Canada could be at the forefront of developments in artificial intelligence (AI), particularly in areas such as the financial services sector and blockchain, according to a recent report from Vancouver-based Digital Finance Institute.
With the federal government's budget pledge to spend $125 million to shore up AI research, coupled with a mature startup space, the report notes that Canada already has a supportive environment — at least in Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton and Vancouver — for incubating new ideas in this field.
However, private-sector investment in AI remains tepid, the report says, with just 1% of Canada's gross domestic product (GDP) flowing to research compared with other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, in which private sector investments in AI are about 1.5% in GDP.
Still, the financial services sector is "moving fast" on AI research, the report notes, pointing to a several institutions, namely Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Royal Bank of Canada, which are collaborating with the University of Toronto and University of Alberta, respectively, to explore how AI could improve banking services.
Among other companies in Canada seeking to break ground are Ubiq Technologies, a blockchain startup that is trying to devise a way to "mitigate financial crime in asset management" by designing smart contracts, and ChatBot, developed to address money laundering and counter-terrorist financing issues.
Greater collaboration between startups and established firms will help boost Canada's profile in AI research, the report notes.
"Canadian entrepreneurs can create leading AI technology, but they do not always know what the angst points are that industry leaders in traditional financial services, such as infrastructure asset management, who are not tech savvy, need remediated," the report says.
In the wealth-management space, Vancouver-based robo-advisor Responsive Capital Management has developed an AI-powered system for managing a $1.2-billion portfolio and is working on onboarding platform that studies clients' behaviour.
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