WEX Looks to the Future of Payment Optimization with Artificial Intelligence
By definition, artificial intelligence (AI) is any device that can mimic cognitive functions like that of a human mind in order to accomplish a task with success. In other words, AI is a machine that can problem solve to achieve an end goal. Marvin Minsky, founder of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was one of the first scientists to approach pre-programming a computer with rules that govern human behavior. Minsky, along with a group of other scientists, coined the term “Artificial Intelligence” while participating in a conference at Dartmouth University in 1956.
The phrase entered households across the country when Minsky advised Hollywood producers on the fictionalized character HAL (Heuristically programmed Algorithmic computer) in the movie Space Odyssey. HAL, a computer of artificial general intelligence, controls the systems of the Discovery One spacecraft and interacts with the ship’s astronaut crew slowly becoming divisive in his mission with a tragic outcome. Hal was only the beginning, and now two generations have grown up falling in love with countless AI characters including R2-D2, C-3PO and BB-8, all from Star Wars.
While Hollywood may focus on the emotional potential of artificial intelligence, business has chosen to focus on the practical and functional aspect of it. Companies around the globe are mesmerized by a computer’s capacity for reasoning, knowledge, planning, learning, natural language processing and even cognitive perceptions. But they are also interested in the traditional research aimed at statistical methods, computational intelligence, and traditional symbolic AI that can embolden financial service companies and bolster payment networks. For companies like WEX, combining the two areas of research will help to achieve the most powerful financial systems imaginable where payment networks are seamless and payment optimization is intuitive, streamlined and focused.
Computational intelligence and traditional symbolic AI that can embolden financial service companies and bolster payment networks.
AI technology is advancing faster than anyone expected. Human decision-making is being replaced by computers and software in almost every aspect of business. Autonomous cars and trucks are already in the market with companies like Uber and Google developing fleets of self-driving cars for public use by 2019. The California Department of Motor Vehicles will allow autonomous cars without steering wheels, foot pedals, mirrors, and human drivers behind the wheel to be tested on its roads starting next year as well. However, Uber and Google are not the only ones talking about artificial intelligence. The Consumer Electronic Show (CES) 2018 was proof that AI is here to stay and headed quickly into the mainstream. In an article originally posted on LinkedIn, President of Microsoft Asia and Corporate Vice President, Microsoft stated the following:
“I believe 2018 is the year that this will start to become mainstream, to begin to impact many aspects of our lives in a truly ubiquitous and meaningful way”
Reporting for CNBC Make it from CES 2018, Catherine Clifford suggests that artificial intelligence will be the story of the coming generations, not just the coming year. She goes onto highlight eight ways AI will begin to touch our lives.
- Everybody will have a virtual assistant, and they’re going to be pretty smart
“Personal assistant AIs will keep getting smarter. As our personal assistants learn more about our daily routines, I can imagine the day I need not to worry about preparing dinner. My AI knows what I like, what I have in my pantry, which days of the week I like to cook at home and makes sure that when I get back from work all my groceries are waiting at my doorstep, ready for me to prepare that delicious meal I had been craving.” — Alejandro Troccoli, senior research scientist, NVIDIA
- All your voice-based gadgets will work together (and may get confused)
“Because of the popularity of voice-based personal assistants, we’re starting to see the technology embedded across a wide range of devices, from lamps, to TVs, to cars and beyond. In addition, after initial experiments with a single unit, many people have started putting smart speakers all over their homes. The practical net result is that sometime in 2018, a large percentage of personal assistant users will have regular access to multiple assistants simultaneously—often across multiple platforms. Combine that with the fact that in 2018 we’ll likely start seeing vendors enabling people to customize the trigger word for these various assistants to start listening and, well, it’s a quick recipe for disaster.
Virtual assistants take AI to a new level, combining the need for business and personal support.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly excited about the potential that voice-based interactions can bring to speakers and all our tech devices, but I’m concerned we could hit some serious roadblocks in 2018.” — Bob O’Donnell, president, founder and chief analyst at TECHnalysis Research, a market research and consulting firm
- Facial recognition will be the new credit card
“Thanks to AI, the face will be the new credit card, the new driver’s license and the new barcode. Facial recognition is already completely transforming security with biometric capabilities being adopted, and seeing how tech and retail are merging, like Amazon is with Whole Foods, I can see a near future where people will no longer need to stand in line at the store.” — Georges Nahon, CEO, Orange Silicon Valley; president, Orange Institute, a global research co-laboratory
- Your boss is going to start to talk about AI
“As AI permeates the enterprise, everyone—from the CEO and business unit leaders to your middle managers and frontline employees—will need to be conversant in some basic terminology. Speaking the same language gets organizations on the same page and helps demystify AI’s role in the enterprise and what it means for business processes and workers.” —Chris Curran, Chief Technologist for PricewaterhouseCoopers US, and Anand Rao, innovation lead for PricewaterhouseCoopers US Analytics Group
- Artificial Intelligence will generate media specific to your preferences
“Given the rapid pace of research, I expect AI to be able to create new personalized media, such as music according to your taste. Imagine a future music service that doesn’t just play existing songs you might like, but continually generates new songs just for you.” — Jan Kautz, senior director of Visual Computing and Machine Learning Research, NVIDIA
- Artificial intelligence will write news and market reports tailored specifically for you
“Imagine market reports that were written on demand and not just when the market closed. These reports could be more than just a simple recap of market performance, but a comparison of a how a reader’s portfolio performed against the broader market, as well as key reasons why. For example: It’s 3:35 pm. The market is currently up 1%, but your portfolio is down 2%. This is attributed in part to the purchase of XX stock last week, which has fallen sharply since …’
AI can provide many resources tailored to you and your business, including stock updates, appointment setting, customer service assistance and automated payment options.
“How close are we to being able to do this, and much more? The technologies are very nearly here already, and newsrooms are starting to embrace the possibilities.” — Reg Chua, Chief Operating Officer, Reuters News
- Your computer will become empathetic
“I believe practical advancements in artificial intelligence will start to enable a more contextual form of computing with some of our devices, particularly smartphones and smart speakers. Going beyond the simple question and single, discrete response that typically marks these interactions now, we should start to see more human-like responses to our queries and requests. Multi-part conversations, more comprehensive answers, as well as appropriate and even insightful suggestions based on what it is we’re doing (or trying to do), will start to give us the sense that our devices are getting smart. Ironically, part of the way this development will likely occur is by learning more about people and how they think—essentially building a form of digital empathy.” — Bob O’Donnell, president, founder and chief analyst at TECHnalysis Research, a market research and consulting firm
- Your doctor is going to use AI
“2018 will be the year AI becomes real for medicine. … By the end [of the year] I think around half of leading healthcare systems will have adopted some form of AI within their diagnostic groups. And while a lot of this adoption will happen first in the diagnostic medical specialties, we’re seeing solutions for population health, hospital operations and a broad set of clinical specialties quickly follow behind. In 2018, we’ll begin the adoption of a technology that may truly transform the way providers work, and the way patients experience healthcare, on a global scale.” — Mark Michalski, executive director, Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Center for Clinical Data Science
Along with the transformation aspects of AI, there are also cautions. Using uncontrolled AI for certain business functions especially in the financial sector should be studies and applied with great care. While AI functions will improve efficiencies that will amplify payment optimization as well as mitigate human error in payment systems, this powerful technology might also cause regulatory and ethical issues that could lead to a huge liability for a number of industries.
Regardless of where the different technologies ultimately germinate, it is the responsibility of inventors to teach AI to make decisions according to some moral code, says Holmes. Robots cannot learn ethics from a data set — even a very large data set, he says.
— Ryan Holmes, the founder and CEO of Hootsuite
That said, currently the finance industry is looking at AI to perform tasks that would generally require human decision making based on voice recognition and visual perception. AI automation has already proven to be successful in managing compliance and regulations — components of business that are becoming too costly to manage with human resources.
“Citigroup estimates that the biggest banks, including J.P. Morgan and HSBC, have doubled the number of people they employ to handle compliance and regulation, costing the banking industry $270 billion a year and accounting for 10 percent of its operating costs.”
AI automation will enable companies to process tremendous amounts of data at speeds and accuracy rates that human resources could never reach. These repetitive tasks involving pattern recognition and AI capabilities will actually get better as time goes by, leaving the analytics and strategy to the human workforce. Businesses world-wide are remaining optimistic and hopeful for the kind of advances that big data brought to payment optimization and cloud computing delivered to enable powerful payment networks. In his LinkedIn article Ralph Haupter, suggests that AI will impact our lives as an “invisible revolution”.
“AI will be everywhere—powering your online recommendation engine, acting as a virtual assistant chatbot for your bank account or travel agent, personalizing your newsfeed or guarding your credit card against fraud. AI will be more pervasive – and yet less invasive – than any previous technology revolution.” — Ralph Haupter, President Microsoft Asia
Overall the potential could be transformation in ways never before possible. AI will be used to address powerful industry trends and needs for functions including research and development, design, logistics, manufacturing and customer engagement. If artificial intelligence is already embedded in products and services that we use and trust today, the technology could be pervasive without incident. Haupter believes that it will be this combination of industry trends “maturing simultaneously” that will lead to the acceleration and democratization of AI for the future.
Facial recognition will now be a new way to make payments, approve contracts, and conduct meetings from across the globe.
As it is, our paper paychecks have given way to electronic payments, our light switches have been taken over by voice command and our cars can park themselves. As CES 2018 seemed to indicate, AI is what’s happening. From big data analytics/solutions and predictive technology to language and voice recognition and decision-making products, the AI revolutionary is here, and it is shaping the future of business.