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AI Con: the original story

  • Written by Kainos' Dr Austin Tanney

    About a year and a half ago, myself and Tom Gray had a chat about the potential of running an Artificial Intelligence conference in Belfast. I had just established the AINI community with Jordan McDonald which runs meetups and hackathons to educate and inspire the tech community and others about the potential of AI.

    Since then AINI has become one of the most active and popular meetup groups in Northern Ireland with over 1,400 members. We've run about 15 meetup events and two hackathons, the most recent of which had over 250 attendees.

    So, when Tom came back to me a few months ago and brought up the idea of a conference again it seemed like the right time, and AI Con was born.

    Since then, we’ve put together a team of organisers and established a programme of outstanding speakers from world class companies that are both local and global. There are representatives from household names like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Philips and Bristol Myers Squibb. There are speakers from large public sector organisations like the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency and HM Land Registry who are early adopters of AI, as well as some very exciting companies closer to home like Rapid7, Smashfly, axial3d and of course Kainos.

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    This conference is significant. Recently, the Department for the Economy commissioned the Turing Institute to carry out a review of our academic excellence in AI and the output of this was hugely positive. The details of this along with the national response plan will be presented at the conference. To cut a long story short, Northern Ireland is punching well above its weight in the world of AI. In both an academic and commercial setting, we excel, and this is something that is getting noticed around the globe.

    Looking at the people involved in curating this conference is also testament to the quality of companies and people that we have in this area. BrainwaveBank, Analytics Engines, Datactics and Liberty IT are involved in the organisation of AI Con and have helped pull together a list of global and local luminaries who will help educate and inspire the local tech and business community about the potentials of AI.

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    The conference has two tracks, one focussed on business and one on technology. One of the key themes that we are covering in both is the real-world applications of AI. This is not a high-level conference talking about possibilities and future impacts of AI. It’s the real-world impact of AI now and the way that it is impacting on our lives, our businesses and our economy and how it can have positive impacts in the near future. Many of our speakers have already implemented AI and during this conference will share their experiences and the positive impact that AI has already had within their respective business context.

    I'm proud to have been involved in bringing this conference forward from a potential throwaway conversation to a real thing that will be happening here in Belfast on 28 November. More information at 

    Dr Austin Tanney is the Head of AI Engineering at Kainos. He is also a curator of AICON, the first all-island Artificial Intelligence conference on Thursday 28 November in the Europa Hotel, Belfast.

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