Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:22 pm
Licensing deal pending for artificial intelligence product
Compsim LLC, a Brookfield-based software and technology firm, is negotiating a licensing agreement for its new artificial intelligence product with a major Detroit corporation.
Compsim’s husband-and-wife founders, Tom and Helena Keeley said the negotiations with the corporation, which they declined to name, may be concluded by the end of the year.
The Keeleys are seeking the agreement for their new artificial intelligence product, named KEEL – Knowledge Enhanced Electronic Logic. Not coincidentally, the acronym also plays off the founders’ name.
Artificial intelligence is a branch of computer science focusing on the task of making computers and equipment "behave" or work like humans. The term was coined in 1956 by researcher John McCarthy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Currently, Compsim is engaged in an implementation phase, for which the potential licensee is compensating the Keeleys. When complete, the agreement would grant the Detroit-based customer rights to use KEEL technology within a specific vertical market.
As they negotiate the agreement, the Keeleys are concentrating on securing funding for additional research from several sources, including the research and development organization for the US Department of Defense and the Small Business Innovation Research program.
Landing clients for licensing within other vertical industries is a priority for Compsim, Tom Keeley said.
"We are looking for companies that want to leapfrog the competition," he said. "And they have to understand it will cost them a significant amount of money. This technology is primarily appropriate for companies with revenues of $100 million a year or more."
Artificial intelligence is a growth market, according to Lane Brostrom, executive director of Techstar, southeast Wisconsin’s technology transfer initiative, which attempts to use university research to help create entrepreneurial business endeavors.
"I think AI is one area that is a big market and will continue to grow into a big market," Brostrom said. "The trick is always to find an application that offers a proven return on investment."
When the Keeleys founded Compsim in 1999, their resumés read like a "who’s who" in technology and industrial automation. They had met and were married while working at General Electric’s Robot and Vision Systems group in Bridgeport, Conn.
The Keeleys joined Milwaukee-based Allen-Bradley Co. – now Rockwell Automation Inc. – in 1986, when Tom worked in the Intelligent Systems Products Division, and Helena worked in the Industrial Controls area.
Tom Keeley has worked on a variety of applications, from automated assembly systems, robotics and vision inspection to inertial guidance and fire control systems for the US Navy. Helena Keeley’s experience includes work on software for and installation of robots, Oracle-based software design, e-commerce and design of airplane simulators.
Existing software product
Compsim already has a software product – Rational Decisions – on the market. Rational Decisions is designed to help individuals and groups manage and document their decision-making processes. The software is used by consultants and other business professionals who need to justify decisions after the fact and retain knowledge that led to those decisions.
"The project is for anyone who makes gray decisions," Tom Keeley said. "This program has a mechanism to show why we are doing what we are doing today."
Users are prompted to determine the data that is necessary to make the decision. They are then prompted to input that information into the program.
So far, selling the Rational Decisions and KEEL has been the real challenge for the fledgling Compsim.
"It’s hard to get into the door to the bigger companies in Milwaukee that might be interested in the technology," Helena said. "We are not salesmen. The areas we have been most successful in resulted from networking."
It was through networking that the Keeleys met Keith Klein, who has trained the employees of Sussex-based Keith Klein Associates and Klein Internet in Rational Decisions.
Klein said Rational Decisions may have potential to be used on sales-oriented Web sites to help people specify products for themselves.
"I am actually interested in putting some standard operating procedures together," Klein said. "We have talked about ‘Webifying’ that product. It would be a neat thing for companies to offer as a decision-making tool on the Web.
"I really see how this would work like the psychological tests for strong likes and dislikes," Klein said. "In making purchasing decisions – are they ready? What’s the timeline? Weighing pros and cons."
Klein also is interested in introducing manufacturing clients to KEEL, specifically in a Web-based format.
"We work with a lot of manufacturers," Klein said. "I see the possibility for this be embedded in products. The more intelligence you can pack into products, the better."
Waukesha County Economic Development Corp. (WCEDC) president Bill Mitchell is using the Keeleys’ Rational Decisions to organize data yielded by 23 listening sessions held between March and June of this year. The meetings were designed to debrief representatives of specific vertical industries on the issues and challenges facing each sector of Waukesha County’s economy.
In dealing with group members with strong personalities – and equally strong opinions – removing the human, emotional element from the process was helpful, Mitchell said.
"In prioritizing our action items, we asked whether 50% of the industry clusters were affected, whether it is something that can be addressed on a regional level and whether it is a solution that is doable in our lifetime," Mitchell said. "What I really like is that it arrives at a score through relative rankings of criteria people have agreed on.
"This helps because a lot of the groups we have … it’s like herding cats," Mitchell said. "The documentation side also interests me because six months from now, I won’t remember how we arrived at our decisions."
Milwaukee-based consultant Bill Bryant and his firm, Crossroads Access, has used Rational Decision on a variety of projects, including work for the City of Wauwatosa.
"I am also using it on a limited basis to do some decision-making," Bryant said. "It breaks a problem down to the point where the decision becomes obvious. Companies have the strength to do the obvious thing once it gets to that point."
Bryant sited the program’s ability to use reason to get past conflict and document why specific courses of action are taken.
"One of the things I do for companies is help them streamline processes," Bryant said. "A lot of times, companies make decisions, and months later there is no record of how that decision was made. With this, you can just trace the decision tree."
Not your job to think
So what happens if decision-making software and intelligent devices catch on? According to Keeley, the technology could change the way we work.
"In the future, the opportunity to have a job where you think may be a luxury," Keeley said.
"If you have computers that are able to do all these things, how will we go about competing with each other?" Keeley asked. "If we are not competing in business, perhaps we will have to rely on games and other contests to determine how resources are distributed among us."
Brostrom, however, believes human ingenuity will always have a place in the economy.
"It won’t replace the knowledge worker," Brostrom said of artificial intelligence. "More and more, we are starting to realize it is the creativity of the individual that drives the economy. Customer service cannot be provided by a machine."
Aug. 30, 2002 Small Business Times, Milwaukee