BT has high hopes for its new AI Accelerator

BT Group’s Digital unit has taken the wraps off a new machine learning platform which is supposed to speed up the production of AI models from 6 months to 6 days.

The new platform is called AI Accelerator, and its mission is to oversee AI model deployments developed by BT Group’s data community, ‘assessing their efficacy and behaviour to drive value from the business’ 29 petabyte data estate.’

The idea is this will reduce the administrative and technical processes involved with developing a new bit of AI from prototype to production. Apparently this means the process can now be cut down from 6 months to 6 days via the standardisation of tools and data handling, streamlined software update and monitoring, all of which is made possible automated enforcement of templated best practices provided by AI Accelerator.

The platform will provide ongoing monitoring of AI models in and flag up any ‘drift’ from baseline norms, essentially acting as a scanner for what BT calls its ‘Digital Brain’. It’s continuous assessment of every AI model within the business then allows data scientists to be prompted where necessary to refine and optimise them, as opposed to having to keep an eye on all of them themselves.

“A core driving principle for BT Group is to find a way to safely accelerate the time to value, pound per petabyte, of data,” said Adrian Joseph, Managing Director, Data and AI, for BT Group. “AI Accelerator gives us a path to more rapid value with clear oversight of AI use case parameters and performance.”

Dr Zoe Webster, Artificial Intelligence Director in BT Group’s Data & AI team added: “Thanks to the work the team has done accelerating our migration into Google Cloud, we’ve a healthy testbed for AI Accelerator and are seeing it catalyse AI acceleration across the Group. As we progress, we’ll be able to track the health and the performance of our AI use cases in real time, ensuring consistent, safe, ethical delivery of value from our phenomenal data resources.”

The platform apparently has built-in triggers to make sure that the new AI use cases ‘are properly assessed in line with the company’s data privacy, security and ethics principles, ensuring the safe and responsible use of AI across the business.’ So it’s not going to accidentally build Skynet or a self-replicating homogonous swarm of nanobots hellbent on recycling the earth, or anything like that.

However rather alarmingly, the firm does go on to say that this move ‘represents a major step forward in forging BT Group’s path to becoming an AI-led company.’ Which sounds as if BT is preparing to replace its executive leadership with some form of advanced AI system which will run the company going forwards. Which is one way to deal with ongoing controversy over your CEO’s bonus structure.


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