It Takes a Whopper to Understand the Power of AI

As a newly minted member of the Forbes Technology Council, I recently wrote an article discussing what we can learn about AI from a Burger King Whopper.

You may have seen the commercial: a food attendant looks into the camera and says, “Okay Google, what’s the Whopper burger?” prompting Google Home devices everywhere within earshot to cite the Wikipedia entry. Some call it advertising at its best and others are not so happy with its intrusiveness. But, call it what you may, it’s a perfect example of AI in action.

The article uses the Whopper ad as an example of how AI is taking hold in every facet of our lives, and after decades of planning for its arrival; it’s finally here. While some companies are still not taking the AI plunge quite yet, it pays to take that first step, or else risk being left behind.

Stay tuned for future Forbes post on the subject.

Happy to Welcome our New Director of Operations to the Wovenware Team

David Linares Brings Years of Tech, Business Experience

I’m very excited to welcome David Linares to the Wovenware team as our director of operations. It’s been a transformative time and a period of incredible growth at our company, as we add new staff, sign on key customers and build our AI practice and David is exactly what we need at this pivotal time.

As director of operations, David will contribute greatly to our strong culture of excellence and customer commitment by introducing innovative paradigms, and leading our talented team of engineers as we continue to develop disruptive products for our clients, such as chatbots, deep-learning algorithms and other smart applications where enterprise, legacy and machine learning converge.

His experience as Microsoft Azure business manager with a local company, as well as previous positions with Microsoft,will help our customers as they transition to the cloud and find better ways to accomplish traditional tasks. Likewise, his experience as CIO of a health insurance firm, as well as other positions in the healthcare industry, will benefit our clients greatly since he acutely understands how smart technologies can truly impact care collaboration and ultimately patient outcomes.

The AI revolution and other modernization initiatives are only just beginning, but Wovenware is poised to lead the way, with the industry’s only dedicated data analytics team, proven data scientists and deep learning algorithms and chatbots that are bringing a new level of digital advantage to both traditional and new customers alike. We’re confident that with David Linares joining our highly talent team, we’re headed in the right direction for continued growth.

Nearshoring – The Fast Path and Short Cut to AI Deployment

Any way you look at it, AI is complex. There’s so much that’s involved in developing smart solutions, and as they continue to get more and more sophisticated, it’s only going to get harder. So, what’s a company to do? It’s clear that you can’t avoid the AI revolution, nor should you try to.

Smart apps are cropping up everywhere. From personal assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, to the Roomba vacuuming your rug or self-driving cars, AI applications seem to be everywhere we turn.

They’re not just making our lives easier, but businesses are benefiting from AI too, with greater productivity and customer service, as well as new insights that lead to better decisions — in areas ranging from manufacturing, financial services, and insurance to retail and healthcare.

Now, organizations are developing AI apps that can predict future behaviors, such as the expected value of a customer, the probability of customer churn, the likelihood of a customer getting behind in payments, or even defects in medical products before they go to market.

On a grander scale, hospitals are using AI to address major issues such as identifying the latest cancer treatments and research to best meet a patient’s needs based on individual markers and other patterns, tracking the potential spread of infectious diseases, identifying potential security risks during the airport security screening process using facial recognition and AI software, and much more.

Staying competitive

The companies that don’t focus on AI will be left behind. Forbes noted that companies with strong infrastructure investment, senior-level buy-in and clear goals, are gaining profit margins ranging from 3-15 percent based on the McKinsey Global Institute Study, and discussion paper, Artificial Intelligence, The Next Digital Frontier.

So, what does that mean for businesses really of all sizes? It means the time to act is now. AI requires constant refining and attention to produce quality results. It requires lots and lots of data – the more the merrier – in order to train the AI software to learn, and companies need dedicated data engineers to collect, prepare and maintain this data. Then specialized data scientists are needed to develop algorithms based on the data, and continually test and refine them to improve outcomes.

If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. It’s tough for companies, especially mid-sized ones, to dedicate these types of resources to develop a strong AI program. And even if you wanted to and had the capital, time and focus to commit to an in-house AI program, there are very practical obstacles in your way. In addition to recommended investment in a GPU-based server to efficiently process the complex algorithms, there is a real shortage of data scientists.

And the challenges don’t stop there. AI development typically involves more than hiring data engineers and scientists. Many AI programs today rely on crowds to identify patterns in images to help train the software for image recognition. While most use public data sets, such as Amazon Mechanical Turk, it can take time to get results and the algorithms don’t always perform as well as those from private crowds, which rely on trained individuals to identify the specific data-sets you need.

For all those reasons it doesn’t make sense to do it alone; not when there are many service options to consider.

Take a long-term view

How do you decide where to turn for help? It’s best to find a service provider that has capabilities across the AI development spectrum, from helping you identify the problem, collect and organize the training data, build algorithms and experiment with them, to designing and deploying applications, and providing ongoing maintenance and continuous improvement.

The last one – ongoing maintenance and continuous improvement – is just as important as all the others, since AI isn’t the type of application that you can develop and walk away from, or update once or twice a year – rather it requires ongoing vigilance to continue to perform effectively and learn.

AI is driving renewed interest in nearshoring

Unless you are a huge firm with lots of disposable income to build your own AI infrastructure – the GPU servers, the dedicated data scientists and private crowds – most firms understand that it makes sense to deploy AI as a service – paying as you go for the development of specific algorithms.

While service firms are in high demand to meet this new AI need, many firms are turning to nearshoring for the cost-savings and efficiency it enables. Nearshore providers offer the same capabilities that mainland U.S. firms offer, but at a more reasonable price point. For example, billing rates of software developers based in Puerto Rico are typically 30-50 percent lower than their mainland U.S. counterparts, with the same – or even higher – quality.

With proximity to the mainland, nearshorers can provide the same convenience, communication and fast turnaround that companies are used to. By nearshoring to Puerto Rico, companies gain the added benefits of a highly, educated skilled and trained workforce who are U.S. citizens, speak the same language, and have a shared culture and high standards, as well as a deep understanding of their customers’ business environment. Puerto Rican firms follow industry best practices and U.S standards in all of their software development, including ISO 27001 guidelines for an information security management system to ensure security of their customers’ data and intellectual property.

AI software is a critical investment, but fast becoming a necessity for companies who must remain competitive, improve customer relationships and elevate their decision making and profitability. In an age when “build-your-own,” is being replaced with “as a service,” nearshoring is gaining renewed traction as a speedy vehicle to get on the AI fast track.

Honored to Join Forbes Technology Council

I was thrilled to learned recently that I have been accepted to join the Forbes Technology Council, an invitation-only community for CIOs, CTOs and tech executives.

Forbes Technology Council members are selected to become part of a curated network of successful peers and they gain access to a variety of exclusive benefits and resources, including the opportunity to submit thought-leadership articles and short tips on industry related topics for publishing on Forbes.com.

Scott Gerber, founder of Forbes Councils, said, “We’re honored to welcome Carlos into the community. Our mission with Forbes Council is to curate successful professionals from every industry, creating a vetted social capital-driven network that helps every member make an even greater impact on the business world.”

There’s so much digital disruption taking place – especially when it comes to AI, such as deep learning, machine learning and chatbots – and I look forward to sharing my insights, opinions and lessons learned with readers, as well as my Forbes Tech Council peers. I’m sure I will also gain valuable insights, ideas and inspiration from them as well.

So stay tuned for my regular blog columns appearing on Forbes.com, and I look forward to your feedback and the ensuing discussions they may ignite as we traverse this changing digital landscape together!

UPR Mayaguez Campus Job Fair: The Future Looks Hopeful for Rising IT Professionals

Wovenware was very excited to sponsor and participate in the 29th Annual Job Fair at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) Mayaguez Campus – one of the biggest job fairs held within the UPR system.

Each year we are more and more impressed with the number and caliber of new computer programmers, developers and engineers searching for their first career experiences after years of refining their skills in classes, internships and Coop programs.

Given the damages from Hurricane Maria and the population exodus, we were grateful for the turnout of bright students expected to re-energize our workforce.

We met with more than 100 job candidates and held more than 90 job interviews in one day alone, meeting with UPRM graduates within software engineering, information systems and Electric engineering departments. It’s great to see so many new graduates choosing to remain in Puerto Rico and share their expertise and talents to foster a new generation of tech talent on the island.

Is everyone focused on AI?

A key difference in this year’s job fair was the overarching interest in Artificial Intelligence (AI). Many of the graduates we met with have studied machine learning, data science and AI in depth and are looking to put their studies to practice in these areas.

This interest fits in perfectly with Wovenware’s innovative software engineering services in AI, and we were able to identify good candidates for our internships in these areas.

If you were unable to attend the Wovenware Booth at the Mayagüez Job Fair, Wovenware will sponsor the Job Fair at the UPR Bayamón campus on May 8. You can also visit our website and submit your resume for opportunities in Software Development, Business Intelligence, Data Science and Project Coordination.

Expo Puerto Rico 2018: Sharing Experiences and Insights as a Technology Services Exporter

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking before attendees of Expo Puerto Rico 2018 , an event put on by the Commerce and Exports Company of Puerto Rico (CCE), to facilitate access to information on international trade, innovation, financing and incentives for export.

Expo Puerto Rico Exporting Services - Photo from @CCEPuertoRico Twitter Feed

Expo Puerto Rico Exporting Services – Photo from @CCEPuertoRico Twitter Feed

Speaking before a packed room of entrepreneurs, I discussed how globalization has made the world a much smaller space, yet an incredibly large platform for business growth and opportunity. When Wovenware began in 2003 we sold mostly in Puerto Rico, and today we have more than 40 customers across the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and the Caribbean, exporting more than 50 percent of our services.

I shared with them the steps we took along the way, such as how we defined a go-to-market strategy and developed an in-bound marketing plan; and how this was all applied in action, landing us key client engagements.

When exporting services and products to other regions, the key is really being relentless in your preparation, planning and persistence, and understanding there is a vast world of business opportunity at your fingertips. And when all else fails, being located in Puerto Rico provides unique advantages – the beaches and climate provide a great incentive for customer visits.