Concordia’s new AI institute focuses on real-world applications


Swedish telecommunications company Ericsson has assigned approximately 125 staff to participate in the AI ​​institute’s first telecommunications-focused cohort.

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Theory is turning into practice at Concordia University’s new artificial intelligence institute – and that could mean real technological breakthroughs for companies that have invested in the school, such as Swedish telecommunications equipment maker Ericsson.

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Concordia officially unveiled its Institute for Applied Artificial Intelligence on Friday, which began quietly operating in the fall and is now co-directed by associate professors Tristan Glatard and Fenwick McKelvey. Faculty and students aim to develop apps to help solve real-world problems in industries ranging from medicine to finance and transportation, often with the goal of bolstering cybersecurity.

Ericsson, which has a 1,000-person research and development center in Saint-Laurent, has assigned about 125 employees to participate in the IA Institute’s first telecommunications-focused cohort, said Paul Baptista, head of the Montreal site of the company. Working alongside approximately 35 Concordia professors, teaching assistants and students, employees set out to enhance Ericsson’s innovation efforts.

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“We brought our work to class,” Baptista said Friday in a phone interview. “In the usual model, where you send your employees to school, they don’t always have the opportunity to apply what they have just learned. In this case, people worked on Ericsson assignments with support and guidance from Concordia professors. Thus learning is more immediate and more effective. We are very satisfied with the collaboration. It’s going to be hard to go back to traditional school.

By focusing on real-world applications, Concordia aims to carve out a place for itself in Montreal’s growing AI ecosystem, said Mourad Debbabi, dean of the university’s school of engineering and computer science. , which has approximately 11,000 students. As projects move forward, “multi-million dollar” deals with Ericsson and Hydro-Quebec will likely pave the way for further training and R&D partnerships, he said.

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“The focus is on advancing the state of the art in terms of AI and machine learning, but there is less emphasis on the application of AI,” Debbabi said in an interview. “What’s needed is being able to take these AI technologies and apply them to different areas like transport, health, cybersecurity, smart cities or energy efficiency. To do that, you need knowledge of AI and you need domain knowledge.”

Ericsson’s involvement with Concordia comes as the company accelerates the rollout of next-generation mobile networks – known as 5G – in countries like Canada. Since these networks carry huge amounts of data, the company hopes that AI can help it reduce its energy consumption.

“AI and 5G are intimately linked,” Baptista said. “5G needs AI to work, and AI needs 5G to carry all this data, because it’s masses and masses of data. There is a strong push for a reduction in consumption One way to do this is to have enough intelligence in the network so that it can limit power consumption while still meeting data demand. can be studied.

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Telecom companies “sometimes struggle to deliver a good experience because situations arise,” Baptista added. “With AI, you might be able to react to situations more instantly rather than popping an alarm and having a human handle the situation. If it’s a simple case, AI can process it in milliseconds.”

Based on what he has seen so far, Baptista said his company would be open to deepening ties with the AI ​​institute. Ericsson will also seek to recruit students closer to graduation.

“We have some ideas about what the future could be like,” he said. “There could be other cohorts like this. As the institute trains students, we will move into this talent funnel for immediate hires. With the current talent situation in Quebec, we have to think a step or two ahead.

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