From brain implants to fake news fighting: Four of the UK’s most innovative AI startups

Charlie Spargo's picture
Igor Volzhanin, Datasine

Igor Volzhanin, Founder of Datasine - the AI-powered MarTech startup - says AI needn't always be paired with cautionary tales. Here are the four UK startups making the most exciting and positive uses of artificial intelligence.

Nobody needs to be told how ubiquitous artificial intelligence has become. At home, we interact with voice assistants and sift through content recommendations from media streaming services; meanwhile, at work our emails are automatically sorted according to their content, while some of us even utilise AI-powered tools that help improve the speed and efficacy of our tasks.

In the UK, the AI industry is booming. According to Crunchbase, the country is third in the world for raising investment in AI and second for the total number of AI companies in operation - and 89% of these companies are startups, with fewer than 50 employees.

Datasine falls into that category. Using our SaaS platform, Connect, we aim to fulfil one of the key roles of AI, which is to automate time-consuming analytical processes and grant people more time to do what they do best: solve problems and get creative.

But this is by no means all that AI is capable of.

With vast applications for AI across almost every sector you can think of, it can be hard to keep on top of what companies are emerging as the most innovative players. Here are those exploring some of the most exciting cases for AI.

AI for healthcare: BIOS

Earlier this year, SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk grabbed headlines when he unveiled plans for Neuralink: a company developing miniscule brain implants to help treat neurological diseases and enable patients with paralysis to control phones or computers via AI.

However, Musk isn’t the only one exploring AI-based healthcare treatments. Cambridge-based neurotech startup BIOS is currently developing “the open standard hardware and software interface between the human nervous system and AI”. And while this might sound like science fiction, the company has already reported a world-first advance with the use of an AI-enabled neural interface.

BIOS is now aiming to develop therapies that adapt signals in the brain and neural pathways, offering AI-based treatments - rather than pharmaceuticals - for chronic disease.

AI for cybersecurity: Hazy

While Big Data was able to open the floodgates and enable the development of sophisticated AI, over time it emerged that many companies were playing fast and loose with their data, which ultimately led to a number of high-profile data breaches as well as the introduction of GDPR.

Thankfully, the result is that a lot more companies are now taking data privacy seriously, implementing strict procedures for ensuring the data they hold is protected. But unfortunately, the restrictions on data mobility has made it much harder for data scientists to unlock the value of this data.

This is where Hazy comes in, running advanced machine learning on customer data sets to create something called “synthetic data”. This data has all the underlying statistics of the original “real” data, but with none of the personal or identifiable information - enabling companies to use the synthetic data to train models and develop new products.

A nice way to visualise this idea is through NVIDIA’s website This Person Does Not Exist, where a dataset of celebrity faces have been used to create hyper-realistic images of “synthetic” people who don’t exist. 

AI for the environment: Cervest

July 2019 was the hottest month on record for the planet, and the year is almost certainly set to be one of the warmest ever recorded. At the same time, ongoing climate uncertainty and extreme weather events wreak havoc on the traditional forecasting models that regulate procurement and supply chain management for food supplies around the world.

Cervest is helping businesses and organisations adapt to these changes, through smarter AI-based risk and opportunity forecasting. The company uses machine learning algorithms to monitor, predict and simulate how the planet’s natural resources will respond to climatic and extreme events, on a local and global scale.

Already, Cervest’s technology has been used to detect early warnings of decreases in soil moisture in East Anglia, helping to safeguard crop yields in the region. However, it’s also worth noting that the implications of smarter forecasting extend beyond agriculture, to risk, investment, insurance, policy and more.

AI for good: Factmata

Fake news, or the intentional spread of misinformation, has emerged as one of the biggest threats to democracy, with many viewing it as even more of a threat than terrorism. Social media giants are now under immense pressure to stem the flow of fake news on their platforms, with Facebook alone removing millions of fake accounts each day.

With a significant amount of fake news originating outside of the UK, not to mention the sheer scale of its distribution, UK policy makers are struggling to tackle the issue. 

In response, London-based Factmata is on a mission to help protect internet users and businesses from fake news, as well as hate speech, propaganda and clickbait. The company uses AI to develop automated content scoring and verification, ultimately with the aim to build a new and improved media ecosystem, and one that users can trust.