AI Business recently spoke to Diego Klabjan, professor at Northwestern University in the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences.

Diego is a leading expert in data science and deep learning, with concentration in the finance, transportation and healthcare industries. He has led projects with large companies such as The Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Intel, General Motors and many others, and he is also assisting numerous start-ups with their analytics needs.

At The AI Summit in San Francisco on 28-29 September, Diego will deliver his keynote on ‘Deep Learning applications in Business’, a discussion that will combine his academic background and wealth of enterprise experience.


diego klabjan rs1

Diego Klabjan of Northwestern University


We begin by considering the impact of AI on business overall. Interestingly, though, Diego says he is a proponent of intelligence augmentation (IA) rather than AI. He elaborates on this point:

“The current AI capabilities are definitely at the level of augmenting humans and not displacing us. As such we are seeing the gradual rise of chatbots, robots, machine translation, etc. In some of these settings AI is actually replacing humans, but in the majority of the cases there are still people looking over the shoulder of an AI system. I don’t think this will change much in the next five or so years”.


Diego identifies operational efficiency, planning, customer interactions and alike as a few of the primary areas in which AI will assist businesses. But he is quick to add that there are obstacles standing in the way of complete AI adoption in all industry areas. He outlines three key challenges:

“The first challenge is that there are not many software vendors offering off-the-shelf ready-to-use AI systems. Everything requires substantial tuning and customisation. It implies longer deployment cycles and internal expertise.

“The second challenge is related to the first, insofar as that it is hard to find adequate in-house expertise in AI that will either implement or deploy and maintain such systems.

“And finally, AI systems are black boxes and management does not like to use systems that are complicated and not understood by management. This is true in general for machine learning technologies”.


Academic research is crucial to the development of AI, so what can universities such as Northwestern do to increase and strengthen business applications of the technology? Diego gives us his inside view:

“Scholars are usually very happy with accuracy of 95%, but in practice often accuracy of 99% is required. So we can definitely improve our algorithms to make them more appealing to industry. Second, there is never enough of selling and academia can assist in how to make AI solutions more business friendly”.


With the more widespread use of AI in business, the relationships between universities, product developers and businesses are changing quickly. Wearing his research hat, Diego says he is “definitely seeing an uptick in research projects in deep learning sponsored by companies”. He explains the split nature of these relationships:

“Some of them are more along the lines of ‘let’s see what this technology can potentially do for us’ while others are really seeking a production solution. As AI solutions become more widespread in AI, weak points will emerge that will have to be addressed by scholars (think 95% vs 99%). Another big area that I am not really an expert in is the human interaction with AI systems. Adoption of AI will create feedback from humans and new challenges for academia to address”.


Scholars are usually very happy with accuracy of 95%, but in practice often accuracy of 99% is required


Looking outward to the enterprise, Diego naturally finds that the “tech industry is definitely ahead of the game in adopting AI and there is no reason to believe they will cede the lead”.

But he thinks of AI in a more simplified business context:

“In a free market there will always be companies trying to get advantage over competitors, and AI is definitely an appealing option to take such an advantage. As a result, sooner or later AI will penetrate every industry”.


At The AI Summit in San Francisco on 28-29 September, Diego will be delivering his keynote on Deep Learning applications in Business.

AI Business recognises the huge opportunity that AI presents the business world. At The AI Summit in San Francisco, some of the most exciting AI developers will meet with over 600 CxOs from the world’s leading enterprises.

To find out more, visit:


AI Summit San Fran print screen


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