Ideas in Augmented Intelligence: BT, Cabinet Office and TechHub award SMEs

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BT Infinity Awards recognise winners for their AI innovations in the retail, defence and public sectors

BT, in partnership with the Cabinet Office and TechHub, has announced the winners of its Augmented Intelligence competition at a special event held at the iconic BT Tower in London. The competition, which is the 14th of its kind run by the BT Infinity Lab, was launched earlier this year to find innovative small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with expertise in Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, and robotics whose ideas could help transform the retail, defence and public sectors.

The nine finalists in the competition were assessed by a panel of experts including General Sir Chris Deverell, Commander, Joint Forces Command, MoD; Alison Pritchard, COO of the Government Digital Service; Andrew Tibbitts, COO of TechHub; Simon Bourne, CIO of The Co-operative Group, as well as a range of innovation, retail and public sector experts from BT.

After a Dragons’ Den style presentation, the judging panel selected three winners: Archangel Imaging; ultimate.ai and Cortexica. Each will receive a £10,000 prize, plus six months’ membership to TechHub’s global entrepreneur community, workspace and support programme. They will also have the opportunity to work with BT to explore technical and commercial partnerships to bring their solutions to market.

John Manzoni, Permanent Secretary for the Cabinet Office and Chief Executive of the Civil Service, said: “The reforms we’re undertaking across the Civil Service will only be achievable if we harness the latest in innovative technology. So I’m delighted we could be a part of this exciting awards process which encourages innovative solutions and provides us another great opportunity to engage and encourage SMEs.”

Archangel Imaging, based in the UK’s space industry cluster near Oxford, scooped the prize for the digital defence enablement category, with its application of artificial intelligence to unmanned camera systems. The firm’s technology combines hyperspectral sensors and machine vision to better detect objects which could be missed by the human eye. Potential applications of the technology include the tracking of illegal activity such as smuggling and child labour and the monitoring of offshore critical infrastructure such as oil pipelines.

General Chris Deverell, Commander, Joint Forces Command, MoD, said: “Congratulations to all the winners, who have demonstrated that there are a wealth of opportunities in the fields of artificial intelligence and machine learning, including robotics, simulation and modelling. Companies such as Archangel Imaging show the potential of applying such technologies to the military sector to modernise Defence.”

ultimate.ai, founded in Finland, won the public sector category. Combining deep learning with a Human+Machine approach, their tools augment customer service agent workflows to increase response speed and accuracy. By providing reply suggestions in real time and growing in accuracy through use, their solution retains the ‘human touch’ in customer service while reducing workload pressures experienced by customer service agents, boosting job satisfaction.

Alison Pritchard, Director of Government Digital Service, said: “It’s inspiring to see ultimate.ai’s vision for a future in which machines work seamlessly with human roles to enhance customer services. It’s possible to increase job satisfaction by reducing a lot of the repetitive, manual tasks, at the same time as improving the experience for customers.”

Cortexica, spun out of Imperial College in London, was awarded the prize for digital retail. Their solution combines computer vision and machine learning to perform image and video analysis. This can be applied to a range of consumer activities, such as for example enabling online shoppers to buy items that they see in videos.

Colm O’Neill, BT’s MD for Major Business and Public Sector said: “It’s clear that the future success of retailers will be determined by their investment in technologies that help to enhance the experience for their customers. Cortexica has recognised that there is a growing demand for the fast, accurate analysis of video content.

“SMEs are the backbone of the UK economy and are critical to BT’s success, with the company counting more than one million SMEs as customers, while 40 per cent of our suppliers in the UK are small firms. That’s why the Infinity Lab programme has been designed to identify, nurture and support new start-ups and SMEs in the UK, with BT playing an active role in accelerating their growth. Congratulations to all the winners this year, with the standard and volume of entries being higher than ever before.”


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