Apple Inc. bought machine-learning startup Inductiv Inc., adding to more than a dozen AI-related acquisitions by the technology giant in the past few years. The engineering team from Waterloo, Ontario-based Inductiv joined Apple in recent weeks to work on Siri, machine learning and data science. Apple confirmed the deal, saying it "buys smaller technology companies from time to time and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans." Inductiv developed technology that uses artificial intelligence to automate the task of identifying and correcting errors in data. Having clean data is important for machine learning, a popular and powerful type of AI that helps software improve with less human intervention.
The room was packed at the annual Machine Learning and the Market for Intelligence conference in Toronto last week. Now in its fifth year, the lengthy name of the event matches the depth of the discussions. But one speaker and her talk stood out to me in particular: Marzyeh Ghassemi, who also happens to be a veteran of Alphabet's Verily, presented "Machine Learning From Our Mistakes." Ghassemi, an assistant professor at the University of Toronto, talked about the importance of predicting actionable insights in health care, the regulation of algorithms, and practice data versus knowledge data. But at the very end, saving the best for last, she emphasized the importance of treating health data as a resource.
The next time you pull out your smartphone and ask Siri or Google for advice, or chat with a bot online, take pride in knowing that some of the theoretical foundation for that technology was brought to life here in Canada. Indeed, as far back as the early 1980s, key organizations such as the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research embarked on groundbreaking work in neural networks and machine learning. Academic pioneers such as Geoffrey Hinton (now a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto and an advisor to Google, among others), the University of Montreal's Yoshua Bengio and the University of Alberta's Rich Sutton produced critical research that helped fuel Canada's rise to prominence as a global leader in artificial intelligence (AI). Stephen Piron, co-CEO of Dessa, praises the federal government's efforts at cutting immigration processing timelines for highly skilled foreign workers. Canada now houses three major AI clusters – in Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton – that form the backbone of the country's machine-learning ecosystem and support homegrown AI startups.