Thinking inside the box: A case study with Carrington Associates
In the Spike Jonez film Her, a talking operating system with artificial intelligence, known as Samantha (played by Scarlett Johansson) – explains her (not so basic) capabilities by stating, “Well, basically I have intuition. I mean, the DNA of who I am is based on the millions of personalities of all the programmers who wrote me. But what makes me is my ability to grow through my experiences. So basically, in every moment I’m evolving, just like you.”
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning – when a machine mimics the problem solving abilities of the human mind – are not concepts limited to the realm of science fiction films. Whether we appreciate it or not, our smartphone, car and home devices make a huge difference to our lives every day by applying reasoning, knowledge, learning and language processing to solve problems. The AI industry is booming. In 2016 cognitive systems and AI technology amassed $US8 Billion in revenue.
How did this happen?
In the last decade, cognitive technology like IBM’s Watson has changed the way computers interact with unstructured data, creating what analysts are calling a ‘snowball effect.’ In 2011, a Watson computer, running software called Deep QA, famously competed against two people on the TV quiz show Jeopardy! and won. Watson did this by sourcing and analysing unstructured data more efficiently and effectively than standard search technology. This potential sparked the attention from Sydney-based software developers at Carrington Associates.
Carrington Associates partners with tech leaders Oracle, Actuate, and more recently IBM, to design and develop business intelligence solutions. Over the last decade, Carrington Associates has been at the forefront of creating innovative solutions for its customers spanning government, education, automotive, manufacturing and other industries. Since the company embraced IBM’s Watson platform three years ago, it sharpened its focus on cognitive learning applications. And, it’s paying off. Carrington Associates has been cited in IT publications including ARN for “leading the race to cognitive competence.”
As far as the company’s Directors see it, the possibilities are endless. Sachin Khisti, Managing Director of Carrington Associates believes that cognitive computing can apply to any area where machines can perform actions that are usually carried out by way of reasoning abilities of humans. Identifying signs of melanoma using a smart phone camera or gathering intelligence about someone’s emotions by analysing a voice on a phone call are two examples.
A chance meeting
Early last year, Sachin met Sameer Kassam, Partner at CharterNet, at an industry event. After talking with Sameer, Sachin validated his suspicions that Carrington Associates was undertaking activities that fulfilled the criteria of the Australian Government’s R&D Tax Incentive. In April 2016, CharterNet worked with Carrington Associates to submit the company’s first R&D Tax Incentive claim.
Sachin says CharterNet has eased the uncertainty that comes from taking on a complex grant application. “They [CharterNet] give us very detailed information about how the R&D Tax Incentive works,” he said.
“From the start, CharterNet understood our business and activities thoroughly,” said Sachin. “They took great interest in our activities and asked far-reaching questions, which gave us the impression that these people know their business well.”
Despite the technical nature of the subject matter, Sachin says he was pleasantly surprised by the CharterNet teams’ expertise in software and their ability to understand how AI technologies are applied in different business environments. By working together, CharterNet has given Carrington Associates a grounding in how their specific software activities provide solutions to an industry problem.
“We’ve discovered a lot,” said Sachin. “We’re continuing our R&D journey as we get confidence in the program. This financial year, we’re more organised; we’ve been keeping better records.”
Since receiving its R&D Tax Incentive refund for FY15, Carrington Associates has recruited two new staff members with specialist skillsets and increased staff training and learning opportunities.
“Being able to train more staff has had a knock-on effect in becoming an employer of choice for young and ambitious technology professionals,” Sachin said. “It’s a great way to attract, motivate and retain digital natives.”
When asked to provide advice for other emerging companies, Sachin explains that detailed documentation is a must. “Companies should capture evidence in real time to prove how their initiatives fit the Incentive’s criteria.”