AiThority Interview with Jonathan Ward, CTO at Fetch.ai
Hi Jonathan please tell us about your current role and the team/ technology you handle in the company. How did you arrive here?
I have a background in R & D, and started off by designing the protocols that we use for our blockchain and agent-based systems. I still do a lot of the high-level design work but I leave many of the key details to the many great people that we have at the company. I’m also increasingly involved in solving the many business issues that are required to bring these technologies to market.
What is Fetch.ai and what services and solutions do you provide to customers?
Fetch.ai, a Cambridge-based artificial intelligence lab, is building the infrastructure required for autonomous software agents to begin performing useful economic work on behalf of individuals, machines, businesses, and organizations. Through Fetch.ai’s decentralized open-sourced tech stack, any organization can build or configure Autonomous Economic Agents that are capable of searching, negotiating, and transacting within the Fetch.ai network and across a variety of ecosystems. Fetch.ai’s network is based around open-source technology and gives users access to the power of AI on a world-scale secure dataset to carry out complex coordination tasks in the modern economy.
The Autonomous Economic Agents (AEA) framework is a development suite for the creation of software that can act independently of constant user input and autonomously execute actions on behalf of the user to achieve a prescribed goal. AEAs interact via a peer to peer network, use a distributed search and discovery system and natively integrate with Web 3.0 technologies for access to a financial settlement and commitment layer. The framework is Open Source and allows for extension to incorporate different blockchain and AI technologies. The AEA framework is currently the only agent development suite targeting a fully decentralized environment.
Fetch.ai’s AEA’s can enable parties across organizations to optimize their collaboration and coordination. For example, an AEA can be deployed on Fetch.ai to source and coordinate the acquisition and delivery of raw materials required for infrastructure development at the best price. Fetch.ai hopes to become one of the core building blocks of a decentralized, digital world where intelligent AEA’s can operate on their owners’ behalf and generate economic value for them with little or no interference.
Tell us more about your AI ML based product roadmap?
With AEA’s at the forefront of our technology, we are working on the following product suite:
– Autonomous Travel Agents – The Autonomous AI Travel Agents is aime at the travel industry and seeks to reduce the role of centralized aggregators and services, thereby encouraging direct provider-to-consumer interaction and as a result offer significant cost savings for both hotels and consumers.
– Decentralized Delivery Network – an open-source product suite which enables anyone to easily build multi-agent-based mobility services.
– Collective learning – The Fetch.ai collective learning module is a tool that enables distributed parties to work together to train machine learning models without sharing the underlying data or trusting any of the individual participants
– Smart city field trials in Munich – Smart City field trials use Fetch.ai’s AEAs (Autonomous Economic Agents) to unlock data and provide smart mobility solutions in Munich’s commercial real estate properties, for this field trial we have chosen the Connex building complex in Munich.
What kind of skills are you hiring for, in 2021?
We’re in an interesting space between distributed computing, cryptography, economics and machine learning. We’re likely to be hiring people with expertise in differential privacy, game theory and economics on the ML side. We’re also looking at web developers, systems engineers and Devops engineers who can build and run the infrastructure for these protocols.
Tell us more about your recent collaboration with Bosch. How would the partnership benefit your customers and technology partners?
The industries that Bosch serves are offering products that increasingly serve as platforms for digital services. A good example of this is the car industry. A big question is who controls the data and the value that flows from it? Our model is really about enabling different stakeholders to share information that allows consumers and companies to work together. The tangible benefits to consumers are products that work more reliably and efficiently, while their privacy and agency over their own data is maintained. The benefits for businesses is that they get to benefit from the AI revolution without needing to be a large incumbent or a big tech company.
Tell us about the challenges and opportunities you overcame in the COVID-19 months? How did you overcome these challenges?
The transition to becoming a fully remote company was quite difficult. Initially, we really missed the ability to work in person and thrash out different ideas on the whiteboard.
How have banking-related customer service methodologies evolved in the recent months? How would you compare these with Pre- COVID times?
There has been an explosion in the interest in blockchain and decentralization, partially as a result of the economic challenges of COVID. We’ve also found that the crisis has greatly accelerated the demand for automation and the migration to the cloud. It’s an exciting time for us and we’re looking forward to expanding our workforce further as the pandemic subsides.
Tell us about your remote workplace stack and how it helps you stack on top of your game? Which tools are you currently using and are a big fan?
We rely on a range of tools to help our teams migrate to a fully remote environment. At the top of our list is Slack which we use extensively for organizing our internal business communications with ease. The ability to integrate Google Calendar with Slack enables us to replace some of the business habits that one relied on pre-COVID times such as in-person communication and meetings.
We also use GSuite to collaborate on documents in real-time. Lastly as far as workflow management goes, we use JIRA and Github to host, review code, build software, and manage projects no matter where your many monitors are located.
Your predictions for 2021 related to the industry / technology / leadership styles –
We’re already starting to see increased signs of market consolidation, which may very well be a sign of market maturity. Furthermore, we are also going to see institutional demand for cryptocurrencies rise as investors look to cryptocurrencies especially Bitcoin as an inflation hedge. Tesla, Fidelity Investments, Ark Investment Management, Grayscale, and other funds who have added crypto to their portfolios shows institutional adoption is here and likely to accelerate exponentially.
An advice to every Product Development and marketing team that would help prepare for the current pandemic era –
Given how challenging the pandemic is, at the core of product development and marketing team, the focus should be on pooling in the resources, the capabilities of all of your employees, and potentially assigning a role for everyone in which they feel they can contribute to overcoming the uncertainty, overcoming the crisis.
Of course, staying on top of communication is crucial to taking the team forward because there will be times when members of the team feel their bandwidth is stretched. Which is why there should be a certain amount of openness to be ready to turn on a dime and improvise as things shift. This can be done by drawing on the insights and experiences of your teams.
Thank you, Jonathan! That was fun and we hope to see you back on AiThority.com soon.
Jonathan Ward is a CTO at Fetch.ai
Fetch.ai, a Cambridge-based artificial intelligence lab, is building the infrastructure required for autonomous software agents to begin performing useful economic work on behalf of individuals, businesses, and organizations. Fetch.ai’s network is based around open-source technology and gives users access to the power of AI on a world-scale secure dataset to carry out complex coordination tasks in the modern economy.