Are AI and deep learning the key to unlock the value of big data?

Opinion piece by Tine Holvoet, Senior Research Associate at Vlerick Business School

With fintech on the rise, data are clearly becoming a key ingredient of tomorrow’s business models. Yet, with PSD2, open banking and cross-industry collaboration around the corner, it seems that your data will be shared. To stand out, organisations will need to generate unique insights and understandings from unstructured and open data elements. Are AI and deep learning the key to unlock that much forgotten ‘V’ of ‘Big Data: Value’?

Dr Gautam Shroff heads TCS’s Innovation Lab in Delhi, and is conducting applied research in software architecture, natural language processing, multimedia and graphics. His FinTech Futures talk in Brussels makes you feel like Pinocchio being swallowed by the internet, swimming deep into the belly of Coursera where you finally meet a true AI Gepetto. “Today, everything we do in AI is deep learning” says Dr Shroff. “Within five years, everything will be outdated”. AI is big business and indeed, there is no end to the stories on what AI can do. “It’s moving fast. Papers in AI are cited 100 times, before they get published.” But, how can emerging technology companies create AI market solutions that have disruptive innovation potential? According to Dr Shroff that depends on access to contextual assistants. “AI and deep learning are about understanding what is needed to train the machine, what it takes to actually make things work”. We have language translation, event prediction, handwriting recognition, logo detection, pedestrian detection, … we know how to look and listen by means of devices, but what we need is a business of knowledge synthesis, to help collaborate and make things effective. “We have to learn to sit on top of things, and do more than the machine allowing to do its thing” pleads Dr Shroff.

FinTech Futures - Dr Gautam Shroff

What happens when a serial entrepreneur like Toon Vanagt gets on top of things? In one and the same breath, Toon Vanagt disrupts the Belgian legal system introducing his latest venture lex.be. This freemium business is built on unstructured data and relies heavily on open data. Basically, you can learn from 2.4 million legal documents from official sources since 1830. Toon Vanagt strongly believes in all things open, which he supports via the non-profit organisation Open Knowledge Belgium. But guess what, most lawyers don’t seem too keen to implement a time-saving tool that makes jurisdiction digital and transparent. It wouldn’t be the first Belgian technological innovation that is ahead of its time. It surely takes time to learn, but by that time the world might have changed?

FinTech Futures - Toon Vanagt

Though the talks by Dr Gautam Shroff, Diederick van Thiel, Toon Vanagt and Andrew Pardoe were very different, they share a common ground: an urgent call for mature technology models. First challenge now is to amplify knowledge workers and move people up into cognitive digital engagement. We need to understand how career paths will be disrupted, not jobs. We need to convince people that all models are wrong but that some are useful. We need augmented intelligence, where the budget is not spent entirely on mere data acquisition, formatting and cleaning. Remember Tricia Wang’s exposé on thick data, stating “big data produces so much information that it needs something more to bridge and or reveal knowledge gaps. That is why ethnographic work holds such enormous value in the era of big data”. Or, as our guest expert Andrew Pardoe puts it: “building the model is the easy bit, it’s working with it which is the true challenge.”

Looking for an update on today’s challenges in financial services? With FinTech Futures we share new, independent and impactful views on technology, regulation and user experience. Experience future scenarios first hand, get a grip on today’s buzzwords, participate in our fintech network! Contact Tine.Holvoet@vlerick.com or @TechTine. 

Tine Holvoet holds a track record of multidisciplinary collaborations. She recently shifted her focus towards innovation and disruption in the global financial services sector. Not exactly being the typical finance girl, she is exploring new formats for knowledge sharing and experience exchange on finance. Together with Prof Bjorn Cumps she has set up FinTech Futures, a format to share new, independent and impactful views on technology, regulation & user experience.

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