders think about AI these days?

There are extremes to it, and it’s quite dichotomous. There are people who have quite a narrow view of AI and are quite fixed in their opinion that it’s something of an intrusion, but I think that’s a rapidly diminishing group.

It’s a pervasive technology that impacts a lot of different aspects of people’s lives. People are becoming increasingly well-informed and aware of both the capabilities and limitations of AI. In the media, we still tend to see quite a stereotypical view of AI showing quite limited applications, usually accompanied by images of robots. What’s interesting are the applications of AI going on in the background – the things that we all benefit indirectly from because the companies we interact with are using it.

I’m fortunate to be on the bleeding edge of all of this. I’m exposed to it day in and day out, and I’m fortunate to see interesting stuff early. Overall, the adoption of AI is growing exponentially and that’s only a good thing.

 

Are there areas of business that you think are picking up AI technology faster than others?

There’s certainly fast adoption in the medical industry, and I’m exposed to quite a lot of this due to some academic relationships. I have a friend running a business that uses AI to predict strokes more accurately. It’s phenomenal technology and growing at an incredible pace. There are lots of these kinds of firms popping up, particularly using AI in imaging. The prediction capabilities are super smart and are saving lives already.

Additionally, banks will always be early adopters of technology like this, particularly in the ‘back office’ functions. We’ve seen this proven with the hedge fund, where financial institutions are seeing the advantage of pure computational power in making decisions around trades.

 

You’re a builder in this space (AI and data) what are brands or businesses looking for that they currently don’t have?

With any new technology, it always comes down to the same thing – faster access to simplicity in business. AI can help speed up and simplify lots of things, resulting in reduced risk, better compliance, solving resource issues, cost savings and so on.

With my company, Deviance, it’s specifically about access to insights. We are helping businesses speed up the time it takes to access and analyze data, and deliver the insights – we’re squeezing that timeframe right down. The most important thing to businesses is to get the insights as quickly as possible.

 

How have you seen marketers’ attitudes towards AI/data change in recent years? 

It’s changed massively. There used to be a lot of argument about data versus creativity, but that’s largely dead now. Smart people aren’t talking about that at all any more. They know that data informs and supports creativity – in fact, creative agencies are the ones that understand this the best. The best technology firms I’ve built or been involved all understand that it’s about the right combination of human and machine.

 

Do you think technologies such as AI could help marketers/businesses during a crisis situation/uncertain times like what we’re currently experiencing? If so, how?

I’ll share another example from Deviance. One of the ways it’s being used right now is to track audience sentiment. Historically, this has been pretty inaccurate, with up to about 40% accuracy. In English, for example, words can have multiple meanings and can’t be classified in just one way. At Deviance, we’re seeing 94% accuracy, and can see how sentiment is shifting in different areas. For example, in the travel industry, if travel service providers can see what people are talking about in terms of when they might travel again and where they might go, that’s very valuable information for directing a campaign.

It’s often noted that AI is very good at repetitive tasks, which is true, but it’s also very good at spotting patterns. This capability can be applied to understand how diseases spread and used to predict outbreaks. I’ve been looking at some of the ways people are modelling data for COVID-19 and it’s quite outdated. When we get past this current situation, governments and other major players should work to get up to date with how the industry has moved on in terms of understanding large data so we can be better prepared should something like this happen again.

 

With ever-stricter data compliance laws/regulations, how can marketers/businesses balance privacy and customization? What are consumers willing to trade here? Anything different related to the current situation?

There are a lot of conversations happening around this at the moment. In fact, in GDPR, there is an exemption for data use in situations like the one we’re facing now. Among regular consumers, I think there’s an increasing acceptance when it comes to sharing data if it’s going to save lives. We’re going to have to give up a bit of privacy to do things like contact tracing – the world is looking to South Korea and Singapore to see how well this has worked.

I think there’s a possibility this could lead to a permanent change. I think people understand the benefits of privacy in a marketing context, and firms are not hanging on to data endlessly for targeting purposes, which people appreciate. However, for the situation we’re currently in, if we were to ever face it again, I think people are going to be more accepting about sharing their data.

 

Rich Wilson started his career writing software for jet engines. Since 2005, he has been focusing on the commercialisation of software startups. He has a history of successfully bringing US tech firms into Europe and has since founded a number of businesses including Volcube, a financial services tech firm, a small hedge fund which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to place trades, and most recently Deviance, an audience diagnostics firm applying AI to language analysis in order to help firms understand how their audience feels. Rich is based in London and is a noted speaker on the application of linguistics in politics, gender, TV and music, as well as tech startups more generally.

* Read more from our “Ask the Experts” series, and see what we have discussed with other thought leaders about AI, digital marketing, data, technology, and more. 

WE ARE HERE TO HELP

Let us know the marketing challenges that you’re facing, and how you want to improve your marketing strategy.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

7 Things to Help Brands Manage the Coronavirus Crisis

As the crisis of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) peaks, many brands are suffering. Quarantine restrictions are keeping customers away from bricks and mortar retail stores, logistical issues are diminishing e-sales, and manufacturing closures in China are leaving businesses running out of stock. Even big brands like Nike and Shiseido are taking a hit. The ongoing crisis is ramping up the pressure on marketers who are expected to ride this public health crisis wave. While some companies now have products in high demand, others are struggling to get sales.   The key to mitigate the impact of public health emergencies on businesses is being nimble. This means, rethinking your marketing efforts to make them more relevant. Here are seven things that brands can do to manage this crisis.   1. Don’t Hard Sell, Show Support As a marketer, the most important question you should be asking yourself right now is not ‘How can I sell more?’. Instead, it is ‘How can we support customers during this time?’. Focusing solely on profits amid the current situation will not do your brand any favors – in fact, it may work against it. In China, an increasing number of e-commerce, media, and tech companies, including

Artificial Intelligence Will Make Us More Human, Not Less

At this stage of 21st century, we are living in a time when the need for interaction with other people is diminishing – ordering a meal, a taxi or making an appointment no longer requires a phone call or an outing. Hollywood movies and other televised imaginings of the future would have us believe that robots will soon take over. Large technology companies are also eager to bring the future to us, touting advanced artificial intelligence technology in our homes, our cars and any number of other places in our lives. This might lead us to question the role of humans in an increasingly automated world. Artificial intelligence (AI) has been around since the 1950s and increased computing power has sped up its development. At its core, AI is analysing data to make informed decisions and predictions, but its ability to do things faster, more efficiently and more precisely than people may challenge our understanding of humanity. For all its vast capabilities, AI certainly has limitations. Through the things it cannot do, it will draw out the core of what makes us human. Scientifically, it is still challenging for AI to lead a team, empathize, or be inspired by an

What It Means to Be a Data Scientist Today

Author | Yao-Nan Chen, Machine Learning Scientist, Appier Unless you have been hibernating under a rock for a few years now, you already know that explosive growth in the volume of available data is disrupting business as we know it. This data can be a goldmine for businesses that know how to capture, analyze and use it to power artificial intelligence (AI) technology. And that’s where data science and my role come in. IBM has predicted that demand for data scientists will increase by 28 percent by 2020. The Harvard Business Review, way back in 2012, said that being a data scientist is the sexiest job of the 21st century. I have been working in data science since 2013 and I still come into work at Appier each day eager to solve new problems.   What Data Scientists Actually Do Simply put, data science involves using data to generate solutions that solve practical, real-world problems. In the business world, examples revolve around AI-powered solutions, such as pushing recommendations for users based on their demographic or usage pattern, or analyzing why sales of a particular product is dropping. Data scientists set out on solving such problems by first extracting and consolidating