Global information technology services and consulting giant, Atos, has unveiled its latest Google Cloud Artificial Intelligence (AI) Lab in Irving. The new AI lab at Atos’ North American headquarters is part of a global partnership that began in 2018 between the company and Google Cloud to provide clients access to the latest analytics technologies.
The Google Cloud AI lab—the company’s only one in North America—launched in early October. It joins Atos’ Google AI labs in London, Paris, and Munich. Through the network of labs, French-based Atos is helping AI solutions to be adopted in Europe and around the world.
The Irving lab is the company’s largest in terms of square footage. It also has the distinction of being its “fourth and final” AI lab, according to Atos.
Atos wants to help businesses kick-start their AI strategies, Peter Cutts, chief digital transformation officer for Atos’ North American operations, says. Cutts joined Atos in April to drive innovation across its North America customer base.
“Customers are looking for industry-specific solutions for their business needs, not a cookie-cutter approach,” he says.
That’s where Tatianna Flores, head of the new Google Cloud AI Lab, comes in. She leads a core team of eight in the AI lab’s new state-of-the-art facility housed at Atos’ North American headquarters. The team leverages Atos’ delivery teams that have spread across the U.S., she says. The teams takes an individualized approach that combines Atos’ deep digital experience with design-thinking to solve problems.
“It’s not one-size-fits-all,” Flores says.
Inside the AI lab launch at Atos’ North American headquarters
Flores, along with Windy Garrett, vice president of cloud partners and sales at Atos North America, spoke to clients and other business leaders about what is to be expected of the lab at a grand opening in early October.
Everybody wants to get into the AI space, Garrett told attendees. “The AI lab is getting a strong reception from our customer base. But people are still in that stage of ‘paralysis by analysis.’ They want to know: ‘What do we do? Where do we go? What do we do with the data in order to be where we need to be?’”
The lab can be the stepping stone for opportunity, she said. “We’re excited to explore the art of the possible, which is what AI is all about.”
Garrett, in addition to being the main contact for Google Cloud, facilitates the lab’s partnerships, works on investments and has many of the initial conversations with customers, she says. After those initial conversations, Flores, as head of the AI Lab at Atos, takes over client relations. That’s the fun part, she says, “driving it home” to create the solutions for clients and businesses.
They make a good team, Flores says. But, as two women in AI, they’re a duo that’s somewhat rare in the industry, they admit.
Flores got her start in bioinformatics when she began working at French-owned supercomputing company Bull in Phoenix. Bull was acquired by Atos in 2014. Flores moved to Dallas-Fort Worth in 2018 to work on the AI lab project, “which was a good year in the making,” she says.
Today, her team of eight includes machine-learning engineers and solution architects. “It has a very diverse personality profile,” Flores says. “That’s key to innovation.”
To be part of the AI lab team, Flores wants people who are creative and can problem solve. “If you’re resourceful, if you can think outside the box, if you can think of what to do with what you have— and can learn and assimilate information quickly—you might make a good candidate,” she says, noting the “soft qualities” she looks for.
Original solutions through the AI lab
“The exponential nature of AI is just going to explode,” Garrett says. She thinks AI is at a tipping point, and that offers a massive opportunity.
The global AI software market is estimated at $118.6 billion by 2025, according to research firm Tractica, as reported by Statista.
But, competition is fierce. “Nobody knows what their competitors are doing, or how far along they are in the AI journey,” Garrett says. “That can be somewhat paralyzing for businesses.”
“We’ve got a great methodology,” she says. “It’s a little bit different than what our competitors are doing today.”
She explains: The lab’s approach is empathetic. The company considers customer needs first and gets multiple stakeholders engaged in the process, she says. Its focus is on creating solutions that clients can take into the market immediately.
Garrett also says Atos’ AI labs can allow for customers to practice a “fail-often, fail-fast mentality,” allowing customers to “figure out the ‘one big thing’ that’s going to make a difference in their industry.”
That may start with an incubation workshop or a two- to three-day hackathon to create a use-case that’s then ready to deploy. Atos wants a customer to leave its lab with a clear path to solve their challenges by using big data and artificial intelligence tools, Flores says.
“The techniques they use in [many industries], in terms of data science, have been the same for the past 25 years,” she says. But, using the same mathematical models for everyone does not deliver creative solutions to individual problems, and that’s where we come in.
Data is the foundation for AI and machine learning
There’s an education process that goes with this customer base, Garretts says. “The two of us talk to our customers about what the possibilities are for their businesses. And, as an AI lab, that means talking about data first.”
Getting data into a form it can be manipulated is the first step to unleashing its power, she says.
“With AI, you can have a great use case, a great product, and a great idea. But your data needs to have the quality to get the accuracy that you’re looking for,” Flores says. “In a lot of cases, we’re managing the infrastructure where the data is.”
The AI lab can be a natural evolution to help customers expand what they are doing with Atos.
Going beyond the digital norm
But, “from an Atos perspective, it’s not just ‘Let’s go capture more data services revenue,’ or, ‘Let’s just go grow this account,’” Flores says. “That’s not really the purpose of this.”
It’s more about taking customer challenges in a specific market vertical and abstracting it. “We can then hand that to a product team and to R&D and say, ‘This is what customers are asking for—go develop a solution that we can then sell as a company,’” she says.
The focus is on repeatable and scalable solutions, she emphasizes.
The Atos team tries to understand a customer’s needs and what their point of view is. It’s “really important that we don’t give our customers a point of view until after they’ve given us theirs,” Flores says. It’s key to build from that and really understand where someone is coming from for the best solutions.
A unique approach of the lab is bringing in multiple stakeholders from different parts of the business. At Atos, everyone comes together for the right solutions, not just engineers working on the project.
“It doesn’t just start with your innovation team, it starts with everyone” Garrett says. “You’re bringing your HR, your tech, your legal—it actually involves everyone.”
That individualized approach extends to the cloud. While the lab is powered by Google Cloud, Flores says it’s agnostic, as it teams up with AWS and other providers as well.
“First and foremost we solve a business problem and then figure out which provider is going to be best for that,” she says.
Location, location, location
Dallas-Fort Worth is a strategic location for the company’s North American Google Cloud AI lab. In addition to the diversity of businesses in the region, the airport is so close, Flores says. And for Garrett and other company leaders who spend about 75 percent of their time traveling, that’s a boon.
“The operation teams for the people who need to talk to us are not in Silicon Valley or in New York or in London—they are in middle America,” Garrett says. “We wanted something that was easy and accessible. It’s good to be central.”
It also helps with building a pipeline of customers.
This time next year, Atos might have what Flores hints is “more satellite labs and probably a bigger team.”
Quincy Preston contributed to this report.
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