Interview with Roy Daya: AI Guru and Technology Entrepreneur

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Roy Daya

Interview with Roy Daya: AI Guru and Technology Entrepreneur

Hello Roy Daya, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a technology entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience. Since 2012, I have been involved with many AI-related projects and have become an expert in applying AI technologies to real-life business scenarios.

Getting remarkable results on real-life AI projects requires that I connect to the data in the deepest possible way, and in some cases I fly to remote locations to get a first-hand experience of the meaning of various data elements.

I look at every customer engagement as a personal challenge I want to solve.

With my company, AppliedML we have developed various tools and products that help us deliver remarkable results.

Roy Daya


What are your focus areas and why?

We focus a lot on operations and safety, especially in industrial or other complex environments. I focus on these areas because these are the places where we can almost always guarantee results. When you focus on marketing or on more external factors, there are usually many variables that cannot be accurately predicted and take a long time to validate.

I prefer projects where we can bring success to current processes and improve results, or even save lives, by reducing risks from dangerous processes. I prefer doing ten small, fast and very successful projects than a long-term project that is hard to evaluate. We take pride in bringing amazing results to our customers.


Tell us a bit about “Applied Machine Learning.”

AppliedML started in 2012 as a consulting company giving AI-based solutions to real-life challenges. We chose not to apply the traditional technology mindset of looking for problems to solve, but rather we embrace challenges and find the best approach and most suitable technologies and techniques to bring a cost-effective solution to a given problem.

One of the challenges of AI is obtaining the needed data to analyze. We have developed a set of computer vision-based products that can observe a situation where people or animals interact with objects, machines and materials and then learn about safety and operational procedures that will reduce incidents and optimize work processes in real-time. These solutions are almost impossible to automate in any other way. To bring the same benefits, a customer would need to place a human safety or operations expert in every location where we have our automated AI-based analysis technology.


Where do you think “Applied Machine Learning” is making an impact?

I believe our greatest impact is in situations where there is a need to optimize a complex, constantly changing and sometimes dangerous process involving elements that are difficult to measure. I think our creativity and experience help us find the best way to analyze a situation in a way that produces actionable insights in real-time, which ultimately affects the bottom-line and helps build momentum. This in turn gives us the opportunity to be given more challenges.

Almost every project is different, but our knowledge of industrial processes, validated processes, the safety aspects of industrial environments and other topics give us a great head-start with every project.


In AppliedML our solutions are all easy to deploy on any laptop or PC and can be operational after a short setup with moderate resources and no external internet access

Roy Daya


What were some of the biggest challenges you encountered while traveling and consulting on AI challenges around the world?

AI is a very data- and processing-intensive field. Consulting and traveling means you don’t always have the computing power you need, and you cannot always rely on network resources because of data transfer quality and privacy concerns. This changes the approach and forces us to have a clear strategy and process because resources are scarce.

In AppliedML our solutions are all easy to deploy on any laptop or PC and can be operational after a short setup with moderate resources and no external internet access, which is not available in most facilities.  


Tell us about some of the exotic places you have visited while working on AI ventures?

We have customers in various locations in South America and I just visited Costa Rica and Cancun a couple of months ago. Before that I was in Iceland and in a few locations in Eastern and Western Europe. We have customers in Africa and the Middle East and are about to do a few projects in the coming months in South East Asia.

I love traveling and flights give me a great opportunity to pause from daily work and think about strategy and business development.


How does business culture differ in various parts of the world?

I think business politics and business etiquette are very different in different countries, and our experience plays a big role where we have it.

When we fly over, it is usually after we have already secured the project by a corporate sponsor or by a local partner. Our local contacts are usually field managers and they are almost always very friendly and professional, and we really enjoy working with them and learning from them. We try to be very appreciative and show our respect because we never have enough time to fully understand all the social and political nuances.


 How do you negotiate cultural differences as a consultant?

I think it is important to have a local translator, not just when there is a language barrier, but also to translate the meaning of situations and behaviors. We analyze work processes and it is critical that we understand what and why things are done in a certain way. It also helps us maximize the effectiveness of our time with the customer.


What are some of the biggest AI challenges facing the world right now?

I think that there is a very strong push by AI platform vendors to sell enterprises platforms regardless of the optimal solution to the actual problem. Enterprises are told that if they take all their data and dump it into a mega computer on the cloud, the magic of AI will happen automatically. Sadly, this is never the case. Enterprises are spending millions on tools, and more on training, only to realize that they ended up having to go through a very expensive process looking for suitable problems their new tools can solve. This causes some enterprises to become very critical of AI claims and hype. AI has some amazing tools, but they are just tools. The tools should be used to solve a specific problem and not as a magic wand.

There is a new generation of AI developers that will grow while experimenting with various tools and they will lead the world into a more effective use of AI. It will just take some time until there are enough of them out there.

I try to at least experiment with almost every tool and technique that I find. I am committed to solving a problem using the best tool and I do not try to do a project with a specific tool that I am committed to. This is obviously the better approach, but it requires years of hands-on experience on hundreds of projects.  


What parts of the world are doing the most interesting work in the technology and AI space?

I think that third world countries are very interesting places for technology innovations and for AI.

Developing countries tend to jump technology generations, so they don’t have to go through the costs of migrating from a legacy process because they don’t have one. Implementing new solutions is much simpler. Also, they tend to make brave decisions about trying new ways of doing things.

Many multinational enterprises also use their facilities in developing countries as innovation testing grounds with easier barriers to entry and more local openness to innovation.


Any tips for other travelers and AI enthusiasts?  

When you do something, do it all the way. There are no minor projects. Undertake all your projects as if they are critical to your success or don’t do them at all. One amazing project is much better in any aspect than ten mediocre projects. I only pick projects I know can bring amazing results. Ask yourself, what has to happen for this to be a success? If you have to fly over and be on the ground with the team, then do it or don’t accept the project at this time.