March 14, 2018

Getting by with a little help from our AI

Ever find yourself spacing out when someone mentions the words Artificial Intelligence? Or shuttering at the acronym alone?

Well, before you click the back arrow in petition against some pretty cool tech that’s moving our world forward, here’s some food for thought: I bet you found this website using it.

And while robots-gone-rogue has been the plotline of Hollywood blockbusters for decades, AI in real life is actually a well-intentioned system of computer operations we customize to assist or complete the often mundane or time-intensive tasks on our to-do list.

In fact, Travis Connors, a partner with Borealis Ventures, said, “I like to call Artificial Intelligence Augmented Intelligence instead as it’s really assisting humans in making decisions.”

That’s where AI fits into what we’re doing here at Curate.

Similar to Google, our software scrapes the web to find all the public municipality meeting minutes and agendas for a certain area, as our construction clients can request documents across the whole state or within a 90-mile radius of their headquarters.

Then, our AI — specifically, a type called natural language processing — picks through the documents (up to 7,000 just in Wisconsin alone each week!) to find snippets of sentences with keywords indicating the early stage of construction or engineering projects that our clients would find useful.

Often times, the natural language processing is smart enough to hit the nail on the head.

Other times, it totally misses the mark, such as the word “development” as in “commercial development” versus “professional development” or the word “well” as in “well water” versus “well off.”

Oooh the English language is a tricky thing, but luckily we humans catch those mistakes before the results get sent out to our clients. We’re consistently training our AI each and every day to produce the best possible early project information and competitor intel.

And as the software runs and learns from its “mistakes,” its AI develops what experts call a neural network.

Over time, an AI system expands its neural network, which enables it to “think” more on its own and make more efficient decisions, such as knowing the difference between those words in the English language that are spelled the same but have different meanings in different contexts.

This is actually the case for all AI systems around the world, especially for young AI systems with a lot to learn, and humans have the ability to keep AI on the right path.

Our coding guru and co-founder, Dale, has the ability to tweak our software’s AI so it does or doesn’t pick up certain keywords, and our data coordinator, David, has the ability to train our software’s AI so it knows which keywords we deem appropriate in what context.

Without AI, we’d be manually reading through all the public municipality meeting minutes and agendas to find those keywords cluing in on project information.

Can you imagine that? It’d be a round-the-clock task which would prevent us from spending as much time on more personal work such as speaking with potential clients or recruiting interns.

And since spending on construction isn’t slowing down anytime soon — a projected 27 percent increase across the U.S. over the next several years, according to — we’re thankful our software is smart enough to curate public municipality docs for us.

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