‘The sky is the limit for AI’ says Bank of Ireland data scientist

Innovative use of artificial intelligence resulted in recognition for Irish data scientists at the third annual AI awards.

Designed to support the development of data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) in Ireland, winners at the awards included STATSports, Fire1, ACI Worldwide and Infant Research Centre, to name a few.

The team behind the Next-Best-Action (NBA) Engine at Bank of Ireland were shortlisted alongside ACI Worldwide, Shutterstock and Zalando in the category of ‘Best Application of AI in a Large Enterprise.’

“I’d say the sky is the limit for AI, and that would be an understatement”

Leading the submission for the NBA Engine at Bank of Ireland was Yash Karle who came into the bank on the Graduate Programme and has worked on the Data Science team, within Customer Analytics and Transformation. He was promoted to junior data scientist this year.

“The specific project that was nominated for the awards was all around personalisation and was related to customer analytics,” Karle explained.

“The project specifically focuses on a recommender engine. The reason we felt it was worth nominating under the category ‘application of AI in a large enterprise’ was because it is a prime example of how AI is being used within the bank and within customer analytics.

“Aligned with the launch of our new mobile app, one of a number of platforms updated with capabilities of personalisation, it meant we could uniquely target marketing to customers at scale. In this way we were able to target each and every customer individually with the most relevant messaging we wanted to have with them, whether they were interested in mortgage products or a car loan. It meant we could have this communication in a way that was relevant directly to them.”

Data is the new oil

Karle said that the level of automation that AI affords can be seen as a kind of “force multiplier” enabling businesses to have greater capabilities than ever before. The narrative of machines taking our jobs is mistaken; instead, he believes the narrative should be the machines will enhance our jobs.

“I stress the word ‘scale’. We coded the engine ourselves and gave it some business rules with some tweaks added in. It’s not easy for the machine or the algorithm to learn everything by itself. So it had a number of human interactions or human-operated levers. In a way it was the best of both worlds as we had some human control over what output was being generated as well as the machine learning that was running underneath it.”

Karle said that being in the company of brands like Shutterstock, ACI Worldwide and Zalando was invigorating as well as educational.

“STATsports, for example, showed how there is huge potential to use analytics in the sports industry. And it was great to have that recognition for what we are building alongside Shutterstock and Zalando, for example.

“I think it’s an exciting journey ahead for Bank of Ireland, particularly in the realm of customer analytics. This is just the start. We are laying the foundations and have the potential to build on this in the coming years.”

Karle believes it is really just the beginning of the AI revolution. “I’d say the sky is the limit for AI, and that would be an understatement. The applications for AI are beyond our wildest imaginations. I think as a banking function, it’s definitely good to have a focus on customer outcomes. As a bank it is important to keep in mind the ethics aspect and governance aspect of AI and in general it is very important that we build up the data culture within the bank.

“Where will AI end up? I don’t know, except to say it will definitely make our lives easier to start with. It’s going to enhance what we are capable of doing,” Karle concluded.

2021 AI Award Winners 

Best Application of AI in an Academic Research Body

INFANT Research Centre – for their work using deep learning to detect neonatal seizure detection. They are developing an end-to-end diagnostics solution, which integrates state-of-the-art CNNs for neonatal seizure detection with a portable, wireless and low-power EEG acquisition device.

Best Application of AI in a Large Enterprise

ACI Worldwide – who developed Incremental Learning, a new patented technology that transforms fraud prevention within the payment solutions sector.

Best Application of AI in a Student Project 

Eoin Kenny – A PhD student in University College Dublin for his internationally recognised work on predictive AI modelling, explainable AI and precision agriculture to solve problems in crop-growth prediction for the dairy sector.

Best Application of AI in a Consumer/Customer Service Application

Webio – for its Conversational Middleware Service enabling organisations to connect applications, digital assets across different communications platforms (SMS, WhatsApp to Alexa).

Intelligent Automation – Best Use of RPA & Cognitive

FIRE1 Foundry – has developed a novel implantable sensor solution for remote monitoring of congestive heart failure patients in their home which is enhanced by FIRE1’s continuous training of new predictive models adding diagnostic functionality to its innovative solution.

Best Application of AI in a Startup

EdgeTier – An Irish start-up using artificial intelligence (AI) to improve customer service. Its WatchTower AI solution which analyses the contents of emails and chats between customers and agents in real time, detects issues or unusual trends, and alerts contact centre managers ahead of time.

Best Use of AI in Sector

STATSports – the world-leading provider of wearable player tracking devices and analysis software. Its proprietary APEX pods and Pro Series software leverages data to improve performance with sporting teams around the world and how they have effectively utilised the cloud to provide additional services to their customers.

Best Application of AI to achieve Social Good 

Terrain AI is a research project led by Maynooth University and is focused on improving the understanding of the impact of human activity on land use and how it relates to climate change, with the aim of improving carbon measurement that will inform future carbon reduction strategies.

Main image: Yash Karle, Bank of Ireland

John Kennedy
Award-winning ThinkBusiness.ie editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.