Dissecting Human Behavior Through AI With Kordel France
Almost every sales transaction can be done through the internet these days, making the process simpler and faster. Since human behavior is constantly evolving, using AI to allow sales to keep up is now a widely accepted idea. Chad Burmeister talks with Kordel France, CEO of Seekar Technologies, to break down how various industries use AI to develop sales strategies. By designing them according to individual behavioral patterns, businesses are able to offer personalized experiences to the market. Kordel explains how buyers should be mindful of the ethical aspects of AI, particularly with the use of confidential information and the approach to mobile privacy. Kordel also discusses how B2B's future lies in automation that augments human capabilities instead of replacing them.
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We are going to have a fabulous conversation. I can't wait to dig into it. Let's jump in with our guest. Open up, let's go through the basic, simple stuff, name, company, title, role, what do you guys do. Let's get everybody acquainted and on the same page.
I'm Kordel France. I am CEO of Seekar Technologies and I'm also contributing engineer to a lot of our product development as well. Seekar Technologies is an artificial intelligence company that develops solutions in AI that follow three particular principles. We are in a few different industries. The two particular principles we follow is building AI that's mobile so building AI that isn't necessarily attached to a cloud. Building AI that is explainable so we built our artificial intelligence to try to explain itself just as a doctor, a user, whoever and whatever the customer maybe can.
Also building AI that's ethical so making sure that our data has well-rounded and we are not using face recognition in a bad manner or a manner that sets people to distrust artificial intelligence in general. Our products are in a few different industries, including healthcare, security, outdoor recreation, sports. All of our technology is built on those three fundamental principles.
It is a fantastic way to start. We will dig underneath it. I'm going to start before that was barely formed. I want you to close your eyes and picture Kordel at 6 or 7. What did you most like to do when you were at that age?
When I was 6 or 7, I liked to build things. I was fascinated with things such as Legos and Mathematics. I was quite drawn to find cause-and-effect relationships. Being able to find why things occur in a certain manner, given their inputs and Math provided a very good vehicle for that. You have input into the equation and that equation transforms something into something else. I excelled very highly at Math and love that as a kid and building things in general.
Coupling that in Computer Science at the high school when I started coding. I fell in love with coding, being able to find relationships and patterns among things. I draw a meaning behind data that otherwise doesn't seem to have any meaning, in particular, was something that I fell in love with in high school. I was a lover of Legos at 6 or 7, for sure. That was probably the bulk of my day.
AI is a huge contributor to getting to the buyer what they want.
You are halfway there already because what I'm generally curious about is how people evolve from their earliest childhood patterns and how those childhood patterns manifest themselves in the work they do later in life. You have given us a hint about that just by describing what happened through high school. If you picture yourself then and picture yourself now, how does that connect for you?
Everything we do at Seekar is artificial intelligence. I started Seekar building the technology platform that it's built on. It's pattern recognition in many different forms. Being able to take that love for finding patterns in data that doesn't seem to manifest patterns, that carries into what Seekar does. There are a lot of Math involved with AI if you dig down into what artificial intelligence is. I think carrying those trends throughout being a child and into my life now, manifests itself into what Seekar is and does with its products and its technology.
Another thing as well as I grew up on a farm and my father has some tractors that drove themselves. Being able to see something robotic that's that big driving itself and steer itself and perform all these operations without me having to do anything set my tone for wanting to go into robotics, which is AI. That was another huge contributor that set the pace and said, “This is definitely interesting and I'm going to pursue this for the rest of my life.”
Given that your family knows you, has this made it any easier for you to explain what your company does and how you help your clients to your family and extended family? They know you than the average person that's in AI that maybe has a more difficult time explaining what they do.
It's a lot broader what I do now, what I am now compared to what I was. They knew me as a Math geek, basically and now it's something a lot different. Once you show them products or some of our software that performs pattern recognition, predicting financial markets or whatever, they start to get it. They go, “I could see how pattern recognition, Math, your love for all of this and coding throughout high school has led you to this point.” It's definitely difficult, not only to my family but to anyone, in general, that's not really fluent in AI. That's something we are trying to fix with our products. We are making it so people will understand artificial intelligence, they trust it a lot more and don't just think of it as Terminator or I, Robot.
Put yourself on the other side of the curtain. How do you use AI within your own company? Outside of what you do for others with your product, what do you use AI for?
We use AI in a couple of different realms now. One of them is time series prediction. Being able to make use out of taking a bunch of data of different forms and actually find patterns within those data that lead to meaningful use by customers. For example, we have been able to use that to quantify people's breath or people's speech in different manners so that you can detect respiratory patterns that might indicate different stress in your respiratory system through a microphone. Analyzing audio signals is one way.
A lot of what we do is pattern recognition. It's a pattern through images and video but it's pattern recognition on images and video on steroids. There are a lot of companies that do image recognition where they can take very clean images, cleanly cropped images and find patterns in those or detect objects. Ours are specifically built for bad or blurry objects where you might see a corner of something you are trying to detect.
If you can imagine something like a camera that's smudged and blurry, it might be cracked, and you are trying to find a needle in a haystack, essentially. We excel in that. We also couple it with a lot of other things such as RADAR or LiDAR to take in a lot of data mediums and make sense of all of those mediums in particular but also segregate them in pattern recognition different forms, is something that we use in all of our products. It's to say, “I want to build these RADAR. I want to use all these different sensor suites or I want to only use cameras, or whatever.” Being able to obtain meaningful outcomes in those patterns through all those data mediums.
Basically, if you didn't have AI, you wouldn't have a company. Is that fair to say?
That's correct. Artificial intelligence is what Seekar is founded on. We are a technology company at heart and I have a problem actually with the word AI because the meaning behind AI changes over time. It was different in the 1980s than it is now. I was reading the paper and in the 1980s, some folks considered linear regression, which is a Mathematical method, to be artificial intelligence to some degree. If you say that now, that's laughable but to some extent, that took a lot of computational power back then and it doesn't now.
AI seems to move with the level of computation that we have throughout time, in my opinion. What it comes down to is it's this really beautiful blend of Mathematics, Statistics, Computer Science and you can probably say Physics. We have just been able to have such a proliferate access to a computational power that we have been able to see such an increase in magnitude and the ability that this Math and Computer Science plan to has such a high scale that's manifested itself into artificial intelligence.
It is safe to say we wouldn't have a company without AI but we are built on Mathematics, Computer Science, which is the backbone behind AI. That being said, is a hard field to keep up with. Also, not only to keep up with but also to explain. There are a lot of advances that are happening every day in AI and a lot of contenders. We try to specialize is in fields that aren't getting a lot of attention with AI investment and also research.
Twitter serves as the pulse on how people are thinking and behaving in real-time.
As an example, artificial intelligence is receiving a lot of research, developments and funding actually in self-driving cars, smart home assistants and different things like that. In some aspects of medicine, we try to expand our portfolio and trying to bring in other industries that aren't as familiar with what artificial intelligence is and the benefit that it can provide for their companies so they are more fluent in how it can actually benefit their business.
Such as realms like this are of a particular disadvantage are like agriculture. There are some realms of medicine. We have done a lot with security in outdoor recreation, believe it or not, in being able to provide digital safety. We are trying to really take AI to a different level and democratize it so that it's not so concentrated in just a certain area. It can then expand into other markets as well to help everyone.
The one thing I haven't heard yet and I'm curious in your perspective, is I haven't heard two words put together and that's human behavior. Let's talk for a minute about, either in your perspective on it or in your specific applications from the alignment of your company, where's the intersection of artificial intelligence with human behavior?
Most of Seekars’ product portfolio is in healthcare and most of our customers are at healthcare. All of that healthcare work is around emotion recognition and behavior recognition, healthcare and finance for behavior recognition. Being able to take a lot of data and to extract meaning behind people's behavior, whether it's microphones, cameras or even time-series data by financial markets is a new field and quite interesting.
We have a product that we are using in neuropsychology. We are trying to build it to be able to find indicators of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's and other things. Believe it or not, we've carried this technology over into finances and sales, too, because we’re being able to quantify people's behavior in the way they perform certain actions and the outcomes of those attributes. Particularly in sales or finance, for example, one interesting thing is that's a new field. It's like to make or interpret people's behavior through social media.
Twitter is like a pulse on how people are thinking and behaving in real-time to make sense of that. That's a hard problem but if you can do that, that can help with sales, financial markets and a lot of other things as well. Being able to quantify what's happening in the news and particularly, diagnose people's behavior in that regard.
Also, a lot of our products have a mobile aspect to them through an app. User behavior, seeing how people behave, how they react to different things and how they use different features within our mobile apps that incorporate artificial intelligence, has been very eye-opening for us. You have a small amount of time to capture the user's approval and capture their attention, which they will never use your product again or will continue to use your product. If you don't make a good impression right away or you do something that really offends them, you are basically blacklisted in their mind. It's a very sensitive thing. Being able to interpret human behavior is a hard problem but a massive opportunity and is something that we are chasing heavily.
Since this show happens to be called AI for Sales, let's drill into your descriptions about the impact on AI for sales from an AI guy's point of view, rather than a sales guy’s point of view. Let's just jump a short time forward. Let's jump three years forward, which in the cycle that AI is changing, is a very short time. How can you see the impact on either the client from how they can buy or the seller from how they can satisfy the client's needs through the impact of AI, as you see it?
Let me briefly address the seller's perspective. From the seller's perspective, I believe that AI is enabling them to capture a lot more detail around what customers want and don't want and catch user’s behavior. We have a direct data feed from everyone's mobile devices, which is attached to everyone's hip throughout the day. That is providing a lot of feedback, particularly for the use of sales.
However, the data acquired is a different argument but being able to capture data such as that or user behavior through products is of particular advantage to the seller of those products. It's not exactly intuitive on why a user might buy or might not buy a product. The beautiful thing about AI is that it might be able to find those behaviors or those patterns that can indicate to the seller that these are the things that you should probably develop upon to ensure to make a more marketable product.
These are the things that seem to dissuade users from using the product or this feature. To find patterns that aren't obvious is what AI is very good at. I think that's a particular advantage to the seller. From the buyer's perspective, there are a couple of things I should primarily also be concerned with ethics. There are a lot of data that is accumulated through a mobile device that is particularly used for sales. There's a boundary that I believe some companies cross and being able to use that for sales, in which they are not exactly indicating privacy.
I will be the whistleblower on that. There are not any fine lines for those companies to say, "You need to communicate that." Defense of both sides, I won't get into that but buyers need to be aware about how their behavior is being monetized for different things and being monetized for data. I just spoke about being able to use social media to dictate a general consensus about where the population or how the population is accepting certain topics, trends or whatever.
AI must be augmented to human capability instead of replacing them to give birth to a super salesman.
I don't think that's bad because you are viewing a general population that these users are de-identified or see a general direction of a trend. when you take someone's personal data or their behavior, and you don't communicate that, you are looking at them at an individual level and saying, “I'm using your data for sales.” Some lines are blurred that should probably be unblurred in that regard.
From the buyer's point of view, that's something to be concerned about but as a buyer, we are also getting a lot more particular, curated products to our data feeds and AI is a huge contributor to that. Being able to say, “I think I know what you like now, what your preferences are and that you are going to particularly like this style of clothing,” and they feed it to us.
That's beautiful because then it decreased people's ability for searching and they find the product they want faster and companies gain loyal customers faster. The two primary aspects of the seller's point are making sure that we are being ethical about the way that we are handling people's data. Also, we are being appreciative of the fact that AI is a huge contributor to a buyer getting the thing that they want.
It's fair to say that every informed individual realizes that there is a price that's an inherent inconvenience. I will use Google as an example. If you want the convenience of all of Google's features that make your life easier when you are on the web, then the price that comes with that is Google's access to your life. If you are willing to make that trade-off, then it's a fair trade to you. If you are not informed enough about what that trade-off is that you are making, then shame on you.
The same thing is true in a social media environment. In a Facebook environment that says, “I can control what they can do with my information regarding ads or I cannot.” That's my choice. If I'm not well enough informed to be able to control that, shame on me. If the company decides then to use the access to where I go, what I see, what I do and form those trends as you see it, it's not an accident by any means what shows up in my News Feed and that benefits the sellers, then it's all fair trade. To me, there's as much bonus on the user as there is on the ethics of the seller. The informed user has as much importance as the ethical seller.
I accept that the trade-off with Google. I have Gmail, I use a Suite of Google products and in exchange, I give them access to a lot of data that's valuable for them. I get that convenience trade-off that makes my life a lot easier, organized and more structured. To some degree, I feel like I know the extent of what they can do. You and I both probably do. To some degree, we know the extent of what they can do and the damage they might be able to do by knowing all this data and access to our life.
I don't particularly have anything to hide. I don't think that they can have access to all this stuff. This goes into making AI but technology, in general, is explainable to people. Some people don't understand technology as well enough, in which when they see that there's an invasion of privacy, they assume the worst case. They assume things that they have heard or seen through pop culture and it takes a bad turn in their minds.
If there's a way to have both sides understand that, “You are getting a service that's free monetarily but at the cost of that, they are going to monitor some of your behavior to make their products better and benefit their bottom line.” If the customer understands the extent of what their behaviors monitor is going to be, I feel like it could be an agreeable exchange and say, “There's not a bad angle to either side.” Both sides are being honest and conveying what they are acquiring or wanting upfront.
Now, there's a benefit to both parties. There needs to be some benefit, some due diligence on the customer side or anyone who's building technology to the customer for them to know how much damage this product can do if they do have access to it. On the seller side of the product as well, being able to convey exactly what we are going to do with your data and to acquire to some degree.
One last question that I will ask you to extend into is we have been talking about things in the press of AI into buying and selling behaviors, primarily with a B2C mindset. Think about it in a pure B2B world. For example, the way that your B2B clients make decisions and the way that you and your team go about selling to your clients, where do you see the implications for AI in the B2B world?
As AI progresses in the future, there's going to be a large emphasis on bots, in which an exchange between businesses, for B2B particularly, might not be entirely person-to-person. To utilize this as a service from one business to another, all this communication's going to have to happen through chatbots at a larger scale. Unfortunately, interpersonal connections for that B2B sale might dwindle throughout time. I hope there's a way to stop that. It might be more efficient in some manner to automate some of those sales, which is probably why companies are pursuing it so heavily. Automation will definitely start to seem less interpersonal connections for that B2B sale.
Additionally, I think blockchain is going have a huge impact on sales later on or as particularly with B2B clients because it provides some explainability in some sense. It seems like there are a lot of interest in the benefits of blockchain and that it can provide in the way it works and how it can provide a more secure transaction between different currencies and be able to make that process a lot easier. Blockchain will have a huge impact on that B2B interaction later on. That could take one of a few directions.
Humans must train AI to help them get better at their jobs.
You are combining two newer technologies into that B2B direction. The fork in the road could be quite interesting but in those regards, at least I think that might be the general direction that that's headed. It's quite interesting, particularly about the stock market. Years ago, to buy a stock, there was a face-to-face interaction with a broker. You had to go in and sign a document. It was a long time ago but maybe not too long ago, actually.
Now, there are trading bots out there that you just hit, run, and they buy and sell several times a second or several times a day. That interpersonal connection is deeply gone in that regard. There are still some firms that you can go into to actually purchase and sign a document to purchase a stock. In general, it's all automated or done online through an app or a website. I feel that backs my perspective in that the stock market has gone that direction and it's proven to be successful. I don't think anyone has any intention of going back in the other direction of eliminating these bots. It seems to be headed in the automated direction, to begin with. B2B, in general, will follow that.
You are already seeing that by the time a company engages somebody from a firm in a complex sale, they are already 65% to 75% through their buying cycle. Their ability to gather information electronically to talk to other companies that are using that technology, that product, that service, whatever it is.
The ability in a traditional sense for a salesperson to manage an end-to-end selling cycle themselves is dwindling or at least it's morphing compared to what it might have been 10 or 15 years ago. That may not be as much done by a bot yet, but at least because of the availability of the information, it's being done differently now. You suggest that it may be done in a more automated fashion as time passes.
Another thing too, companies are putting a lot more information online. The primary purpose of having a client meeting was to convey information and present or to find more information about a company in particular. A lot of people are making more access, a lot more availability to their products, vision or the company online, which might eliminate some need for human interaction. Additionally, one thing that I hope happens is there are a lot of tools out there that are built upon AI that can help augment salesmen and the seller. They can have a lot more information, angles of data and AI being able to quantify what all these things mean so that the seller has more information on their hands to make a decision and for the buyer as well.
We can use AI to augment human capability and not really replace it. Humans have an incredible value. You shouldn't just remove humans altogether. Why don't we build it to augment their capability and just make them super salesman or sellers? They are better at their jobs in general. They can do it faster. They have higher throughput and they can make smarter decisions. That would be great to see as the development of artificial intelligence continues.
You used a great word, augment because there are a lot of places where behavior gets more productive if it's augmented by technology, not replaced by technology. If a buyer can be augmented by technology access to information and trends, more performance information, etc. then so can a seller be augmented by far more information about the buyer. Also, about their company, the company's performance, where their challenges are and things that are people have said in real-time.
Put them in a position to be able to talk about the business value of their solution in a way that the only way they could do that in the past was through having the meeting and having them say those things to them or they are saying those things in public in different forms. You can go and gather all that information in a much faster, productive way because of the availability of information and there are AI tools to be able to pull that stuff together. It's interesting seeing even buying and selling isn't a war that if you've got two sides to the equation that each of them has its own ways of being improved through the use of technology.
A lot of people are scared that AI is going to replace a lot of jobs. I'm more optimistic. Why don't we use it to augment our throughput, our capabilities and not replace them but make us superhumans at what we do? Going back to the sales thing, to get more information about your products, you had to have focus groups and you had to do a bunch of different things.
Now people are really freely putting that information online. They are leaving reviews and all these different types of things. The seller has a lot more bandwidth and a lot more information to vector their product development in the right direction. There are a lot of AI tools that can help make sense of all this information so that it's more interpretable for everyone.
That's a lot of power and it makes them better at their job but it doesn't replace someone who is in control of product development. It just shortens their path to getting a better product. That's a beautiful dance that I hope continues to occur in which we are actually making humans better at their jobs while using AI. There's this great symbiotic relationship, in which we train the AI to be better, then the AI helps us get better at our jobs. We train the AI to be better and we have this exponential progression in productivity.
Kordel, this conversation has been a delight. It's gone in a lot of different directions. It's all stayed central to the theme, both the show of your business and our business. I appreciate you coming on. Continue to stay on track and come back every week. You will learn nothing but this quality of interaction and this quality of guests. You keep coming and we will keep bringing them. Kordel, thank you very much. I appreciate you here.
Thank you so much for the time. I enjoyed the conversation and I'm a big fan of the show. Thank you very much and thank you to your audience.
About Kordel France
Machine learning engineer with experience in computer vision, augmented reality, GPS, autonomous systems, and optics. Published multiple products in automatic target recognition, signal processing, robotics, and medical imaging.
Other projects include optimization of aerodynamics using neural networks, and autonomous navigation through optical flow, SLAM, and visual inertial odometry.
Long-term research goals reside in the replication of consciousness through AI.