The AI ​​guy | The Manila Times

Michael Calma sees the rapid development of technology having a huge impact on our lives

Michael Calma Philippines Country Manager ADVANCE.AI

“Fair access to credit is another key aspect of financial inclusion. At ADVANCE.AI, we understand the need for alternative credit scores in a country like the Philippines, where banking penetration is not so important, and even more credit penetration.”

Artificial intelligence – AI for short – was once the stuff of science fiction, with books and movies featuring human-like robots. Today, it is very much integrated into the way humans interact with the digital world: chatbots, the navigation tool and virtual assistants, such as Siri and Alexa, all rely on AI technology. With all these benefits and conveniences, AI also comes with its risks, including data mining and privacy.

For his part, Michael Calma, Country Director of ADVANCE.AI Philippines, is on a mission to accelerate financial inclusion in the country by helping sectors such as banking, financial services, fintech, payment, retail and e-commerce to use big data and AI. to solve digital transformation, fraud prevention and process automation.

“One of our company’s main goals is to make its technology accessible. We have trained our AI models to recognize images captured by a low-resolution camera while maintaining a matching accuracy of over 99%, which allows to the vast majority of our unbanked and underbanked population who can only afford a low-end smartphone. This opens up a lot of opportunities for companies that want to serve this market,” he said.

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AI can help make a bank’s customer onboarding frictionless and secure, Calma also said. “The AI ​​model could quickly and accurately recognize the ID presented and extract the image and details of the ID instead of having to fill out forms. It could also ensure that a live person applies, then compares the captured live face against the image in the ID, and also performs secondary checks depending on the financial product being used.”

He noted that financial institutions were also targets of opportunists and fraud. “We looked at this problem and figured out how to do the not-so-sexy job of securing identities and monitoring transactions for suspicious or fraudulent activity so businesses and consumers can transact with peace of mind.”

Their services include KYC or know your customer, which verifies that individuals are who they say they are, KYB which verifies that companies are who they say they are, and KYT or know your transaction which monitors transactions and real-time fraud detection.

On the consumer side, he advised using good old-fashioned common sense to avoid fraud. “Best practice is to treat online interactions as if they were happening in the real world. We are all aware of the different styles of scams; just apply the same online and you should be reasonably safe.”

Another use of AI is alternative credit scoring. “Fair access to credit is another key facet of financial inclusion. At ADVANCE.AI, we understand the need for alternative credit scores in a country like the Philippines, where banking penetration is not so important, and even more so is credit penetration. Many of our compatriots are new to financial services and therefore cannot be assessed by traditional means.”

Their solution is to analyze alternative credit scores obtained with the consent of users based on a number of data sources, including consumer behaviors in telecommunications, e-commerce and even on blockchains. This allows businesses, from traditional banks to fintech companies to decentralized autonomous organizations, to serve these previously undetermined customers.

College days and startup launch

Before exploring the possibilities of cyberspace, Bataan, 41, from Limay, dreamed of being an astronaut. “It was the 1980s, the height of the space race between Russia and the United States. I wanted to be an astronaut until the space shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986. I was five years old at I guess it traumatized me a bit. After that, I didn’t know what I wanted to be until high school.”

The game was his gateway to technology, via an Atari game console and then an IBM PC/XT. For college, he chose to enroll at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños, Laguna for a degree in computer science. “I wanted to be a web developer. At the time, in the late 90s, I was absorbed in the beginnings of Web 2.0.”

He started a software development company even before “startup” became a buzzword. “I co-founded General Instrument Corp. in 2002 with my father. We had two key offerings: vibration monitoring for rotating machinery and battery testing for power plants. Both practices reduce downtime and cost maintenance of a plant. We have acquired data which, if analyzed correctly, could predict potential points of failure in rotating machinery as well as a backup battery system. This allows our customers to act in a proactive.”

Michael Calma relaxes with his staff at ADVANCE.AI.  CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Michael Calma relaxes with his staff at ADVANCE.AI. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

His second startup, LinkSphere IT Solutions, which eventually became Bridgefort Technologies when it acquired new partners, focused primarily on web programming and eventually cybersecurity and the Internet of Things.

“One of the biggest projects we had then was a membership portal for a union in the United States to help them manage their membership database covering thousands of members across the United States. keys included managing membership dues, managing agreements, job postings, messaging, and Looking back, we created a raw version of the enterprise collaboration suites we see now, such as Slack and Microsoft Teams We simply lacked the motivation and expertise to produce it.

When his first startup started to fail, he pursued a master’s degree in business administration at the University of the Philippines in Diliman in 2005. “I felt that I lacked the basics and the experience to run a successful business. “, he explained.

With the high demand in his field overseas, Calma admits he also considered working overseas. “It crossed my mind, but I never really acted on it because I thought at the time that if I could run an outsourced software development company here, taking projects overseas while enjoying from a lower cost of living in the Philippines, I would be better off. Looking back, I think I didn’t consider the potential learning and networking opportunities that come with working abroad. I don’t I have no regrets, however.

To keep abreast of trends, he has regular social interactions with his network and digs deeper into topics that interest him via YouTube. If a certain topic is compelling enough, he reads books about it.

About the growth of technology since its inception, Calma said, “It’s growing exponentially, as we see with the valuations of technology stocks. On the ground, we experience it every day. In 2002 , I had a Nokia 7110, the banana phone popularized in the original ‘Matrix’ movie If you compare the impact of that on your life to that of your lowest-end smartphone today, we’ll have a pretty good idea of ​​changing technology.

He described the startup scene in the Philippines as “very vibrant” and said three things are driving its growth: the hype cycle for disruptive technologies including AI, Web 3.0, NFTs (non-fungible tokens ) and dark chain, and blockchain is on a trajectory towards mass adoption; the ingenuity of young Filipinos in applying these technologies to real-world problems; and the increased inflow of capital.

“The main challenge for any startup is longevity. Having enough stamina and capital to achieve product-market fit. While the local scene is full of exciting new projects, only a fraction of them will be successful in the long term. – it’s part of the natural life cycle of a startup.”

The key to nurturing young Filipino techpreneurs is education, he said. “Our young people have the natural propensity to embrace new technologies. We need to harness this by improving STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs so that they have the foundation to build and innovate on top of these technologies, technologies, not just consume them,” Calma added.

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Learn through play

The game was Michael Calma’s gateway to technology, via an Atari game console. He then enrolled at the University of the Philippines at Los Baños for a degree in computer science and aspired to become a web developer.

No regrets

Calma has no regrets about working overseas, as running an outsourced software development company in the Philippines has benefits such as lower operating costs.

Been there, done that

Calma started founding startups in 2002 before startup became a buzzword. He and his father founded General Instrument Corp that year. that has helped utilities reduce downtime and maintenance costs.

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