Published on in MediaInnovation

This is a guest blog by Dr. Miguel Martinez and Dr. Dyaa Albakour from Signal Media. 

In today’s world, news travels fast.  The traditional 24-hour news cycle has been reduced to 24 seconds, and we’re always finding new hot-button topics to discuss.

We founded our company, Signal, to cope with the rapid news cycle. We want to help people separate the useful conversations from those that are irrelevant.

Interestingly, one of the loudest and most irrelevant conversations in the technology space happens around the subject of artificial intelligence (AI). The term is often used very loosely to refer to technologies that aren’t strictly AI – which, as an AI company ourselves, we find quite frustrating.

Naturally we jumped at the chance to have a real conversation about AI in the UK tech scene, which came in the form of the inaugural Fujitsu Pioneer AI Award.

We were thrilled to be shortlisted – and then absolutely amazed to win!

Using AI to find the truth in data

The Fujitsu AI Pioneer Award exists to acknowledge businesses who are paving the way in artificial intelligence innovation, ensuring the UK remains at the forefront of the technology’s evolution and adoption.

We applied because we believe we are a part of this wave of innovation.

We’re incredibly proud to be a UK company – we started in a garage in North London, and now we have offices in New York and Hong Kong, working for a range of organisations including Thomas Cook, TalkTalk and British Airways.

Indeed, our AI capability is the main driving force behind our growth.

We aim to bridge the gap between the academic side of AI and the business side, and this helps keep us at the cutting edge of what the technology can do.

So how do we use AI at Signal Media?

We use it to conduct news monitoring, enabling our clients to sift the useful information from the useless and see how their brand is really perceived by the public.

Clients have used our services for crisis communications, to gauge customer sentiment toward their brands, and to gain a better understanding of their own markets.

AI is the perfect tool for this, because it allows you to understand millions of data points and still achieve the same quality level of insight.

Being able to sift through such a huge volume of data also means the user is better able to find patterns at a larger-scale.

Our experience at the awards

It was incredible to be shortlisted among so many other AI businesses.

We got to meet quite a few of our fellow AI entrants at dinner on the awards night. Connecting with other AI entrepreneurs and swapping war stories was one of the most rewarding parts of the evening for us.

This was our second experience at the awards as last year we won the Lloyds Bank New Business of the Year.

Our initial impression was only confirmed the second time around. The panel judging the AI award was a really impressive mixture of people from different backgrounds, including finance, academia, and entrepreneurship.

AI technical knowledge was only one of the things that we were examined on. The Fujitsu AI Award also looked into entrants’ business plans, and their staff retention, mission, company values and purpose.

This is really important to us at Signal, because we know that a business is more than the technology under the hood – it’s also about the people and the vision behind it.

The wider AI debate

The UK is an amazing environment for AI businesses to grow and develop, and the awards really showcased this. London in particular is close to many world-class universities which provide an incredible source of inspiration and innovation.

Still, recent events around Brexit have caused us some worry over talent. Getting hold of really smart individuals is hard – we just hope it won’t get any harder.

And of course, there are still some questions about the ethics of AI.

It’s certain that jobs will be changed and created by AI. There is some fear over this, just like there was with other revolutionary technologies like the steam engine. But ultimately, we need to remember that artificial intelligence is simply a toolkit to allow us to solve problems in new ways.

When combined with human intelligence, our AI empowers people by allowing them to do more intellectually challenging work. In other words, our AI enables intelligence amplification (IA)– it allows us to do the work that people should really do.

This means less of the manual – intellectually or physically manual – work, and more strategy and horizon scanning.

So while we still need to be careful with our use of AI – especially when it comes to bias into the algorithms – we’re certain that collectively we will be better off with it in our lives.

Looking to the future of the AI award

We were really grateful to win the first Fujitsu AI Pioneer Award.

It’s a testament to how far we have come in the past few years, and to how strong the UK technology sector has become in that time too.

AI is the technology of the future. We can’t wait to see who next year’s winner will be!

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