News & Insight

Newsletter June 25, 2018
AI is here, CogX showed us where it might take us

AI is here, CogX showed us where it might take us



rtificial intelligence (AI) is the buzzword of the day – everywhere you turn, there’s talk of the impact of AI on almost every aspect of our daily lives. That’s why over 6,500 people, including the Humphreys Law team, took part in CogX in London in June 2018. To engage with and advise on the state of the art, you have to get out there and experience it first-hand.

As one of the flagship events of London Tech Week, the who’s who of technology and some of the pioneers in the industry spoke across seven stages over two days of CogX, supported by a fascinating exhibition and startup village showcasing the latest in robots and smart mobility, as well as some leading-edge research.

Opening the conference was Baroness Joanna Shields OBE, Group CEO of BenevolentAI, but probably better known for her previous roles as Facebook’s Vice President for EMEA as well as one of the UK Prime Minister’s Digital Economy Advisers under David Cameron. Speaking about the impact of AI, she said “Our algorithmically designed platform world gives us more choice. As we apply AI to everything we do, we need to be careful what we optimise for.”

Talking about Facebook’s recent travails explaining what they do and don’t do with personal data, she said that we got what we wished for, but with unintended consequences. “Unconscious bias is already creating huge problems in society,” she commented, adding that every society will get the AI it deserves.

The 370 speakers at the conference covered a huge number of topics (some of them captured on video here), ranging from the state of AI today, to the frontiers of AI research and the impact of AI.

Of course, AI is such a nebulous, all-encompassing, subject, that there needed to be real practical case studies and examples – of which there were many at CogX. We saw AI applied in retail, logistics, banking, creative media, advertising, legal, transport and smart mobility and much more.

Coming away from the conference, it was easy to get a sense of how AI has been around with us a few years already, but it will likely have even more widespread impact in the near future – whether its with autonomous vehicles or in smart cities.

AI is not new: Facebook, Amazon, and Google have already been targeting us for years with ads and news (even news to influence our voting in elections), and present shopping choices to us based on lots of tracking that the sites already carry out based on our habits on the internet.

But what’s clear now is that the technology, the hardware, the software and the platforms are becoming available to more companies and organisations, enabling some industries and sectors to exploit the advantages of digital transformation and compete with the tech giants of today. Amazon has been eating the retail sector’s lunch for years, but as Amazon continues to expand in all directions it will be fascinating to watch how other sectors cope and whether they are better equipped to cope.

M&S for instance just announced the launch of a strategic partnership with Microsoft that will investigate and test the capabilities of technology and artificial intelligence in a retail environment. A team of world-class AI engineers and product personnel from Microsoft will partner with the M&S Retail Labs team to accelerate M&S’ digital transformation.

Steve Rowe, M&S CEO, said: “M&S is transforming into a Digital First retailer, at a time when the sector is undergoing a customer-led revolution.  We want to be at the forefront of driving value into the customer experience using the power of technology. Working together with Microsoft to understand the full potential of how technology and artificial intelligence can improve the in-store experience for our customers and the efficiencies of our wider operations could be a game changer for M&S – and for retail.”

“We firmly believe that AI has the power to amplify human ingenuity,” says Cindy Rose, CEO, Microsoft UK. “The retail sector is one of the most challenging landscapes in the UK right now and we are thrilled to be working with M&S to explore how AI can help such an iconic brand transform the customer experience and improve wider operations.”

So, AI is here already, and businesses of all types will benefit from evaluating how the technology – whether simple or complex – might help transform their competitiveness.  We look forward to continuing to advise and working with AI companies and investors into those companies.

[Image: Sophia the robot, created by Hanson Robotics, a key attraction in the exhibition area of CogX in London]

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