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Satya Nadella AU visit

Australian start-ups promise genuine intelligence for everyone and every organisation

Artificial intelligence (AI) applied effectively to real-world challenges is a game changer that will impact every individual and every organisation.

A number of Australian start-ups, alert to the potential of AI, are developing world-leading solutions with potentially global impact, fuelling a software-produced economy and delivering genuinely useful, intelligent apps that will recast the way we work, live and play.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella met with the people behind four of these start-ups.

CliniCloud delivers health dividends

CliniCloud uses machine learning, cognitive platforms and natural language to allow people to take control of their health and wellness. Its first product, the CliniCloud Stethoscope, helped it win the Imagine Cup in 2012, and was released along with a smart thermometer in 2015 as the CliniCloud Medical Kit. The kit has since gone on to win a number of awards, including the 2016 Gold Edison Award in the Quality of Life & Patient Care category, and is now stocked by Best Buy and Amazon in the US.

CliniCloud is now working on expanding its platform so that users will be able to speak directly to a digital health assistant that updates details on their weight, sleeping and stress patterns, and also connect to Bluetooth devices to capture additional medical data such as glucose levels and blood pressure.

Using natural language lowers the barriers to use and encourages people to log details of their health regularly – providing longitudinal data that can be used to identify trends and make effective wellness recommendations. Co-founder Doctor Hon Weng Chong says, “The idea with the cognitive component – the natural language interface – is to simplify the experience – lower the barrier for adoption and make it easier for people to get into a habit.”

This approach will allow CliniCloud to become a personal health agent – a go-to in-home health service that provides access to individual and family health records and can even be directed to make a doctor’s appointment.

CliniCloud’s health and wellbeing platform may also provide the basis for other developers to create intelligent add-ons – for example, to support someone returning home after cancer treatment, or to link to emerging Internet of Things devices designed to support people embracing healthy lifestyles.

Eyenaemia democratises anaemia diagnosis

People suffering anaemia have a low red blood cell count. Left untreated, the condition can lead to significant health problems. In addition, anaemia can be an indicator of other more sinister medical conditions such as cancer, advanced HIV, malaria and kidney disease – and should never be ignored.

However, detecting anaemia can be challenging; traditionally, it requires a blood test to measure haemoglobin, which can be difficult to conduct in remote areas or developing countries.

Eyenaemia uses a combination of smartphones, cloud computing and machine learning to identify anaemia without taking blood. A photo of the inner part of the bottom eyelid uploaded to the cloud from a smartphone can be compared against a photo database to determine whether the person has anaemia. The more people diagnosed, the smarter the system becomes thanks to rich machine learning.

Azure-based, the system can be accessed from anywhere in the world, bringing the power of modern machine to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Currently, a 12-month trial in Kenya is collecting up to 10,000 new data points that will boost the intelligence of the application.

Jarrel Seal, co-founder of Stat Innovations, which developed Eyenaemia, explain that it has been designed so that community health workers – often the backbone of health services in developing countries – can use it. “It doesn’t matter who uses the app in terms of its efficiency – just how many people get to use it,” he says.

Hyper Anna surfaces smart insights

In the workplace, success relies on having access to the right information at the right time, to make better decisions faster.

Hyper Anna takes that to the next level. It is a smart agent that can interact with any data set, either via APIs that connect to SaaS solutions such as Salesforce or Xero, or by uploading data directly to the cloud.

Hyper Anna democratises data science by creating a machine intelligence layer in the cloud that sits atop any data collection the end user chooses, while powerful machine learning means the agent improves with use.

This approach means that whatever the domain, the intelligent agent can access the data reserves and deliver an insightful response in seconds.

Co-founder Natalie Nguyen says, “Building a machine intelligence tool for enterprise will fundamentally change the workplace in two to five years’ time.”

Hosted on Azure, Hyper Anna supports genuine data democracy by being available at any time, anywhere, and is already working with leading companies in Australia such as Westpac.

Opaque Media Group applies AI, ensures clarity

Mixing modern technology such as virtual reality with rich data sources allows Opaque Media to develop truly intelligent services that change the way people interact with the world.

The company has already developed interactive experiences that reveal what it’s like to work on the International Space Station, and in a starkly different setting, to demonstrate to carers exactly how dementia sufferers experience their environment and the world around them, helping them to empathise with their patients.

James Bonner, Opaque’s co-founder, believes it’s the beginning of a new era in technology as “natural user interfaces emerge which are better able to see the world in a semantic way similar to humans. There will be a great leap when we can have devices that understand in the way humans do.”

The company is now creating a business unit applying virtual reality technologies and AI to a range of real-world problems. It is also exploring how HoloLens can take this to a whole new level, and has developed a Kinect plug-in that’s already attracted the attention of NASA. Integrating Azure’s machine learning and data analytics capabilities meanwhile has allowed Opaque to work with the Wellcome Trust to allow scientists to interact in a virtual environment with vast collections of genomic data, to meld machine and human intelligence.

Microsoft technologies support intelligent innovation

These innovative companies have been able to rely on Microsoft for their technology foundations – with the assurance of secure, reliable and continually enhanced services – allowing them to focus their energies on creating the sort of intelligent solutions that will change our world forever.