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AI

In AI We Trust, Thanks to AI Checking Software | Blog

By | Automation/RPA/AI, Blog

The increasing popularity and uptake of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is giving rise to concerns about its risks, explainability, and fairness in the decisions that it makes. One big area of concern is bias in the algorithms that are used in AI for decision making. Another risk is the probabilistic approach to handling decisions and the potential for unpredictable outcomes based on AI self-learning. These concerns are justified, given the implicit ethical and business risks, for example, impact on people’s lives and livelihood, or bad business decisions based on AI recommendations that were founded on partial data.

The good news is that the software industry is starting to address these concerns. For example, last year, vendors including Google, IBM, and Microsoft announced tools (either released or in development) for detecting bias in AI, and recently, there were more announcements.

IBM

Last year IBM brought out:

  • Adversarial Robustness 360 Toolbox (ART), a Python library available on GitHub, to make machine learning models more robust against adversarial threats such as inputs that are manipulated to derive desired outputs
  • AI Fairness 360, an open-source toolkit with metrics that identify bias in datasets and machine learning models, and algorithms to mitigate them

Last month, IBM further augmented its offerings with the release of AI Explainability 360, an open source toolkit of algorithms to support the understanding and explainability of machine learning models. It is a companion to the other toolkits.

Cognitive Scale

Cognitive Scale recently unveiled the beta of Cortex Certifai, software that automatically detects and scores vulnerabilities in black box AI models without having access to the internals of the model. Certifai is a Kubernetes application and runs as a native cloud service on Amazon, Azure, Google, and Redhat clouds. Cognitive Scale also unveiled the AI Trust Index. Developed in collaboration with AI Global, it will provide composite risk scores for automated black-box decision making models. This is an interesting development that could grow to become a badge of honour for AI software, and a differentiator for those with the most trusted rating.

The Reality of Bias

While these announcements and those made last year are good news, there are aspects of AI training that will be difficult to address because bias is all around us in real life. For example, public data would show AI that there are many more male CEOs and board members than female ones, leading it to possibly conclude that male candidates are more suitable for shortlisting for a non-executive director vacancy than women. Or public data could lead AI to increase mortgage or auto loan risk factors for individuals living in a particular zip code or postcode to unreasonably high levels.

It is the encoding and application of these kinds of biases automatically at scale that is worrying. Regulations in some countries address some of the issues, but not all countries do. Besides, the potential for new threats and risks is high.

There is still a lot more for us to understand when it comes to making AI fair and explainable. This is a complex and growing field. As demand for AI grows, we will see more demand for solutions to check AI as well.

Blue Prism’s Acquisition of Thoughtonomy: Does 1+1 =3? | Blog

By | Automation/RPA/AI, Blog

As a reader of this blog, you likely know that we’ve been researching and analyzing the RPA market in-depth for more than five years and have conducted multiple RPA technology vendor PEAK MatrixTM evaluations in the same time frame.

Starting in 2015, Blue Prism earned a Leader’s spot in in our assessment because of its extensive features and strong market presence. Thoughtonomy made it into our Leader’s group starting in 2016 for its Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offering, and for combining RPA and AI for unstructured data processing.

Because it is a public company, Blue Prism’s strong growth over the years is a matter of public record. Thoughtonomy has also grown strongly, gaining around 77 direct clients and another 200 indirect through its service provider partners.

Against that backdrop, we believe that Blue Prism’s announcement earlier this week that it is acquiring Thoughtonomy for a total consideration of £80 million is a positive move for three reasons.

First, Blue Prism gains several hundred mid-sized direct clients in an instant. Second, and more importantly, its ability to deliver intelligent automation through a SaaS delivery model gives it the opportunity to much more easily sell into the mid-market. Third, this is a strategic move by Blue Prism. Right now, adoption of RPA on the cloud is in the early stages. At the same time, many AI solutions are offered on the cloud to enable access to computing power on demand, and many work with RPA in combination when needed. Having both RPA and AI on the cloud could help companies realize the full potential of intelligent automation and achieve higher scalability. Blue Prism is becoming cloud-ready with this acquisition.

But there is more.Blue Prism Acquires Thoughtonomy

What Thoughtonomy Brings to Blue Prism

Thoughtonomy was set up in 2013 to provide a cloud-based intelligent automation platform. At its core, it is a cloud version of Blue Prism’s RPA, combined with other capabilities that Thoughtonomy has developed over the years, including:

  • Features for human-in-the-loop automation (Self-Serve), including next-best-action recommendation – These features will help Blue Prism with attended automation that is typically used in the front office. Currently, Blue Prism offers human-in-the-loop through its technology partner, TrustPortal, which provides the UI for this capability
  • Built-in AI / machine learning within the platform to optimize workload distribution and robot performance
  • Natural Language Processing (NLP), sentiment analysis, and chat interface to automate processes using chat as a channel
  • A web-based interface for controlling and monitoring robots – While Blue Prism offers a central console for controlling and monitoring robots, it is not web-based. This will help improve the accessibility of its console
  • Wireframer, an intelligent coding quality tool – Blue Prism currently has an automation methodology, but not a coding quality tool
  • Use cases in IT process automation – This will help improve Blue Prism’s value proposition for IT use cases, which are growing in demand

In addition, Thoughtonomy will help enhance Blue Prism’s presence in some verticals, such as healthcare and government & public sector, where it currently has limited market share.

With Blue Prism at the heart of Thoughtonomy’s SaaS platform, the job of integrating the two product sets should be relatively straightforward.

All in all, we believe in this case that 1+1 does add up to more than 2. Is it a 3? Maybe not, but it is a solid 2.5.

The challenges of SaaS, selling to the mid-market, and targeting the front-office market

Blue Prism’s model includes a minimum licensing requirement that can make it expensive for smaller companies to get started with its RPA offering. Thoughtonomy was absorbing these requirements. Blue Prism will no doubt clarify how it will handle licensing for its SaaS offering.

The addition of Thoughtonomy’s human-in-the-loop interface will help boost Blue Prism’s attended automation value proposition. But if it intends to target this segment – which primarily consists of front-office and contact center use cases where thousands of robots might be required – it will need to adjust its pricing to reflect large orders. Additionally, it will need to deliver more desktop-based features in order to outshine established attended automation vendors such as NICE and Pega. As this doesn’t appear to be a high priority segment for Blue Prism, we may not see those additional features in the near future.

The market outlook

With this move into SaaS, Blue Prism has captured a competitive edge. We expect other companies will quickly follow suit. Several RPA vendors are cash rich thanks to recent private equity investments, as well as good organic growth, and they may well have their eyes trained on potential acquisitions. Other RPA technology vendors and other companies that provide complementary technologies, like chatbots, could well be either acquirers or acquisition targets. AI-based automation vendors, e.g., those with NLP or intelligent virtual agents, could make acquisitions of their own to complement their products. And we wouldn’t be surprised to see large software vendors acquiring RPA vendors, just like SAP did last year with its acquisition of Contextor, an RPA vendor that we positioned as an Aspirant in our 2018 RPA Technology Vendor PEAK MatrixTM Assessment several months before SAP made its move.

This is just the beginning of the consolidation phase of this expanding market, and we have no doubt there is more to come.

Everest Group will be publishing its 2019 RPA Technology Vendor PEAK MatrixTM Assessment in the next few weeks. In the meantime, please check out our recent service optimization technology-focused publications, including Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) Annual Report 2019 – Let AI Do the Reading

Change Agents Creating Greater Diversity in AI — June 12 | Event

By | Events

FDM Group and BCSWomen are hosting this evening event that will address the responsibilities employers have to ensure teams and technologies reflect the society in which we live. Join to hear about the impact that the AI diversity crisis is having on the sector and hear from influential leaders to find out how to enhance diversity across tech teams.

Sarah Burnett, Executive Vice President and Distinguished Analyst, Everest Group, will serve as one of the distinguished panelists.

When

17:30 – 19:30 BST, Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Where

London

Speaker

Sarah Burnett, Executive Vice President and Distinguished Analyst

Learn more about the event

RPA Vendor WorkFusion Looks to Drive Smarter AI | In the News

By | In The News

Robotic process automation [RPA] vendor WorkFusion is looking to capitalize on the strong momentum in the sector, with a major new product release and a favorable new analyst report.

New York City-based WorkFusion is one of the top players in the RPA space, which is booming. A new report from Zinnow on the RPA market reported that the total worldwide addressable market is $50 billion, with enterprise spend predicted to grow at a 37 per cent rate. Forrester Research, one of the analyst firms who specialize in the area, scored WorkFusion as a strong performer in their 2018 report, behind UIPath, Automation Anywhere, and Blue Prism. WorkFusion also scores very highly in a 2019 report by Everest Group, another analyst firm with a strong focus on RPA. The Everest Group report on a sub-space, Intelligent Document Processing [IDP], defined as a software solution that captures data from documents and categorizes and extracts relevant data for AI processing, ranked WorkFusion in the leader section, with the highest score in vision and capability.

Read more in Channelbuzz