Our algorithmic venture into AI | PKF Malta

Artificial intelligence and robotics are two ‘overnight successes’ in advanced economies that have been decades in the making, and their intersection will soon change a multitude of industries


It was Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, at a speech he gave last year at the Delta summit, who talked about a vision to regulate Artificial Intelligence (AI), the internet of things (IOT) in an all-encompassing regulatory framework.

In his mind set, Malta just about climbed the slippery slopes of blockchain, and is now in an adventurous mode to tackle the next mountain of AI.

Undoubtedly, a technology that USA tech giants pour billions of dollars annually into for research and development purposes.

It is an open secret that government is keen to be seen helping innovation and would like to see Malta becoming a jurisdiction that attracts talent from all over the world.

Artificial intelligence and robotics are two ‘overnight successes’ in advanced economies that have been decades in the making, and their intersection will soon change a multitude of industries.

The evolution of smarter AI and more versatile robotics has helped both technologies to push past repetitive tasks to take on adaptive and more intelligent applications. In the coming years, the result will be nothing short of a revolutionary paradigm shift.

AI technologies will continue disrupting beyond 2019 and become even more widely available due to affordable cloud computing and big data explosion.

The gargantuan task was taken on board by Silvio Schembri, Malta’s junior minister for the digital economy and innovation.

At a recent press conference in Singapore, he revealed the country’s plans for the government’s new task force in an ambitious mission to become one of the world’s leading AI nations.

How can Malta gain from the wave of popularity that is gripping the ubiquitous sector of robotics?

The answer is found in the impending age of smarter robotics. These will certainly have a profound impact on traditional manufacturing; for instance, our health sector will soon make use of robotics to allocate medicines to patients and assist in useful operations taking place in the operating theatre.

AI thrives best by combining large amounts of data sets with fast, iterative processing and intelligent algorithms. This allows the AI software to learn automatically from patterns or features in that vast data set.

It is trendy to read on latest AI topics in the mainstream news. It is no exaggeration that AI has become a catch-all media term that refers to any computer programme that automatically does something.

Many people make referrals to AI without actually knowing what it really means. There is often a public debate on whether it is an evil or a panacea for humanity. Put simply, one may explain that in Malta this technology will in the near future spearhead novelties in the manufacturing sectors and create interesting scenarios in areas of productivity, safety, service, transportation, land registration and police records.

More will be revealed in the near future, when driver-less cars will become fully functional and slowly enter into the mainstream.

Autonomously driven cars and drones are both forms of advanced robotics, and they will pave the way for more specialised services that will speed productivity. They will impact every area of our lives.

As was the case of the internet revolution, some of the originalities will happen in a gradual, evolutionary way; albeit some will happen in a sudden, revolutionary manner.

To delve deeper into the subject matter, one may mention that apart from AI there is its cousin - Machine Learning (ML), and its sibling - Deep Learning (DL).  One may actually think they are all of the same stable but in fact they are different.

AI and the Internet of Things (IOT) are inextricably intertwined, with several technological advances all converging at once to set the foundation for an AI and IoT paroxysm. AI involves machines that can perform tasks that are characteristic of human intelligence. Typically, it includes things like planning, understanding language, recognising objects and sounds, learning, and problem solving. It goes without saying that the learning process involves feeding huge amounts of data to the algorithm and allowing the algorithm to adjust itself and improve.

To give a simple example, machine learning has been used to make drastic improvements to computer vision (the ability of a machine to recognise an object in an image or video).  In order to achieve this, the process may involve gathering hundreds of thousands or even millions of pictures and then have humans tag them.

For example, the humans might tag pictures that have a cat in them versus those that do not. Then, the algorithm tries to build a model that can accurately tag a picture as containing a cat or not as well as a human. In its simplicity, one may then conclude that once the accuracy level is high enough, the machine has now “learned” what a cat looks like.

Deep learning processes are one of many approaches to machine learning. It was originally inspired by the structure and function of the brain, namely the interconnecting of many neurons.

PKF Malta has taken the initiative to launch a training lab called the The Bit-Pod concept. This is a meeting place for informal discussions among practitioners, engineers and IT enthusiasts to network where they can informally discuss topics on the cosmic subject of this technology.

This is a non-profit organisation, intended to help connect entrepreneurs (mainly start-ups) to people, programming engineers, and other enthusiasts across the AI, blockchain and robotic fields. Whether you are looking to connect, learn, share, or work, Bit-Pod offers a selection of opportunities to network with other start-ups helping you scale the slippery slopes of early stage development.

It is undoubtedly true, that in other countries such initiatives are automatically sponsored by government agencies. The champion is Israel, which habitually offers financial and logistical help to nurture growth among start-ups. Regardless, the private sector in Malta is ready to give its share to develop this ambitious niche that will place Malta among the front runners in technical innovation.

Mastering this objective helps Malta to fulfil its mission to establish a national artificial intelligence stratagem.  Do not miss booking your place at the tech crowd converging in Malta for the Innovation Summit to be held next month.

More in People