Michael Kalma believes that the rapid development of technology has a huge impact on our lives.
“Equal access to credit is another key aspect of financial inclusion. We at ADVANCE.AI understand the need for alternative credit ratings in a country like the Philippines where bank penetration is not as high, much less credit penetration.”
Artificial intelligence – AI for short – used to be in the realm of science fiction, with books and movies about humanoid robots. Today, it is closely tied to how people interact with the digital world: chatbots, navigation tools, and virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa all rely on AI technology. With all these benefits and conveniences, AI also comes with risks, including data mining and privacy.
For his part, ADVANCE.AI Philippines Regional Manager Michael Kalma’s mission in the local AI space is to accelerate financial inclusion in the country by helping sectors including banking, financial services, fintech, payments, retail and e-commerce. commerce, use big data and AI. to solve digital transformation, fraud prevention and process automation.
“The key direction of our company is to ensure the availability of its technologies. We trained our AI models to recognize images captured by a low-resolution camera while maintaining a high matching accuracy of over 99 percent. population that can only afford inexpensive smartphones. This opens up many opportunities for businesses wishing to serve this market,” he said.
According to Kalma, artificial intelligence can help make bank customer onboarding seamless and secure. “The AI model could quickly and accurately recognize the presented ID and extract the image and details from the ID instead of filling out forms. It could also ensure that a live person is applying and then compare the captured live face with a picture of the face. image on the ID card, as well as perform secondary checks depending on the financial product used.
He noted that financial institutions are also being targeted by opportunists and scammers. “We looked into this issue and figured out how to do the not-so-attractive job of protecting identities and tracking transactions for suspicious or fraudulent activity so that businesses and consumers can transact with peace of mind.”
Their services include KYC or “know your customer”, which checks if people are who they say they are, KYB, which checks if companies are who they say they are, and KYT, or “know your transaction”. which tracks transactions and detects fraud in real time.
As for consumers, he advised using good old common sense to avoid being scammed. “It’s best to treat online interactions as if they were happening in the real world. We are all aware of the different styles of scams; just use the same ones online and you should be pretty safe.”
Another application of AI is alternative credit scoring. “Equal access to credit is another key aspect of financial inclusion. At ADVANCE.AI, we understand the need for alternative credit ratings in a country like the Philippines where bank penetration is not as high, much less credit penetration. Many of our countrymen are new to financial services and therefore defy evaluation in traditional ways.”
Their solution is to process alternative credit scores obtained with the consent of users based on a range of data sources, including consumer behavior in telcos, e-commerce, and even blockchains. This allows businesses ranging from traditional banks to fintech companies to decentralized autonomous organizations to serve these previously untapped customers.
Student years and startup launch
Before exploring the possibilities of cyberspace, 41-year-old Bataan from Limay dreamed of becoming an astronaut. “It was the 1980s, the peak of the space race between Russia and the United States. I wanted to be an astronaut until the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986. I was then five years old. It must have hurt me. Before high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to be.”
Games were his gateway to technology: through the Atari game console, then through the IBM PC/XT. In order to attend college, he decided to attend the University of the Philippines at Los Baños, Laguna to earn a degree in Computer Science. “I wanted to be a web developer. Then, in the late 90s, I was consumed by the early days of Web 2.0.”
He started a software development business before the word “startup” was fashionable. “In 2002, I co-founded General Instrument Corp with my father. We had two key proposals: vibration monitoring of rotating machines and battery testing for power plants. Both methods reduce plant downtime and maintenance costs. We’ve got data that, if properly analyzed, can predict potential points of failure for rotating equipment as well as backup power systems. This allows our customers to be proactive.”
His second startup, LinkSphere IT Solutions, which eventually became Bridgefort Technologies when he acquired new partners, focused primarily on web programming and eventually cybersecurity and the Internet of Things.
“One of the biggest projects we had back then was a union membership portal in the US to help them manage their membership database of thousands of US members. Key features included membership fee management, agreement management, job posting, messaging, and reporting. In hindsight, we can say that we have built a crude version of the enterprise collaboration suites we see now, such as Slack and Microsoft Teams.
When his first startup started failing, he received an MBA from the University of the Philippines at Diliman in 2005. “I felt like I lacked the fundamentals and experience to run a successful business,” he explained.
Kalma admits that due to the high demand for his work abroad, he also considered working abroad. “It crossed my mind, but I never acted on it, because back then I thought that if I could run an outsourcing software development business here, taking projects from overseas and enjoying a lower cost of living on Philippines, I would be better. Looking back, I don’t think I considered the potential learning and networking opportunities when working abroad. However, I don’t regret it.”
To keep abreast of trends, he regularly interacts with his network and dives deep into topics of interest to him via YouTube. If a topic is exciting enough, he reads books on that topic.
On the growth of technology since he started, Kalma said: “They are growing exponentially, as we see when evaluating technology stocks. On the ground, we face this every day. In 2002 I had a Nokia 7110, the banana phone popularized in the original movie The Matrix. If you compare its impact on your life to even the cheapest smartphone today, we have a pretty good idea of how far technology has come.”
He described the Philippine startup scene as “very vibrant” and said that three things are driving its growth: the hype cycle around disruptive technologies including AI, Web 3.0, NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and blackchain, and blockchain is on a trajectory. to gain mass acceptance; the ingenuity of young Filipinos in applying such technologies to real problems; and increased capital inflows.
“The main problem of any startup is longevity. Having sufficient stamina and capital to achieve product-to-market fit. Although the local scene is full of exciting new projects, only a fraction of them will be successful in the long run – this is part of the startup’s natural life cycle.”
Education is the key to encouraging young Filipino tech entrepreneurs, he said. “Our youth have a natural inclination to adopt new technologies. We need to leverage this by improving STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs so that they have the necessary foundations to build and innovate around these technologies, technologies, and not just eat them up,” Kalma added.
Learning through play
Games were Michael Calma’s gateway to technology through the Atari game console. He then enrolled at the University of the Philippines at Los Baños for a degree in Computer Science and aspired to become a web developer.
Calma does not regret working overseas as running an outsourced software development business in the Philippines has its own benefits such as lower operating costs.
Been there, done it
Calma started building startups in 2002 before startup became a buzzword. That same year, he and his father founded General Instrument Corp. This has helped power companies reduce downtime and maintenance costs.