We wanted to ask Gianluca Maruzzella, CEO and co-founder of Indigo.ai, to tell us about his fintech and how artificial intelligence has become useful during the pandemic and will be useful in the coming months.
Let’s start with a general assessment. What kind of year was 2020 like for Indigo.ai? Did the healthcare emergency lead to a change in business strategy?
2020, despite the difficulties dictated by the pandemic, was a year of growth for Indigo.ai. Covid accelerated the transition of businesses to digital, to quickly adapt to people’s new online habits. Users, in fact, are looking for more and more information on the web and no company can be found unprepared to quickly provide answers. One of the most obvious solutions is to have a virtual assistant, able to answer 24/7 to most of the questions asked by users in a super efficient way with a higher quality of service (without weighing too much on the income statement in a period, like the current one, full of uncertainties). We haven’t changed our business model or strategy, but like everyone else we have switched to remote working, which has proved to be a very congenial way of working.
Together with the Centro Medico Sant’Agostino, you created Record. What is it and what results is it producing?
The idea came from a call for proposals launched immediately after the outbreak of the pandemic by the Allen Institute for AI in partnership with several American organizations (Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology, Microsoft Research, IBM, National Library of Medicine – National Institutes of Health) and particularly in coordination with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The need was to support research around the Coronavirus and help find a vaccine as soon as possible. So in the summer of 2020, we responded to the call with St. Augustine Medical Center, proposing a data mining system that would help scholars get up to speed quickly on the specific topics of interest, without having to read hundreds of pages every day found in the over 195 thousand scientific articles on COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, and the other types of Coronavirus. A dataset being continuously updated because obviously it was (and still is) a new topic, in which articles, analysis and studies are produced daily. To date, RECORD has been trained on 195 thousand scientific articles and is able to find information relevant to the requests of researchers in 80% of cases.
What about the Vera project?
Vera was born from the need for clarification among the thousands of pieces of news, often false, that were circulated in this last year on regarding Covid. Questions such as: Is it true that 5G causes Covid-19 or that the coronavirus was created in a lab? What is herd immunity? Is it true that there have been more deaths in Italy than in Spain? To give the public quick and precise answers, together with Pagella Politica, Facta, IRCCS Ospedale San Raffaele and EURECOM we have developed Vera, an artificial intelligence project that wants to help people to orient themselves in the ocean of content related to Covid-19, thanks to an interactive chat conversation. Vera has two souls: on the one hand, it she clarifies doubts about medical and scientific issues regarding the ongoing epidemic; on the other, she is able to check the veracity of the news circulating online and in the main media regarding the coronavirus.
You are developing an app to monitor our mood. What is it about and what kind of application can it have?
We have started a study to understand how AI can be of help in the field of mental health. The idea is to monitor our mood through a chatbot that can figure out, in case of stress or difficulty, whether or not to ask for help. We’ve all experienced a particularly difficult and stressful year that, experts say, will have long-term repercussions on our mental health. Just think that during the first Italian lockdown, according to a questionnaire answered by 18 thousand people (conducted by the University of L’Aquila and Territori Aperti, in collaboration with the University of Rome Tor Vergata), 37% of respondents showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress, 21% general stress, 20% severe anxiety, 17% depressive symptoms, 7% insomnia. In this scenario we need psychological support more than ever. A chatbot could ask us the questions we are usually asked by a friend or relative: from “how are you feeling today?”, to “how do you feel about the election results?”, to “do you feel like going out?”… these simple questions can let the AI know what our mood is and help us monitor our stress level, for example to avoid a mental breakdown.
Do you have any projects/collaborations in the coming months with respect to the world of finance?
The financial sector is populated by companies that have continuous interactions with their users, interactions which,especially in the last year also because of Covid-19, have moved progressively online. Today, more than ever, these firms need to use digital systems to converse with their customers and streamline their response times and processes. To date, we have worked with companies of the caliber of Santander Consumer Bank, Gruppo Bancario Credito Fondiario and La Mobilière, and collaboration with companies in the financial world will continue over the coming months.
What do you think are the strands of fintech that will be leveraging AI the most in the coming months?
Fintech was born thanks to the application of technology, and therefore also artificial intelligence, to the activities of the financial world. In this sector too, the adoption of Conversational AI has been massive, reflecting how our way of relating to companies has changed profoundly compared to some time ago: instead of appointments in actual branches, we now prefer immediate, remote and asynchronous interactions. In a change in our habits that was already structural in itself, we were also able to see how and how much Covid has accelerated this transition to digital even more.
From the automatic analysis of documents and financial information to personalized advice to users on how to improve their saving habits, passing through the classic virtual assistant ready to do customer care, I am convinced that any kind of application of AI to the finance sector will undoubtedly move towards improving customer relations and creating efficiency.
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