The locally based U.S. headquarters of a global information technology consultant is learning all it can about machines that learn, helping customers in retail, banking and beyond map the future of “artificial intelligence.”
Sogeti USA has had a presence in the Dayton area since 2002, first in Centerville off Paragon Road, then quietly moving to Austin Landing in the summer of 2012. The company has about 85 Dayton-area employees and about 300 across Southwestern Ohio.
The company offers IT consulting, design and testing of web sites and apps and more, pursued from locations around the globe.
“One thing I like about Sogeti, when I go to a global meeting, it’s like being at the United Nations,” said Michael Pleiman, Sogeti USA executive vice president, who oversees the company’s Southwest Ohio operations. “I never thought as a farm kid growing up in Ohio, I’d be sitting next to somebody from Germany, from France, from India, from Mexico.”
Artificial intelligence — machines and products that “learn” — is just one of the areas they focus on.
“Artificial intelligence, it’s like what the cloud was,” Pleiman said. “It’s coming.”
“Computing has become extremely personal, and I think that will be the case with AI,” said Doug Ross, Sogeti USA vice president.
In time, we may find artificial intelligence in machine-learning or augmented-reality uses, offering ways to look at a product with, say, an advanced form of Google Glass or advanced glasses that screen out information, Ross said.
“You could effectively see overlaid with reality, additional data (about the product, with the glasses), to help you make decisions,” Ross said. “That could be in business settings, that can be in a consumer setting, for gaming as an example.”
Sogeti has produced research papers exploring just about every facet of artificial intelligence. (To see some of them, go to labs.sogeti.com/artificial-intelligence-now/ for more.)
The papers examine fear of artificial intelligence taking one’s job, the social impact of robotics, even the impact of “sex robots” and much more.
Srini Datla, Sogeti vice president of digital manufacturing, based in Sogeti’s Miami Twp. office, is focused on “smart” products and “smart” production facilities where AI come into play.
AI can be used in inspecting products coming off a manufacturing line, he said, comparing a product to a “model” of how it should be look.
“It has the intelligence to find out defects in the product, identify them and take more corrective actions based on what they’re seeing, through an augmented reality,” Datla said. “It’s extending the person and supplementing the person who’s on the shop floor with intelligence.”
The goal is to go beyond an inspector struggling to compare a product to a model on a laptop, he said. AI may even help 3-D printers “personalize” or customize printed parts, precisely meeting manufacturing needs.
And artificial intelligence can be embedded perhaps in the printed parts themselves, he said.
“It’s about smart products,” Datla said. “It’s enabling products to understand where they are operating and personalizing them.”
Ross has been working on delivering artificial intelligence solutions for a “very large client in Cincinnati” and other clients on the East coast he said.
While Ross can’t name his customers, he can say there is growing interest in “software robots” — software that ably speeds and repeats routine tasks. That could mean speeding consumer information to call center representatives, freeing those employees to focus on callers and speeding answer time.
The software could “learn” how to do that by watching a call center rep at work, then repeating those tasks with greater speed and precision.
“As you can imagine, the benefits are manifold,” Ross said. “You have a benefit just in terms of work response time. Reps can become much more efficient.”
There are benefits to streamlining highly repetitive activities — activities employees often dread — whether in a front office, a call center or back office, Ross said.
“There are so many clients who are interested in bridging the gap and making customers responses faster,” he said.
Does this mean software and artificial intelligence will replace humans? Ross and Datla understand the concern, but are skeptical of that idea.
“There is generally always a need for humans,” Ross said.
Artificial intelligence can help people become more efficient, responding more readily in more comprehensive ways, he said.
“We are becoming better, thanks to the machines, but I don’t see an immediate trend of people being replaced because of machines,” Ross said.
Sogeti itself is always hiring and works with all area universities to find its next workers, Pleiman said.