Canada can lead the world in AI innovation

Imagine if your fitness tracker could remotely alert your doctor to any health warning signs as they're happening? Or if your banking app could predict if you'll run into financial hardships before they happen? Emerging AI technologies combined with human ingenuity have the power to help solve some of society's biggest problems. And what's most exciting is that Canada is in a position to be a global leader in this space. 

At a discussion exploring the potential impact of AI held at the Economic Club of Canada in Toronto in March, Co-founder of Layer 6 AI and TD's Chief AI Officer, Tomi Poutanen, spoke to Canada's burgeoning technology ecosystem.

"Believe it or not, many global AI leaders from companies like Apple and Google come from the University of Toronto," said Poutanen. "Canada has the opportunity to create one of the strongest AI hubs in the world. We already have an amazing academic pedigree here at home."

So Canada's got talent. But what has prevented us from really leading the way?

While some of the biggest developments in AI have come out of Canadian universities, traditionally the industry hasn't been positioned well enough to capitalize on them, or to turn them into profitable business ideas. This has often forced talent to leave Canada for companies south of the border. That brain drain has begun to reverse itself, however, now that major Canadian companies like TD are investing heavily into their own AI programs. 

"We know that improving our AI capabilities will help us  understand our customers better and allow us to  offer them more personalized  advice that can improve their financial lives," says Michael Rhodes, Group Head, Innovation, Technology and Shared Services at TD. "But we also think the role of AI in society goes beyond banking."

One example of AI being used for the greater good (what TD refers to as AI for Good) that was discussed at the Economic Club event, is the potential to advance preventative medicine by using AI to create personalized health recommendations and therapies.

TD announced the acquisition of Layer 6 in January. In order to push the AI for Good cause, the team has time protected in their schedule to work on their own passion projects, some of which have the potential for major societal impact.

Michael Rhodes, Tomi Poutanen and host Rita Trichur at a panel discussion exploring the potential impact of AI