CEO and Founder of Cartwheel Technologies Ugonna Alinnor sees machine learning as the key to unlock an unlimited number of commercial opportunities across all business sectors, now and in the future. Durtti wants Ugonna to look at two sectors, medicine and telecoms, and share his thoughts and examples of how machine learning is positively impacting them already.
Tell us what Cartwheel Technologies do and who it is aimed at, Ugonna.
We use machine learning techniques to derive valuable insights from data or information a company generates.
We use this information to drive efficient and effective business decisions for the company to make it more competitive. We aim to work with companies that increasingly want to deploy Artificial Intelligence in their business strategy.
Why do you choose to use R as a programming language?
R programming language is developed by statisticians for statisticians. Much of what we call Artificial Intelligence is Advanced Statistics, always trying to draw inferences from something. Through R code and packages, we can communicate ideas and concepts and you don’t necessarily need a computer science background to get started. And it is also great for data visualizations.
With the benefit of your strong educational background in biology and chemistry, where do you see the biggest commercial success for AI practices in medicine in the next 5 years?
In medicine, the two most promising areas in the application of AI I see is in the diagnostics and drug discovery sectors.
In the diagnostics sector, advances in computer vision are helping us diagnose diseases at an earlier stage. For example, SkinVision, a skin cancer risk app with a clinically proven online assessment, uses a unique camera algorithm that can indicate skin cancer risk based on photos you take with the app. You can save the photos in your personal archive to track over time or share them with your doctor. Now we can find skin cancer basically using an iphone and as accurately as the best board-certified dermatologist. This is phenomenal because we can put that valuable skill in a platform that everybody already has – which is a smartphone.
Another example is, every time we talk on our phone, even if it’s for 30 minutes a day, AI could analyze that speech and thereby find things like Alzheimer’s disease much earlier than we find it today. And that’s very valuable because we could treat those diseases at a stage when they’re still curable.
In the Drug Discovery sector, Artificial Intelligence techniques such as Machine Learning will be able to discern far more quickly which drug candidates have the highest probability of success in treating diseases without harmful side effects.
It takes approximately 10 years and about $2.6 billion dollars for a prescription drug to win market approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), meanwhile people are dying. Advances of AI in this field would reduce cost and time to market for life saving drugs and also foster startups in the biotech industry.
What 3 key qualities do you think a successful Data Scientist needs to possess and why?
A Data Scientist firstly needs to have a deep understanding of mathematics and statistics.
Secondly, an insatiable thirst for knowledge and the ability to communicate that knowledge in a clear and precise manner. This is important because you need to learn how to use new tools to carry out analysis and interpret those results correctly to your audience.
And thirdly, the ability to ask good questions!
If you could spin forward 3 years, what, if any, difference might there be to the services that Cartwheel Technologies currently offers clients?
Our core focus is on Big Data analytics. However, technologies do update from time to time. We are beginning to see a shift in technology from fingers-first tech such as laptops and mobile devices to voice-first tech such as ‘Google Home’ and ‘Amazon Alexa’.
Even if the tech world differs from what it is now, our core as an artificial intelligence company will always remain the same.
How do you think the telecoms sector might operate in 5 years time, with machine learning at its heart, and will this ultimately be to the customers’ benefit, in your opinion?
I think we will see a lot of improvements in the telecoms sector that will be aided by Machine Learning.
Machine Learning can be used by telecom operations to reduce customer churn, make better marketing-spend decisions, improve collections and optimize network design. For instance, customers at risk of defecting can be identified even before they consider doing so, enabling operators to target their retention efforts, reduce spending, and maximize impact.
Machine Learning can also be used to optimize sales by knowing how customers are spending on and using their data. We are beginning to see an increase in the sales of data bundles and a decrease in sales of voice calls. Generally, the cost of telecommunicating will drastically be reduced and the quality of service will be better.
Voice first devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo will become more popular as computers begin to understand our language better.
We are all human! How do you try to overcome obstacles in life when they occur?
If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead to anywhere.
Setting goals is usually the first step. Achieving them is the second step. It’s in achieving them many of us begin to change.
Whenever I face obstacles, be they personal or environmetal, I always have in mind that as long as there’s a 1% chance of succeeding, there’s a 99% hope. I’ve made mistakes that when I look back I try to say I regret that such a thing happened, but I also say “Hey! as long as there’s life there’s hope!”
When it comes to social obstacles, I have found that it really helps to develop good strong bonds and relationships with people that you rely on most.
Finally, Ugo, if you had one hour to teach and inspire a class of primary school children about the huge career opportunities that lie ahead, thanks to AI, how would you go about it?
I would encourage kids to read as many story books as they can.
And I would also tell them not to be scared of mathematics!
More at cartwheeltechnologies.com.ng
Ugonna is a member of The Artificial Intelligence Group on LinkedIn.