Merging thoughts on artificial intelligence
22 January 2018
This week's Spotlight on Research is with Dr Alessandra Mileo, DCU School of Computing and Funded Investigator at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics
You work in artificial intelligence or AI, what are you interested in?
Artificial intelligence is a vast area, and we are seeing it being used in all sorts of applications.
I am interested in taking dynamic or ‘fast’ data, this is the kind of data that streams or arrives and changes very quickly, like updates on social media or traffic patterns, so if you take a long time to analyse it, the information could be out of date and your answer is no longer valid.
I want to better use this dynamic data to create knowledge that allows us to take actions.
What kinds of ‘fast’ data have you looked at?
“I’m particularly interested in the data used to make cities ‘smarter’, so that might be data coming from sensors, the ‘Internet of Things’ and also data about weather and traffic.
I’ve just finished working on an EU-funded project called CityPulse where we built smart applications for citizens to be able to move around the city taking into account dynamic events.
That might be the best route to get from A to B, taking into account the opening times of shops or interesting events or even potential delays, or maybe you want to know the best route to go on your bike to avoid traffic pollution, or an easy way for people to track and manage their health whether they have chronic conditions and simply want to stay fit.”
How do you make these kinds of applications work better?
“As a scientist who looks at the data and wants to discover new interesting things by combining pieces together, I want to make sure the data is really good quality and in a usable format.
Often the data we could use for smart applications is publicly accessible through the Internet but the problem is that some datasets are not represented in a standard way.
So, we have to talk to the people producing the data and ensure it is ‘clean’ and stored in a way that makes it useful.
Before I came to DCU I worked in NUI Galway on approaches to labelling data semantically so data about particular features are labelled in a way that makes them more easily found and used not only by humans but also automatically by computers.
At DCU I am a Funded Investigator at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics and I am continuing to work on bringing data to the next level of usability.”
What does working in this area mean for you as a researcher?
“Because AI is such a big field, it means I get to work on lots of projects and with different groups of people.
One of the most recent groups I have joined is the new Science Foundation Ireland I-Form centre in DCU, which looks at technologies to improve how we make products.”
What else are you working on now?
“One of my big interests is bringing people together who have different approaches to AI.
Since the dawn of AI, there have been two big lines of thought or approaches that have developed and came more and more apart: what I called knowledge-driven AI, which has formalised rules (the knowledge) and applies them to sets of data and data-driven AI, which looks only at the data and tries to gather information or ‘learn’ patterns from it.
I think if we can do more to combine these lines of thought in emerging AI techniques such as Deep Learning, and get the communities working together, we may be able to make the processes behind AI more transparent and understandable, meaning that we can identify and fix bugs more easily and we can better understand the biases that machines can have when analysing data.”
What do you do when you are not working on deep questions about AI?
“I’m really interested in Italian Sign language – I did some work with friends on translations for the Deaf community in Milan and I am planning to engage with the Irish Sign Language activities going on in DCU and learn more about it.
I also love music. I grew up in Italy and I was in a rock band there for 10 years.
I was the lead singer and I played piano and mouth organ.
When I moved to Ireland in 2010, I kept up with it for a little while but then work and family got very busy. I’d really like to get back into music in one way or another.”