Find out how a local company is connected to Steven Spielberg’s film, Minority Report.
What does the 2002 Steven Spielberg directed Minority Report starring Tom Cruise and a Melbourne artificial intelligence company have in common?
A serious passion for future forecasting.
“The inspiration for our company’s name,” says Red Marble AI’s Artificial Intelligence Company founding CEO, Dave Timm, “actually came from Minority Report, which is broadly a movie about predicting the future. A lot of our world relates to understanding data and using it to predict what’s likely to happen in the future.”
The 51-year-old’s company is doing well on that front.
Now a multi-million dollar business, it has clients across mining, shipping, construction, retail and marketing and deploys AI with ASX50 brands such as Microsoft, Coca-Cola Amatil, Webjet and Downer.
Some of its AI software is also used overseas, in North America, Asia, and New Zealand.
That’s a far cry from its early days. When it launched in 2018, the company outsourced software development to South America, but it’s now fully local, with 10 software engineers.
“We’ve found good talent locally – “really bright people” – and now we do all our development in Melbourne,” Dave highlights. “It enables us to turn around software improvements faster and helps with local collaboration.”
On that topic, Red Marble AI has teamed up with the University of Melbourne’s Professor Tim Baldwin from the school of Computing and Information Systems.
It’s a win win, according to Dave. “Tim’s a world-renowned expert in computational linguistics so working with the university gives us access to world-leading research capability, and gives Tim’s team the opportunity to work on commercial problems and gain valuable real-world experience. Universities in Melbourne provide a great source of talent, and companies that engage with universities and embrace that talent WILL thrive. Victoria also has a tremendous blend of academics, corporates and a creative spirit which shines through: it’ll be important to foster that blend as we emerge from COVID-19.”
Surprisingly, the human experience is very much baked into all Red Marble AI’s projects.
“We believe human users should be at the heart of any AI solution,” explains Dave. “That sounds counter-intuitive given we’re an AI company, but humans are amazing; they can infer meaning from multiple information sources in a fraction of a second. Where software helps is it can model that decision making and judgement and apply it thousands of times, across any location, each and every day. It can apply human judgement at scale.”
That’s happening right now to drive improvements in several business areas. In construction, data-centric technologies such as drones, Building Information Management (BIM), Internet of Things (IoT) and digital twins (a virtual model designed to accurately reflect a physical object) are driving insights.
Such a trend will only expand, Dave foresees. “Companies across all sectors are realising they have value hidden in their data and are looking at ways of understanding that data to increase margins, to improve customer experience and to better support their workforce.”
CEO view: the future of AI in Melbourne
Dave’s worked in IT for nearly 30 years and in artificial intelligence for the past five, seeing “the potential for it to transform companies and industries and wanting to be actively involved.”
As a CEO, he reckons the biggest hurdle is giving every project the attention it deserves, and the most rewarding aspect “is when you see the software performing as we hoped it might!”
“I love the challenge of helping software to learn. My degree was in Experimental Psychology back in the UK, and my career spent in software engineering. Applying the principles of learning what we know as humans to software makes every day both challenging and fun.”
What does Melbourne need to do to remain on the front foot in AI?
“This area is still in its early stages of maturity and there’s plenty of opportunities to differentiate among our industry peers,” Dave says. “With brilliant emerging ideas and collaboration, we’re seeing innovation in all sectors and Melbourne has the opportunity to be the innovation capital of Australia by supporting this emerging technology.”
“We see tremendous opportunities for AI-enabled software to help make many areas of business and life more productive. We’re actively developing the products side of our business and as that grows, we’ll continue to hire and develop local talent.”
The next decade, he predicts, will see AI and Machine Learning immersed in ALL digital products and businesses.
“Red Marble AI will accelerate and optimise the use of these tools in an ethical, sustainable way, and keep driving forward innovation with clients and AI-enabled products worldwide,” he says. “We believe in humans; and in AI too. The combination elevates human ability to new levels. We believe AI will transform human performance.”
Spotlight: Technology Adoption and Innovation Program (TAIP) grant
Red Marble AI received a $50,000 TAIP grant, part of a $6.1 million initiative for Victorian small-to-medium businesses to on-board innovative technologies or develop innovative commercial technology.
It used the funds to hire staff for a construction language project, developing an AI language model helping the construction industry improve profitability.
That’s certainly needed as the construction industry – which often operates on ultra-tight margins and experiences cost overruns and difficulties retaining staff – has been particularly impacted by the pandemic.
The effect of the grant is already visible.
“Construction project supplier Downer are deploying an early version of our language model across all of their Australian infrastructure projects,” says Dave. “The AI model’s trained to read and understand documents and daily work notes, called Site Diaries, to form a view of what’s happening on site. The software can read all the notes from any site in real time and alert team members if action’s required. That may be safety or quality-related, or alert a commercial manager to a client instruction or contractual clause that may otherwise be missed.”