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Among the best in the field of artificial intelligence

Europe’s first artificial intelligence (AI) research center started to operate in early Spring in Ljubljana. The center is operating under the auspices of UNESCO and is a result of the pioneering role in the development of artificial intelligence played by Ljubljana’s Josef Stefan Institute.

There could hardly be a more appropriate moment for such an initiative as the world is faced with one of the worst pandemics in history. The new International Research Center on Artificial Intelligence (IRCAI), operating under the auspices of UNESCO, responded immediately. Within a week IRCAI created an AI based modeling and visualization platform called Coronavirus Watch – a unique solution combining a 5D global visualization tool, virus progression and social distancing simulators, and Ai based real-time news coverage using media from all over the world. The concept behind the Coronavirus Watch is the “digital twin” model of situational awareness – a robust model combining various AI-powered elements, which together create a digital replica of situational flow.

A similar use of the digital twin concept is AI based newsgathering and analyzing platform Events Registry System. The system analyses text news sources in various languages. It also tracks and even predicts the spreading of news from one location to all over the world. Within the EU financed X5Gon project IRCAI developed a global platform for collecting, processing, and structuring open access educational resources – a joint project with the Slovenian Ministry of Education, Science, and Sport.

It is not a coincidence that the AI research center was formed in Ljubljana. The center is an evolution of the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory of Ljubljana’s Josef Stefan Institute (JSI) – the nation’s most important scientific institution began to develop Ai technologies in the early 1970s. In that period JSI focused on areas, such as neural networks, data modeling, heuristic search, machine learning and qualitative reasoning. By the end of the seventies JSI also developed Slovenia’s first robot. In two recent articles US magazine Forbes highlighted Slovenia’s pioneering role in the development of AI and named JSI to be “the top AI research facility on Earth”. According to the Slovenian government the Alpine republic has “the most AI researchers per capita in Europe” and is among the first EU members working on national AI strategy.

JSI itself is cooperating with companies and institutions to transform the research into practically oriented solutions. It is taking part in the European COPCAMS collaboration – a network of AI enhanced video systems which could be used in the surveillance industry, monitoring of traffic and advanced manufacturing. Together with Microsoft, JSI formed OECD’s AI Observatory, a system which enables global monitoring of AI developments.

Yet while the JSI institute plays a globally important role in the research, there is still a lot to be done in order to transform their novel technologies into commercial successes. Events Registry System has already moved away into a spin off company. Qlektor is a start-up trying to develop a digital twin based model for decision making and modelling systems for enterprises.

Slovenian company Result developed an AI based automated production planning system. The platform is called Planisphere and has been adopted by several companies, including BSH Nazarje – a Slovenian subsidiary of home appliances manufacturer Bosch Siemens Hausgeräte.

Many Slovenian ICT companies include AI based solutions in their products. A special case is that of EKWB, a Slovenian manufacturer of advanced water-cooling systems for computers. EKWB’s strategic focus is to become a truly AI driven company. They have already implemented AI-based systems which support the company’s marketing and planning functions. The next step will be AI based support for human resources management. The systems were developed together with another Slovenian company CREA.

EKWB is a small fast-growing company with 120 employees and 24 million euros of revenues in 2019. The next big step in the expansion of the company is the development of water-cooling systems for self-driving cars – reliable cooling is one of the key elements of the complex computer systems behind AI in cars.

Due to the strong research position of both major institutions, JSI and IRCAI, and the huge potential of the new technology, these pioneers will soon be followed by many others. We can safely predict that – even without the use of sophisticated situational awareness models.

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