Ivy.ai: advancing AI in higher education
Mark McNasby, CEO, Ivy.ai has been an EdTech entrepreneur for the last 20 years, “I started a company in 2001 called OptimalResume where we sold into the career centers at universities.” One of the challenges McNasby found its customer facing was that students weren’t coming to the career center, “so we came up with this idea for my second business called br.im, which was basically a virtual collaboration platform, allowing somebody who was in the career center to work with students who are remote”.
“With this platform we found out that students started asking the same questions over and over again. So that was really our epiphany moment that a chatbot was a much better way to have a win-win where the students are getting their questions answered in real time, as well as taking work off of the administrators' plate by having the chatbot handle it autonomously.”
He co-founded Ivy.ai in 2016, of which he is CEO, a natural language omni-channel AI chatbot, available on websites, SMS, Facebook messenger, Amazon Alexa, and even email. “When someone asks the chatbot a question we compare what they've asked to a large database of questions and data that we've used to train the model. Once the bot understands what the person is asking, it provides them with a particular answer,” he says.
“Ivy.ai has two main goals. One is the dissemination of information - someone asks a question, we give them an answer - but it is also very useful for collecting information. For example, perhaps for a prospective applicant interested in attending a school the bot can ask them for their contact information, which can be implemented into the engagement strategy that the school has.” McNasby added that AI chatbots also collect valuable transactional data that provide a real-time feedback loop as to what is most relevant to students and when.
“The typical implementation of Ivy.ai in higher education is being embedded onto schools' websites, allowing students or staff members to interact with the chatbot. But it can also be embedded into campuses to give students a more personalized experience, as well as having the capabilities to integrate with other on-campus vendors. For example, if a student said, ‘What's my account balance’ to the chatbot, Ivy.ai would connect to the student information system or to the accounting system of records to retrieve that information and tell the student what their balance is, but also give them a facility for paying the remainder of their balance.” Ivy.ai also provides a suite of tools for more efficient human intervention, such as AI-powered Live Chat, and an SMS texting facility for proactively nudging students.
Ivy.ai’s partnership with the University at Buffalo
“One of the main problems that we solve is that Ivy.ai levels the playing field for all different types of students. Student equality is a big theme which is tightly related to accessibility. So our chatbot creates the same level of service and answers for students regardless of their circumstance.”
In partnering with the University at Buffalo, Ivy.ai is helping the university to achieve its vision of making information accessible to anyone wherever they are. “The pandemic essentially highlighted some deficiencies for the university, and how they were delivering their services to stakeholders who don't necessarily have equal access to technology and systems. Part of their strategy of digital transformation is to use a chatbot to make all information accessible to all users. So their plan is essentially to start with the IT help desk, and then ultimately roll it out to the wider campus through a departmental deployment strategy.”
Intelliwave SiteSense boosts APTIM material tracking
“We’ve been engaged with the APTIM team since early 2019 providing SiteSense, our mobile construction SaaS solution, for their maintenance and construction projects, allowing them to track materials and equipment, and manage inventory.
We have been working with the APTIM team to standardize material tracking processes and procedures, ultimately with the goal of reducing the amount of time spent looking for materials. Industry studies show that better management of materials can lead to a 16% increase in craft labour productivity.
Everyone knows construction is one of the oldest industries but it’s one of the least tech driven comparatively. About 95% of Engineering and Construction data captured goes unused, 13% of working hours are spent looking for data and around 30% of companies have applications that don’t integrate.
With APTIM, we’re looking at early risk detection, through predictive analysis and forecasting of material constraints, integrating with the ecosystem of software platforms and reporting on real-time data with a ‘field-first’ focus – through initiatives like the Digital Foreman. The APTIM team has seen great wins in the field, utilising bar-code technology, to check in thousands of material items quickly compared to manual methods.
There are three key areas when it comes to successful Materials Management in the software sector – culture, technology, and vendor engagement.
Given the state of world affairs, access to data needs to be off site via the cloud to support remote working conditions, providing a ‘single source of truth’ accessed by many parties; the tech sector is always growing, so companies need faster and more reliable access to this cloud data; digital supply chain initiatives engage vendors a lot earlier in the process to drive collaboration and to engage with their clients, which gives more assurance as there is more emphasis on automating data capture.
It’s been a challenging period with the pandemic, particularly for the supply chain. Look what happened in the Suez Canal – things can suddenly impact material costs and availability, and you really have to be more efficient to survive and succeed. Virtual system access can solve some issues and you need to look at data access in a wider net.
Solving problems comes down to better visibility, and proactively solving issues with vendors and enabling construction teams to execute their work. The biggest cause of delays is not being able to provide teams with what they need.
On average 2% of materials are lost or re-ordered, which only factors in the material cost, what is not captured is the duplicated effort of procurement, vendor and shipping costs, all of which have an environmental impact.
As things start to stabilise, APTIM continues to utilize SiteSense to boost efficiencies and solve productivity issues proactively. Integrating with 3D/4D modelling is just the precipice of what we can do. Access to data can help you firm up bids to win work, to make better cost estimates, and AI and ML are the next phase, providing an eco-system of tools.
A key focus for Intelliwave and APTIM is to increase the availability of data, whether it’s creating a data warehouse for visualisations or increasing integrations to provide additional value. We want to move to a more of an enterprise usage phase – up to now it’s been project based – so more people can access data in real time.