After the Startup Trends Index and the Technology Trends Index, we’ve partnered with KPMG again and present you the Intelligent Automation Trends Index. This is the first time that an ‘AI robot’ is analyzing the world of AI. The only question is: does the IATI realize it’s analyzing itself?
Artificial Intelligence is Taking Over
After recently adding support for Chinese, we are glad to announce that Italian news will soon pop up on your dashboards as well! If you keep on reading you will get to know some of technology that makes this all possible.
Until very recently, the state of art was so-called “Statistical Machine Translation”. Right now Artificial Intelligence is taking over in this space. We are not taking this as literally as the doomsday rhetoric of Elon Musk however, we just like the better translations it gives us.
The method we use at Owlin is called “Neural Machine Translation”. This new technology is based on “Neural Networks”. Like the “Statistical Machine Translation” methods, Neural Networks deeply rely on statistical methods too. The statistics just became a lot more complex to the point that humans don’t even understand why they work so well!
This complexity also means that it takes a lot of computing power to train our systems to ‘understand’ a language. Luckily it turns out that the chips needed for video games (GPU’s) are also exceedingly good at doing Neural Network calculations. At Owlin we have our own specialized machine with multiple high end video cards that need liquid cooling to prevent it from catching fire! So anytime we add a language not only a lot of human effort went into it but also many, many hours of non-stop computation.
Paving the Way
Willem joined Owlin in its early days, initially to improve his programming skills, but that led to “putting down my laptop and never leaving.” He was in for more than he could imagine. Next to his work as a Data Scientist, which led him to become a better programmer, he sometimes dives into other fields as well. This includes talking to clients, designing new products and improve overall processes to increase data quality.
“I have a flexible skill-set. I can program, write, and I can do commerce. On every aspect where you need a specialist, but don’t have one yet, I’ll do that. I pave the way for a lot of people.”
Being a small company, it’s useful to be handy in multiple things. “Right now I’m taking on a more and more supervisory role, focussing on R&D.”
All this goes to show that Willem doesn’t shy away from challenges.
He’s challenging himself in his personal life as well. “I always say I have a week job at Owlin and a weekend job as a researcher.” Having a background in physics, he knew he wanted to study it since the age of 12.
I used to read a lot of books at the library and stumbled upon one from Einstein one day. That’s when I knew I wanted to study physics.
His research is a continuation of his academic career where he started to tie quantum mechanics to Einstein’s theory of gravity *. A few years ago he took some steps back to understand the fundamentals of quantum mechanics better
“I was busy tying quantum mechanics to the theory of relativity, but behind that are so many questions I didn’t have the answers to yet. So I wanted those answers first.”
The weekends he spends solving mathematical equations. He can’t say for sure where in the building up process he is, but is hopeful that it’ll be finished, at least in his lifetime. “I’ve rarely had the feeling that I’m this close to solving it though.”
* Quantum mechanics are the fundamentals of physics. It can for example explain why things have a certain color, and light and radioactivity. However, it cannot explain gravity.
Companies We Admire
You may be wondering why Netflix is one of the companies we admire. Besides the obvious reasons, for us, it’s mostly about their development philosophy and how it relates to their commercial goals.
For example, when was the last time you remember Netflix was down? This is not without reason. Netflix makes use of Chaos Monkey, where they purposely and continuously shut down a random server at random times. Essentially turning an exceptional situation into a common one. Now, in theory when a server would break down, thousands of people would be interrupted in the middle of their show. However, because Netflix makes use of Chaos Monkey, the developers are forced to structure the architecture in such a way that playback will not be interrupted ever, even in those exceptional cases.
This philosophy ensures only robust systems, that are capable of automatically recovering from issues, end up in production. As a result, you get to enjoy Netflix without interruptions.
Jupyter is an online application where you can experiment with different programming languages, focusing mostly on Python. Since this month, they support Go as well. Go is considered a more difficult language to use by some because of its compiling, but at the same time it’s a no nonsense programming language, and very good at concurrency (doing multiple things at the same time). At Owlin, we make use of Go in the backend as well, and because of this update are now able to experiment with it on Jupyter. Fun fact, Go was created at Google and is often referred to as Golang to make it more easily findable in search engines. Isn't it ironic that a Google created a programming language that is not findable on Google. f you want to read more, or if you want to try it yourself, click here.
We Were Here
April seemed to be a month full of events. Here a sneak peek of all the events we attended.
- Owlin hosted a panel at the Nationale Carrièrebeurs
- We joined the Women in Fintech event at the DNB
- A delegation of Owlin attended the Adyen Tech 5: organized by TNW
- Wouter Sterk and Bob Koster were at the Salesforce World Tour
- Our own Bob Koster spoke at the PON event
May 4: Plastic Fishing event with Adyen in Amsterdam
May 17: PensionTech Summit (The Hague)
June 4-6: Money 20/20 Europe (Amsterdam)