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AI is being used to help stop elder financial abuse

  • Date: Thu, Jul 21, 2022

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AI Special Report as published in the Irish Times

Original content by Beth Gormley, UCD College of Business, PR and Communications Manager

Photograph: Metamorworks as published in the Irish Times

Artificial Intelligence isn’t all about Turing tests and killer robots. In business it’s about process automation and better decision making. And it’s already widespread.

It has gained most traction in manufacturing, which is good news for Ireland.

“Ireland is recognised as a world class centre of excellence in manufacturing, with centres of excellence right across a number of sectors including biopharma, medtech, technology, engineering and food,” explains Sinead Keogh, director of IBEC’s medtech and engineering sectors.

More than a quarter of a million people are employed in the sector, 12 per cent of total employment. It also contributes €3 billion in corporate tax or 27 per cent of the total intake by the State.

To continue to be competitive however, Ireland must invest more in “industry 4.0″, Keogh says, as the use of digital technologies that support advanced manufacturing is known. It includes a range of technologies including cloud based, high performance computing, advanced sensors, AI and machine learning, 3D printing and immersive technologies such as virtual, augmented and mixed-reality.

The roll out of 5G, with 6G already on the horizon, opens up the opportunities for next generation high-speed, intelligent manufacturing.

“We’re seeing huge investment by companies based here in Ireland right across the manufacturing sector in digitisation. In a survey conducted late last year by Ibec, as part of its Manufacturing in Ireland Campaign, 54 per cent of the manufacturing sector said it planned to further invest in digitisation over the next six months,” says Keogh.

Industry 4.0 technologies can help a business to track key performance indicators such as production or scrap rates, forecast accurate delivery dates, avoid missing deadlines and facilitate predictive maintenance, to reduced unplanned downtime.

The financial services sector is also benefitting from the use of AI, with know your customer and anti-money laundering applications increasingly helping to reduce the risk of fraud.

Cal Muckley, a professor in UCD’s business school, developed an AI project aimed at preventing the financial exploitation of older people.

Currently between three and 7 per cent of over 70s are estimated to have been victims of financial abuse, which could be unscrupulous sales, or a friend or family member taking advantage.

The team collaborated with one of the world’s largest global financial institutions, accessing more than five million older clients worldwide, and identified various risk factors of elder financial abuse such as volatility of payment amounts and if the client has granted someone power of attorney.

From this data, they were able to create an alert model that uses AI to remove much of the distraction created by false alarms – reducing false alarms by 57 per cent – enabling skilled analysts to focus on the real problem cases. Additionally, the alert model also identifies new cases of elder financial abuse previously overlooked by analysts. The model is now helping to protect millions of older people against financial crime.

Banks are sitting on “treasure troves of data about people’s preferences and activities,” points out Cal Muckley, a professor in UCD’s business school. “They are huge data warehouses that are not very well organised. But once they see an outcome they care about, like elder abuse, they can start to gather wonderful data to do something about it,” Prof Muckley says.

Businesses are waking up to the opportunities AI presents. “At Skillnet Ireland, what we’re seeing is that most AI activity in Ireland at present relates to machine learning, data mining and AI-driven software for robotic process automation. That’s borne out by research from the CSO which also indicated that around one in 12 companies in Ireland are using some form of AI. We believe that this figure is likely to increase substantially over the next five years,” says Dave Flynn, director of business networks at Skillnet Ireland.

“At firm-level, AI helps businesses to connect and make sense of large datasets, to forecast trends, to make better decisions, and therefore it’s likely to become even more important in helping businesses to inform strategy and priority-setting, while at the same time helping to maximise efficiencies and reduce costs,” he explains.

“At industry-level, given the contribution of the technology, medtech, biopharma, and financial services sectors to Ireland’s economy, and the significant opportunities that exist to deploy AI at scale within these key sectors, AI is likely to become increasing important to Ireland’s economic prosperity.”

Skillnet Ireland is helping businesses through training and education, both those who see opportunities to develop AI products and services, and those who want to benefit from them.

It’s not just big business either. Digital agency Speire, which is based in Cork and Kerry, started out as a traditional website builder, “but after two years in business we realised that website maintenance was killing our efficiency and hammering our margins,” says Stephen Wilson Downey, one of its co-founders.

Web developers typically allocate one to five hours a week to update the sites they have built for clients to keep them secure. “Something not updated is old code, it becomes a back door security risk,” he says. In one instance one of his colleagues was “sifting through 3,000 lines of code” for a problem which turned out to be a missing comma.

“I said there must be a way to automate this and he said if there was, he’d have found it by now. That was our eureka moment,” Wilson Downey says.

The team, plus colleague Praveen Joshi, went on to develop AIP – Artificial Intelligence Platform – as a spin out company.

The AIP platform is now used by other web developers, providing the team with an entirely new and highly scalable business opportunity, as well as a way to make their web development work more efficient.

“It was borne of frustration,” says Wilson Downey, who is about to launch the latest version of AIP. “We’re now also looking at other ways in which AI software can help other businesses.”

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