Accenture launches artificial intelligence testing services

Accenture launches artificial intelligence testing services
20 Feb, 2018

IT services and consulting company Accenture is launching new services for testing artificial intelligence systems to help companies build own AI-driven products and services based locally or on the cloud.

“The adoption of AI is accelerating as businesses see its transformational value to power new innovations and growth,” Bhaskar Ghosh, group chief executive, Accenture Technology Services, said in a statement. “As organisations embrace AI, it is critical to find better ways to train and sustain these systems – securely and with quality – to avoid adverse effects on business performance, brand reputation, compliance and humans,” Ghosh said.

The Dublin-headquartered company said the new testing services works in two phases. While the first phase helps companies focus on choice of data, models and algorithms to teach the machine learning engine, the second phase helps them compare results of the engine with key performance indicators and understand if the engine can explain the decision-making process.

The first phase evaluates different models to select the best performing one to be deployed into production, while avoiding gender, ethnic and other biases, as well as ethical and compliance risks, the company said The testing phase uses cloud-based tools to monitor the system for sustained performance, it said. 

According to the Accenture Technology Vision 2018, AI systems require addressing many challenges faced in human education and growth.

“Testing AI systems presents a completely new set of challenges. While traditional application testing is deterministic, with a finite number of scenarios that can be defined in advance, AI systems require a limitless approach to testing,” said Kishore Durg, senior managing director, Growth and Strategy and Global Testing Services Lead for Accenture. 

“There is also a need for new capabilities for evaluating data and learning models, choosing algorithms, and monitoring for bias and ethical and regulatory compliance. Accenture’s ‘Teach and Test’ methodology takes this into consideration to help companies develop and validate AI systems with confidence,” Durg said.

The company said it has used the new testing services to train a conversational virtual agent for a financial services company’s website  so that it could engage in accurate, unbiased conversations and know when to refer conversations to a human.

"The agent was trained 80% faster than previously possible and achieved an 85% accuracy rate on customer recommendations," the company said.

Tech giant Google has also started offering artificial intelligence-tailored chips on its cloud platform to companies for advanced testing as part of its effort to accelerate machine learning models. 

The Tensor Processing Units (TPUs) are hardware accelerators optimised to speed up and scale up specific machine learning workloads, Google product managers John Barrus and Zak Stone wrote in a blog post. The TPUs will help machine learning experts train and run their models more quickly, they said.