Posted on April 18, 2019
For the past three years, Berytech has been organizing Meetups powered by GIST, a monthly event with the aim to build a network of entrepreneurs in Lebanon focusing on science and technology; to catalyze networking and entrepreneurial skills; and to provide resources that entrepreneurs can use to adapt to their unique sets of social, political and economic circumstances.
The first 3 meetups of 2019 focused on Artificial Intelligence and the series was organized in collaboration with Beirut AI. The first meetup was on Natural Language Processing, followed by a session on Machine Learning and finally a session on Artificial Intelligence in Business.
The first session of the series hosted Hazem Hajj – Associate Professor at the Amercian University of Beirut, Eddy Touma – Co-founder and CEO of Klangoo and Maher Hassanieh – the founder of Fig Chat Bots. The speakers discussed Artificial Intelligence and Natural Language Processing techniques, the latest technologies and their applications, and the challenges we are facing today including the lack of research for NLP Arabic.
“NLP is a field dedicated to the study of automatically processing the interactions between computers and human (natural) languages including text and speech composed of natural language understanding (NLU) and natural language generation (NLG). NLP has been active since the 50s with applications including: spam filtering, sentiment analysis, conversational systems, and text generation,” explained Hazem Hajj.
The second meetup in the series featured Bernard Ghanem – Associate professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the head of the Image and Video Understanding Lab (IVUL) at KAUST, Ali El Zein – Co-Founder and CEO of Ideatolife, and Christophe Zoghbi – the founder of Beirut AI and focused on Machine learning.
Bernard Ghanem highlighted the current state and future directions of computer vision and machine learning with regards to both research and applications, especially in how it relates to the AI boom that we are witnessing nowadays.
Ali El Zein discussed the challenges in the machine learning industry, the AI integrated solutions built for their customers, and he also provided recommendations for future entrepreneurs who are looking into creating a startup in the AI – Machine learning field. Ali took the chance to announce to the attendees the newest achievement of Ideatolife in partnering with IBM as their garage extension for the Middle East.
Christophe el Zoghbi talked about the mission of Beirut AI and the role they’re playing in democratizing Artificial Intelligence and enabling everyone to apply it. Christophe elaborated: “We are currently living in the 4th industrial revolution which is characterized by technologies such as Big Data and Artificial Intelligence. The wave of AI is impacting all industries and revolutionizing many aspects of our current jobs. Whereas once automation was thought to be contained to low-skilled or routine tasks, advances in technology are resulting in the automation of more highly skilled, cognitive tasks.
The new jobs that are being created require more advanced skills therefore we need to educate and train our workforce on the skills of the future if they want to have successful careers in the 21st century. Beirut AI was founded in 2017 with the mission of enabling everyone in Lebanon to understand and apply Artificial Intelligence. We accomplish this mission by organizing events of different types including: quarterly meetups for the community, monthly technical workshops, discussion panels, Data Science competitions, etc…
We believe Lebanon has a lot of talented and smart individuals that often have to emigrate to find good job opportunities. We want to create the same opportunities here in an effort to retain our youth and create a vibrant AI ecosystem that puts Lebanon on the map.”
The third and final edition of the series hosted Dr. Anwar El-Homsi – CEO of Jainus, Roy Labban – CEO of Previse AI and Kevin Boutros – CEO and co-founder of Quadra.
Anwar Homsi introduced the model that will solve the foundational barriers that still exist despite the progress of AI implementation in businesses. He expanded on the subject by saying: “Despite the popularity of AI and according to McKinsey there are many barriers to its adoption which include lack of clear AI strategy, lack of talents, lack of leadership commitment, and data quality and availability.
It is extremely important for leaders to understand the main objectives of AI deployment in their organizations and that the culture changes that are required to implement AI may be daunting for many organizations as it means facing many challenges. Leaders need to handle resistance to change by employees.
Implementing an AI strategy should be part of an overall business objective. It should be aimed at identifying business problems that need to be solved. Data access is one of the biggest hurdles in AI organizational maturity. Leaders should develop AI skills by training existing staff with curiosity to learn about AI. An AI committee is needed to manage the AI implementation and initiative.”
Roy Labban highlighted the current state of the construction industry. He discussed the challenges faced in the construction scene and the solution provided by his startup using machine learning and AI “The Construction industry is one of the largest in the world and its growth rate is expected to double over the next five years. It is one of the least efficient, least digitized, and with a very high rate of project cost overruns and delays. Previse AI is a first mover in the space of AI-based efforts targeting performance improvement in the construction industry. Using IoT and Big Data, Previse AI has built highly accurate predictive machine learning models to help optimize construction equipment performance and increase profitability in construction. AI and Machine Learning specifically can be put to effective use to help enterprises optimize operations and positively affect the bottom line.”
Kevin Boutros wrapped the session discussing the solutions in AI implemented in the agricultural industry and how Quadra used artificial intelligence to detect external and internal defects in fruits to secure high accuracy. Boutros and his team are part of the Agrytech Accelerator Program and have amassed over 100,000 USD in grants and prizes in less than a year. His startup has devised an optical fruit sorting machine, capable of sorting different types of fruits based on the international standards of size, color, and defects.
Berytech Meetups Powered By GIST: building a community around technology and innovation
The U.S. Department of State’s Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) initiative empowers young innovators through networking, skills building, mentoring, and access to financing to develop startup solutions that address economic and development challenges. Berytech has been awarded to create the GIST Innovation Hub in Lebanon thus joining a vibrant network of programs that nurture the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators through direct, on-the-ground training.