RACQ takes stake in Brisbane AI firm
- 06 December, 2017 14:25
Queensland-based motoring club and mutual organisation, RACQ, has secured a 30 per cent interest in Brisbane artificial intelligence and robotics startup, Blackbook.ai.
CIO Greg Booker said on Wednesday morning that the investment in Blackbook.ai will ensure RACQ is at the forefront of emerging artificial intelligence and robotics space.
Booker told CIO Australia that the Brisbane market is "resource-constrained" and taking a stake in an organisation like Blackbook.ai gives his tech team an opportunity to work with the startup in the areas of process automation and building AI algorithms to strengthen RACQ's cyber security capabilities.
"So I think there’s a real opportunity to work with them there to build an artificial intelligence capability into our cyber monitoring and to provide that more broadly into the marketplace ... this gives us a breadth of capability we would not otherwise be able to achieve in a Brisbane market," he said.
It also enables RACQ to refresh the skillsets of some of its internal technology staff, he said. Blackbook.ai currently employs 13 people and 4 staff from RACQ's tech division will soon be moving across to the startup.
"We will refresh this across 12 monthly cycles and see how they go. Those people will work and be tasked by Blackbook - they will still be RACQ employees but they may well be working in other organisations as part of the Blackbook.ai team," Booker said.
"There are synergies across the board; we give them that bit of scale and help them grow more rapidly and the payback is we start to grow really highly skilled internal people as well."
RACQ has been on a digital transformation journey since 2013 when it completed a core system replacement to help improve the member experiences and its websites. The organisation has introduced ‘click to chat’ facilities and a mobile ticketing app that provides member discounts across Queensland.
Booker told CIO Australia in August RACQ is moving onto the next phase of its journey, following its recent $3.9 billion merger with QT Mutual Bank, to enable a move into the domestic loans market.
The ‘click to chat’ capability used across its sales channels – which has driven up to 170,000 chats – will soon be replaced by a chat bot backed by an AI engine. At the time, the organisation was also in the final stages of the UiPath robotic process automation platforms to assist with its straight through processing.
"Everything we do from an AI perspective we will be doing in conjunction with Blackbook now but what we will be able to do is develop those things certainly for internal use here but also with a commercial consideration from a Blackbook perspective," he said.
RACQ is now considering partnering with other innovative technology firms to beef up its capabilities and overcome the skills shortage.
"It [partnering with tech startups] gives us access to skill sets, gives us the chance refresh skillsets and give opportunities to internal staff. Also from a technology culture perspective, it completely reinvigorates us; you're getting that startup mindset and mentality starting to permeate throughout the organisation," he said.