Peter Serati, Chief Technology Architect at Alteram Solutions, talks about artificial intelligence in the workplace and beyond
The opportunities are endless for artificial intelligence in the workplace, as well as in day-to-day life, says Peter Serati, chief technology architect at Alteram Solutions.
Peter Serati, born and raised in Soweto, is 37 years old and passionate about his love for technology and all that the most recent innovations in artificial intelligence (AI) can offer people in the workplace, as well as in day-to-day life right now and in the future. He believes the possibilities are endless!
Where did you study?
I have studied in a few places, starting at the Central Johannesburg College, and I am currently in my third year of a BCom IT Management degree with Mancosa. Getting knowledge has always been important to me. My dad always did his best to support me both emotionally and financially and made many sacrifices for me to be where I am today. However, I didn't just expect him to carry the burden by himself, so I used to bake and sell cookies in order to make extra money. To this day, I love baking and cooking. I had to eventually put my further studies on hold and started working, while at the same time starting a new business. Unfortunately, at that stage, the stress was almost too much and my doctor told me to slow down, otherwise I would never see 30.
Where did your love of technology come from?
I was actually a maths fundi. I still love the concepts and learning new ways to look at mathematical problems; technology was my second love. I never had a toy that lasted longer than two weeks. In fact, two weeks was a long time for a toy in my house. I would take them apart and then put them back together; sometimes I put them back better than the original, sometimes it didn't work so well, but I would use the spare parts to create something entirely new.
How did you come to be Chief Technology Architect at Alteram Solutions?
From being a product developer at a cellphone company, I moved to Alteram Solutions, as the unique and innovative opportunities they offered really appealed to my creative side as well as my desire to see my ideas come to life in the way I originally envisioned them. I joined Alteram Solutions as Manager of Managed Services and have just recently been promoted to Chief Technology Architect.
With the advances in AI and how far head Alteram is in our technology, I can see huge growth for the company.
Could you explain a bit more about what AI is?
AI is here and it is here to stay. It will eventually simplify the decision-making process for businesses. In the future, AI will eventually play a pivotal role in: security (physical and logistical); manufacturing; mobility; marketing (through big data and analytics); and shares and stocks. There are many South African companies already using AI in the workplace: insurance companies use it to perform predictive analytics to assess driving behaviour of their individual clients in order to create a client-specific risk profile.
Fleet management companies use AI to map the driving patterns of their clients, detect car accidents as well as track technology to see if a client's car has been stolen or taken an unusual route.
We even have recruitment companies using the technology to screen candidates: this is achieved through facial recognition software in tandem with a ranking algorithm to determine which candidates most resemble the ideal candidate.
Hardware, robotics, gaming, smart devices and smart cars are examples of applications where AI is already having an impact.
You mentioned robotics and smart cars. Are we expecting that robots will be walking the corridors of our workplace anytime soon?
AI has been around for a while (you may remember fuzzy logic and the maths has always been there). The application of AI is still immature, but it is growing and once all the kinks and the odd hiccup have been ironed out, it is guaranteed to grow at an exponential rate. At the moment, it is about organic growth. The autonomous car is the perfect example; the motor industry is introducing this technology in bits and pieces, we have started with cars that park themselves, the future is cars that drive themselves, the technology just needs to be implemented cautiously to ensure it has consumer participation as well as all the precautionary measures have been taken. With any technology, you do get hiccups, which is why this step is being taken slowly, but once we have made that leap, AI is the future.
AI will get to a point where you will have your AI system from home; it will let you know when your car is running out of fuel, it will track your safety. Automation is the biggest driver for AI.
AI is not about robots at the moment, but perhaps in 30-40 years, they will be roaming our corridors.
What are your hopes for the future of AI?
My vision is to have free public WiFi everywhere: in the home, in the malls and also in rural areas. Not only is it a nice to have but it is a security must-have. If you think about it, most criminals carry a mobile phone. Say they attack in a rural area and they are connected to the public WiFi, the police would be able to find and track that number and then ultimately make an arrest. Their movements, everything could be proven by their WiFi footprint. The same goes for cash-in-transit heists and even for mall robberies. It also provides extra comfort for those in the rural areas who are basically on their own, should they be confronted by an attacker. That is my dream.
What skills need to be developed in South Africa to ensure we are up to speed with AI?
The traditional training environment has a human instructor, but with AI, the instructor is a computer software with a huge collection of data and information relating to the subject at hand. The AI application can reference hundreds of sources and present insightful content with unparalleled depth that a human may only ever achieve a fraction of.
The main reason for the evolution of AI is autonomous automation, speed and accuracy in production. Automation on its own has some degree of intelligence. South Africa is somewhat at a disadvantage compared to the rest of the world. Our education system should be the first step taken in rectifying the skills required in a world that will be dominated by AI.
What is the most challenging or the most fun part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is keeping the balance and always remembering the human factor. I have three children who keep me on my toes, and I have been engaged for a year and my fianc'e keeps me grounded. The best part of my job is that no two days are the same; I really do enjoy a challenge.
How do you unwind?
I cook. Boy, can I cook! When I can't sleep, I don't watch TV, I bake. My mom used to cook and bake and I used to love the smells coming out of the kitchen. I think this is where I got my love of cooking. I have a whole book of family recipes that I would love to publish one day! While I was studying, I took the time to write my nice and easy recipe book, all healthy ingredients, but quick and easy, offering alternatives to everything.
The future is exciting and I can't wait to be part of it.
For more information on Alteram Solutions, visit: http://www.alteram.co.za.
Tel: (010) 900 4075