Data analytics and AI specialist BCG Gamma launches in Canada

18 June 2018

The Boston Consulting Group announced that its data science practice BCG Gamma will be expanding to Canada. The announcement was made at the International Economic Forum of the Americas in Montreal on June 13. BCG Gamma will have a presence in Montreal and Toronto.

Companies are increasingly attempting to integrate advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence functionality into their businesses in order to unlock previously unrealized value and productivity. Organizations are turning to consultancies with crack teams of data and computer scientists to help them transform their business strategies and processes into ones that leverage Industry 4.0 advancements.

One of the leading firms in this space is BCG Gamma, the data science, analytics, and AI practice of Big Three strategy consulting firm The Boston Consulting Group. BCG Gamma builds powerful data and AI-driven solutions for clients within nine to twelve months that help firms realize huge gains.

Examples of previous BCG Gamma projects include the creation of algorithms which predict, with 80% accuracy, whether a particular loyalty card holder with buy clothing within the next month, and what product they’ll elect to purchase. Another project developed an app to help New York taxi drivers look for customers in the right locations. The firm identified the locations of bars, offices, and restaurants, and then built an algorithm. The algorithm was then refined by using real time data, and then further refined by studying the way drivers used the data, in order to figure out what level of precision was relevant to make the ‘right’ decision.

According to BCG Gamma head Sylvain Duranton, the gains from data analytics can be substantial, easily representing 1-3% of company turnover.

Data analytics and AI specialist BCG Gamma launches in Canada

Now, BCG has announced that its prestigious data science arm will be expanding into Canada. The announcement was made at the International Economic Forum of the Americas in Montreal on June 13. The annual forum promotes the role of the Americas in the global economic context – fostering agreements, business opportunities, and presenting insights from business and government leaders. Notable speakers this year include former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and Bain & Company Chairman Orit Gadiesh.

“Canada presents an incredible opportunity for BCG to further establish its GAMMA practice,” said Duranton. “We want to rapidly scale AI-enabled opportunities for clients and the business community, and with Canada’s deep talent pools and sophisticated tech ecosystems, we see Toronto and Montreal as perfect locations to drive this transformative change.”

Duranton spoke at the forum on June 13, where he joined the discussion on the topic of competing in the age of artificial intelligence, and discussed the launch of BCG Gamma in Canada.

With the launch of BCG Gamma, the firm will support Canadian organizations in building AI capabilities to realize better performance – accelerating their global competitiveness in the process.

“In Canada, our growing team of data scientists and business consultants will focus on co-creating solutions with clients at scale to unlock opportunity and build their capabilities,” said Matt MacKenzie, a BCG partner and managing director and the head of BCG GAMMA in Canada. “What’s exciting is that the more we adopt AI, the better we support Canadian business in carving out a new standard of excellence in Canada.”

BCG Gamma’s expansion into Canada comes amid growing demand for AI and data science services in Canada, particularly in the sectors of financial services, healthcare, and e-commerce. The government has also gotten behind AI, allocating $125 million in the next five years to its Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy. The strategy’s goals include increasing the number of AI researchers and graduates in Canada, while creating interconnected centres of AI excellence in Edmonton, Montreal, and Toronto. The strategy also hopes to develop thought leadership on AI, and to support the AI research community.

BCG is already a supporter of the SCALE.AI supply chain consortium, which is working to leverage AI technology in Canadian supply chains. SCALE.AI was one of the five industry initiatives selected by the Government of Canada in its Innovation Superclusters Initiative, giving the consortium access to a total federal investment pot of $950 million. SCALE.AI is made up of nearly 120 industrial partners and research institutions, as well as BCG.

“We are proud to have been a key driver of the SCALE.AI initiative, which is a promising engine for socioeconomic growth in Canada,” remarked Marc Gilbert, a senior partner and managing director at BCG in Montreal. “With BCG Gamma, we see the immense value-add that artificial intelligence is bringing to our clients and their ecosystems.”


Deloitte predicts rise of smart speaker in Canada

13 December 2018

In their 18th annual Technology, Media and Telecommunications (TMT) Predictions report, Big Four firm Deloitte has forecasted that the smart speaker will emerge as the fastest-growing connected device in the world.

Smart speakers – internet-connected speakers with integrated AI assistants (Amazon Echo and Google Home foremost among them) – are slated to continue growing in popularity in Canada and around the world. In 2018, 98 million units were sold at an average of US$44 each; Deloitte projects the market will grow to US$7 billion in 2019, with 164 million units sold at US$43.

That 64% growth rate will make smart speakers the fastest-growing connected device category in 2019, with a global installed base of over 250 million units.

Canada’s current speaker adoption rate is 9% – roughly on par with Australia and Germany, but lagging the United States' (20%) and urban China’s (22%) much higher market penetration.

The smart speaker adoption rate in Canada is being dragged down by lower usage in French-speaking Quebec, where adoption is almost half the rate of the rest of the country. “Language acceptance is still a challenge in Quebec, with usage lagging behind the rest of the country,” commented Duncan Stewart, director of research for TMT at Deloitte Canada.Current smart speaker adoption ratesAt the end of 2017, smart speakers were almost exclusively making sales in English-speaking countries, with over 95% of sales in the US and UK. Deloitte projects that by the beginning of 2019, the speakers will be breaking into regions where the majority of people speak French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, and Chinese. In most of these geographies, smart speakers are likely to have the fastest growth in ownership among smart devices – as the capital-intensive process of wider language support in voice recognition expands.

Aside from the consumer uses of digital assistant-enabled speakers (e-commerce, looking stuff up on the internet, etc.), various emergent commercial applications are expected to drive smart speaker sales. Deloitte surmises that in the long term, potential demand for speakers could rise into the billions, installed in most offices, hotels, classrooms, and hospitals.

Several hotel chains have undertaken mass deployment of smart speakers to serve as in-room concierges – with Marriott planning to install 100,000 units in China alone – while the Wynn Las Vegas has already installed smart speakers in all of its 4,748 rooms.

One hospital in Sydney has piloted smart speakers as an alternative to the bedside call button – allowing patients to specify requests and perform simple tasks like turn on the TV, lower the blinds, on turn off the lights. Drive-thru restaurants could also use voice automation technology to take orders, freeing up workers from having to manually process orders.

Meanwhile, voice recognition could be the most productive and easy way to communicate with computers in occupations where the worker’s hands are occupied – like in factories, labs, kitchens, and transportation. The report says that the increased utility of workplace applications could eventually make workplace speakers exceed the number in the home.

Speaker box/The growth beyond

The utility of smart speakers is what will ultimately drive growth of speaker adoption beyond 2019, according to Deloitte. However, most people have historically been disinterested in voice recognition, with most voice assistants on smartphones, tablets, and computers never having been used. 57% have never used their smartphone’s voice assistant, while 71% have failed to use it on a tablet and 81% haven’t used it on their PC.What people use smart speakers forFurthermore, most people don’t even know their smartphones have voice recognition: In Canada, only 15% are aware of voice recognition tech on their phone, while only 4% use the feature – figures similar to those of respondents in the US, UK, and Australia.

Smart speakers’ utility depends on the applications available, and what consumers realistically use them for. In Canada, the number one application of smart speakers was for checking the weather – a very Canadian use. Meanwhile, the top application in most other markets was playing music, something fairly easily accomplished with ‘dumb’ speakers. Other popular uses were setting alarms, searching for general info, and ‘amusement.’

“Smart speaker sales to both new and existing users should grow strongly in 2019, and also likely in 2020,” commented report co-author Paul Lee, a Deloitte UK Partner in the TMT practice. “For the market to continue growing beyond then, however, the device should have multiple applications beyond just playing music or speaking a weather forecast. It needs to become more useful, more often. More applications and better accuracy will likely be key to market growth.”