29 October 2019, 10:53
ML6 might sound like a spy agency but it does not want to be a secret service – this young, Dutch business wants to blow open the mysteries of machine learning and show companies within multiple industries how data can solve their challenges.
From allowing financial services to detect fraudulent transactions to improving cancer diagnosis, ML6’s self-learning solutions aim to help leading businesses and give them the competitive edge they need.
‘We help companies that struggle with unlocking their data in an intelligent way,’ says Steyn Heskes, country lead in the Netherlands. ‘However, we also partner with industry front-runners who want to use state-of-the-art machine learning to stay ahead.
‘You might have to cut costs, scale a product or streamline operations for efficiency. As a strategic innovation partner, we focus on applications that can make an impact on our clients business in record time.’
ML6 was named with a nod to the British foreign intelligence service MI6, but its mission is more straightforward. The company aims to solve real world business challenges with machine learning and artificial intelligence built on the Google Cloud, where ML6 is recognized as a specialised machine learning partner.
The company launched in Belgium in 2012 and last year was listed within the top 10 of Deloitte’s Fast 50 growing companies. It has offices in Berlin and London and launched in the Netherlands earlier this year, where it is already working for leading companies in manufacturing, media, government, banking and recruitment.
‘AI is very real but to most enterprise technology leaders, the implementation process is still too mysterious,’ explains regional marketing manager, EMEA Danny Holtkamp. ‘The field is moving at a rapid pace. Leading businesses must forge a coherent, pragmatic artificial intelligence strategy without missteps and this is where we come in.’
The niche business, which has its own research department, can move quickly, completing a proof of concept study within 30 days but where ML6 really adds their value is by deploying machine learning projects in live production. It runs AI strategy workshops to help clients identify challenges and develop intelligent solutions that can be deployed rapidly.
Heskes says the fast growing team is straight talking. ‘Sometimes people come to us and say their marketing manager or sales people are telling me that they have to do something with machine learning,’ he says. ‘But of course it’s not always necessary. There should be a business case – it should add value in profit, quantity or safety for example.’
In the Netherlands, for instance, the firm is working with chip manufacturer ASML to use machine learning to drive forward the production of microchips. And in Belgium, the firm is working with gas and electricity network Fluvius to use machine learning to detect faulty gas meter components in its vast network.
The company is also helping Accolade Wines reduce the amount of wine which is being lost during the bottling process. A system of sensors monitors the flow of wine during bottling and an algorithm is used to identify patterns in the data which could mean wine is leaking. ‘Minimising waste is good environmentally and financially, and no-one wants to waste wine,’ says Holtkamp.
Drug manufacturers who want to study the real life effects of their drugs, hospitals which want to combine data to refine treatments, diagnostics and medicines, or lawyers who need to be able to search and organise vast files of paperwork, can all benefit from using intelligent technology.
Yet while some industries in the Netherlands are enthusiastically adopting the idea of AI, ML6 believes that unnecessary worries are holding others back. ‘We see a lot of companies that have not reached their full potential by taking advantage of self-learning solutions and cloud technologies,’ Heskes says.
Jeffrey Hagen, senior machine learning engineer, stresses though that this is the perfect time for innovation, with the cloud increasing computational power, masses of data, and advances in deep learning.
‘Transformational AI is flourishing now because we have a lot more computational power by using the cloud,’ he says. ‘The models are getting better and better and there is much more data available.’