Companies Who Snooze Will Lose as A.I. Changes the Game

“There is a global accord that A.I. technologies have the potential to revolutionise production and contribute to addressing global challenges.” (Economic Impacts of A.I. – European Parliamentary Research Service).

Outside my house as I write this there is a team of workmen laying fibre optic cable connecting every house in my neighbourhood to a 5G broadband service. The city (pop. 100,000) has plans to connect every house over the next few months. It is a jointly funded program involving the government owned electricity company and a private telecommunications provider. This got me thinking about how much the 4th Industrial Revolution is making progress across the land (for more on the 4th Industrial Revolution see:

When the first industrial revolution happened in the 100 years leading up to the middle of the 19th century, driven by the invention of steam power and new technology that could harness that power, how many people realised their world was undergoing a radical restructuring? Swept away by this revolution where the cottage industries and labour-intensive production techniques of the past, to be replaced by the “Dark Satanic” factories of Dickensian lore of machine-driven production.

Well, our generation is in the throes of an equally transformative revolution. This time it is being driven by the emergence of a maturing and dynamic artificial intelligence (A.I.) technology. For the first time in human history A.I. is allowing mankind to create machines with “human-like cognitive processes”. (Source: EU’s EPRS report,

This ability is bringing about a transformation in our technical infrastructure, changing the means of production and fostering the invention of many more end-user products. It was not so long ago that the Internet of Things (IoT) was a vague term in our lexicon, but IoT products are proliferating at an unbelievable rate. All driven by our new A.I. abilities. Examples of these IoT products are: smart surveillance, automated transportation, smarter energy management systems, water distribution, urban security and environmental monitoring. A new technological eco-system is being created around us and it will continue to expand.


Companies across the globe have identified the phenomenal growth in A.I.-related technologies and many are adapting. Other companies are struggling to understand how they can best harness themselves to this revolution. The fiercest competition for mastery of this change is taking place in two world regions, the USA and Asia. Lagging behind, warns the EPRS report, is the EU. As a consequence, efforts are underway in the EU to find ways of exploiting the potential of the new technological opportunities for its region and its citizens.

The global expansion of A.I. can be tracked by looking at the increase in the number of registered A.I. patents. There has been a noticeable upsurge in the registration of such patents. This upsurge in patents is now eclipsing the number of theoretical papers being written. The movement is from the theoretical to the practical. (WIPO 2019) The problem, from the EU’s point of view, is that only 12% of such patents are coming from its region. The EU sees it as an imperative that it helps foster an environment that incentivises companies to pursue this avenue of growth.

The majority of studies on the economic impact of A.I. emphasise that adoption of the technological can be significant. The consulting company Accenture, in a study of 12 economies, estimate that by 2035 those economies will double their growth rates through the use of A.I. This will happen because, they say:

  • It will lead to a strong increase in labour productivity (40%) due to A.I. technologies enabling efficiencies.
  • It will create a new ‘virtual workforce’ – also known as ‘intelligent automation’. This is technology that will have the ability to solve problems and learn from the experience of those solutions (for more on Deep Learning see my blog:
  • The drive for innovation will spread across new sectors leading to new inventions, new products, new markets and new revenue streams.

(See: Why Artificial Intelligence is the Future of Growth

The fuel for many A.I. innovations is the exploitation of ‘Big Data’ sources. According to IBM, there exists today 2.7 zettabytes of data online. A zettabyte is 1 billion terabytes. The growth of online business data is said to double every 1.2 years! (Source: Users Bring Real Value to Big Data Machine Translation, Wired). The volume of data available to industry today is mind-boggling. It is said that Facebook alone has in storage 250 billion images. It also has the data content of 2.5 trillion posts. Add to that one source of data that stored by other social media companies alone and the figure goes off the charts.

The data owned by private companies and government institutions is an incredible fount of knowledge on our world. Big Data is said to be valuable when it has volume (see above), it has variety (every subject matter under the sun now exists in data form) and it has velocity (the cloud and fibre optic solved that challenge). The consultants PWC say that there is now a virtuous circle of data, a perpetual loop, where new products create new consumers which creates new data giving better insights for the creation of new products – and on it goes.

As I noted earlier, the EU is determined to drive A.I. and the resultant economic gains over the next decade from this technology will increase. A McKinsey Global Institute report estimates that 70% of companies will adopt at least one form of A.I. and just under 50% of companies will adopt a panoply of A.I. technologies. The report predicts that by 2035 this adoption of A.I. will manifest itself in a $13 trillion boost to the EU’s economy.

One of the challenges the exploitation of Big Data sources presents is that of language. Needless to say, these repositories of information exist in multiple languages. For many companies this is the equivalent to having to decrypt a code in order to access a goldmine. However, A.I. has given companies the solution to this challenge in the form of Neural Machine Translation Networks (NMT). Machine translation now provides the way for companies to translate huge volumes of texts at very high speeds and at an affordable cost. NMT is also creating the means by which almost real-time translations can be provided for. This provides the means for companies to converse with end users and to learn the cultural nuances and sentiments of individual markets.

KantanMT’s KantanSkynet, a recent A.I. innovative technology, equips companies with both NMT married to a global of team of translators – a virtual workforce – that can supply 24/7 access to real-time translation services. This fusing of A.I. technology with expert human translators has created a potent solution to today’s language challenge. (To read more about KantanSkynet see my blog:

The 4th Industrial Revolution is happening all around us. It is pulling society in the definite direction of growth and massive change.  It is a reality that should not be ignored by any business with an eye on innovation, expansion and longevity. Every company should be looking at the opportunities being created by A.I. Let there be no doubt, the front runners in this race will get a start that will leave them as market leaders in the years to come. They will get a jump on their counterparts who are slower to adapt. A.I. is not going away. It is true to say that it is a case of “if you snooze you lose”. You’ve been warned. (See my blog on Big Data

Aidan Collins is Marketing Manager at KantanMT

Now’s the time to go with the flow – the MT tide is not for turning

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is in full flight and the changes it will bring will include a paradigm shift in the translation and localisation industry. The most obvious change already being affected is the widespread introduction of neural machine translation. This is a transformation that started off slowly just four years ago but has now developed a speed of change that is obliging the industry to run just to keep up. As with the introduction the CAT tools in the 1990s – Trados and Catalyst being the pioneering engines of that change – the translators who are essential to our industry are both sceptical and worried that they soon will be displaced by machines.

However, as it was with CAT technology, I have no doubt the doubters will be won over as they realise that they are not being displace but rather the configuration of the production line is evolving and that they will continue to be an essential part of the process. Production roles will evolve over time and translators will have to adapt to the new technologies to compete.  But let me state a simple fact, without the professional translators the business of translation would die. They will never be replaced.

Surf board

The new evolving paradigm is being driven by the rise of technology such as KantanSkynet. This ground-breaking technology is a complementary post-editing platform for KantanMT. By leveraging this sophisticated, yet easy-to-use cloud-based platform, KantanMT clients can deliver automated translation solutions. For it to work it needs the input of a global community of professional translators. The technology employs AI to determine the quality of translated texts and automatically routes low-quality texts to professional translators for improvements. These enhanced translations are then re-integrated into the translation engine. It is a symbiotic process that leads to high quality translation engines.

And what is clear, the kernel of this hybrid technology is the marrying of human skills with technological prowess. Without the translators the technology would not function. What is driving the evolution of such hybrid solutions is the increasing demand for the translation of huge swathes of data. Today it is estimated that Big Data provides 2.5 quintillion bytes of information per day. Now, if you are like me, you’ll will never have heard of the measure quintillion it is 1 million billion bytes. In old money, that’s a lot of floppy disks! The demand is in itself enabled by the exponential growth in computing power and the affordability of these high-powered machines. The emergence of the unlimited storage capacity of the cloud, coupled with the fibre optic communications highway and you have all of the elements needed to drive change in the industry. Just like King Canute, famed for failing to order the incoming tide to cease, fail too will translators who ignore the drive of this new technology.

There is an upside for translators, under the KantanSkyNet workflow model, downtime will become a thing of the past. Let me explain, if a translator is travelling by train, they can logon to the KantanSkynet platform and work for the duration of that journey. That’s money earned while travelling. If they are between large projects, as is often the case, they can fill that time by logging on and working on a KantanSkynet project. The projects will vary in size and so a translator need only commit to work that suits the free time they have.

The bottom line is translators can now earn money anytime, anywhere simply by logging on to KantanSkynet and use their mobile device to undertake work that improves machine-translated texts. The fusion of human and machine is happening. It is a mutually advantageous relationship. It is also the way of the future. Get onboard and work the partnership.

Aidan Collins is Marketing Manager at KantanMT

KantanSkynet Gives a Strong Human Touch To Its Already Powerful NMT Solution

I believe the argument about the merits of whether to employ machine translation has finally been won. In the 10 short years since Google kicked off machine translation for real, its evolution from SMT through to NMT has been dogged by the argument that machines cannot translate to a sufficiently high standard to become a viable solution. Translators themselves pushed back strongly rightly feeling their superb skills were being taken for granted. This line of argument pitted the machine against the human translator. It presupposed a zero-sum solution. But as I will explain later, we have already moved beyond that binary argument and the good news is – everyone’s a winner with the new translation paradigm being promoted by KantanMT.

Two major dynamics changed the world in which translation companies now compete – the Cloud and Big Data. When these two factors were married with advanced, high speed technologies and the internet it became a no-brainer that the boundaries of our translation world would become a lot wider, and the challenge that widening boundary would present was how to manage the huge volumes of work, across the range of languages that would come with it.

I have spoken in other blogs of how global companies literally look to the world as their market. And they are not wrong to do so.  In 2019, online sales are predicted to hit $3.53 trillion and e-retail revenues are projected to grow to $6.54 trillion dollars in 2022 (Source: ). It would foolish for any large company to ignore the realties now offered by the global market.

Human touch

Much of the demand is being driven by newly emerging markets. Asia, for example, is now seen as a slowly awakening powerhouse ready to grow into a major e-market. Artificial Intelligence and machine-learning tools are allowing retailers to leverage a wealth of consumer data from these markets so that the can best position themselves to win large chunks of the sales. In order to position themselves in a market-friendly way, these companies understand that communicating in the language of the customer is essential. This is the landscape in which translation companies are now selling. Companies want multiple languages, large volumes of words and data translated and a lot of time they want it yesterday.

The only solution to this challenge is machine translation. Only MT can handle the huge volumes at the speed required. Which then leads us to the quality dilemma. And there is no doubt that MT alone cannot always provide enough quality (though at times it can – but that’s another debate). Google themselves have admitted that: “Google Says Google Translate Can’t Replace Human Translators”. (Source: This quality argument has been accepted by most, if not all MT companies, to ignore it would be myopic. So, the debate is now underway as to how we “humanise and soften” MT output. Of course, post-editing is a service that is already offered and has its rightful place within the L10n workflow. However, a new paradigm has emerged aimed at infusing MT with a more human quality translation output.

Just last month launched its new product, which is called KantanSkynet (see my last blog The product is described as a “Human-Powered Machine Translation Platform”. KantanSkynet is a global crowd-sourcing translation platform which seeks to integrate human translation skills with Kantan’s neutral machine translation technology. By combining the two, KantanSkynet aims through an ongoing, relentless process to build and augment a human translation quality into the KantanMT NMT engines.

KantanMT launch a very successful recruitment process beginning last August to recruit language experts in all corners of the globe. This highly qualified panel will form the community of language experts who will be paid to undertake the human translation of texts deemed of low quality by the NMT. Once translated by the human translator the texts are fed back in to the NMT system and the quality of the engine is improved accordingly.

So today, instead of sitting in an office in Dublin, London or Amsterdam a translator can be virtually anywhere and still be available for work on KantanSkynet. Ironically, while in-house translation technology has become sophisticated, translators have reverted to working in something of a 19th century cottage industry work model. That is the model that suits so many of them. Most translators choose to work from home. In today’s technological era they have the connectivity they need to work from almost any place and at any time. With today’s seemingly ubiquitous WIFI, no translator is restricted to where and when the translate.

And this is the online community that is now working with KantanMT to help humanise and soften NMT output. It is the essence of KantanSkynet to combine the speed and low cost of machine translation with a layer of human expertise powered by a “global community” of professional translators. So, using this model, KantanMT can offer the scale needed to translate huge volumes of data to a higher quality standard. And working through its KantanSkynet crowd-sourcing solution the native quality translations that many customers require is now an integral feature of KantanMT’s workflow.

Over time, the quality of translations will grow exponentially. This symbiotic solution of human translators working in tandem with high tech machinery is surely the paradigm that will be followed by many others long into the future of our industry.

Aidan Collins is Marketing Manager at KantanMT

Preventing the Unravelling of the World’s Rich Tapestry of Languages

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” Nelson Mandela

With those two simple sentences one of the 20th century’s greatest icons summed up the power of language. Mandela understood that in speaking a person’s indigenous language you not only communicated from the brain but also from the heart. Mandela believed that is important for the world to rescue, maintain and help nurture the vast array of indigenous languages of this great planet of ours.

The General Assembly of the United Nations with UNESCO declared 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL). The purpose of the project is to promote awareness of the critical risks indigenous languages face, and to underline and promote their continued importance as “vehicles of culture, knowledge systems and ways of life”. These languages, activists would contend, are not mere repositories of words, grammar and lexicons but are indeed the foundations and cultural roots of many diverse peoples.

These indigenous languages play a critical role in empowering their communities. The use of their native tongue gives them a level playing field. It can, for instance, facilitate equitable democratic participation in their countries’ economic, cultural and political life. It is the means of making them inclusive of the body politic and drawing them into the heart their country’s system. It gives them hope and a stake in the future of their society.


Indigenous languages make up the majority of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages and, like all languages, they are as the UN argues “depositories and vehicles of culture, knowledge, values and identity”. The UN also maintains that the loss of any of these languages would be a deprivation for humanity, and a disempowerment for the communities specifically dependent on these languages. According to the New York Times of the estimated 7,000 languages spoken in the world today, linguists say, nearly half are in danger of extinction and are likely to disappear in this century. In fact, they are now falling out of use at a rate of about one every two weeks,

According to UNESCO, a language is endangered when parents are no longer teaching it to their children, and it is no longer being used in everyday life. (Source: “Dying languages: scientists fret as one disappears every 14 days“, A language is considered nearly extinct when it is spoken by only a few elderly native speakers. Languages with a mainly oral tradition have more chance of extinction than those with a written tradition.

What are the numbers behind indigenous languages?

  • 7,000 languages spoken worldwide
  • 370 million indigenous people in the world
  • 90 countries with indigenous communities
  • 5,000 different indigenous cultures
  • 2680 languages in danger of extinction

According to UNESCO the Aims of the IYIL are:

  1. Increasing understanding, reconciliation and international cooperation.
  2. Creation of favourable conditions for knowledge-sharing and dissemination of good practices with regards to indigenous languages.
  3. Integration of indigenous languages into standard setting.
  4. Empowerment through capacity building.
  5. Growth and development through elaboration of new knowledge.

It is through language that we communicate with the world. Language helps us define our identity, articulate our history and culture, and store our traditions. Indigenous language empowers people to defend their human rights and gives them the wherewithal to participate in an equitable way with all aspects of their society. In doing so, they give people a stake in, and a sense of ownership of, their society.

Through language, people preserve their community’s history, customs and traditions, folk memory, distinctive ways of thinking, meaning and expression.  Language is also used to construct their shared future. Language is pivotal in the areas of human rights protection, good governance, peace building, reconciliation, and sustainable development. (Source:

A person’s right to use his or her chosen language is a prerequisite for freedom of thought, opinion and expression, access to education and information, employment, building inclusive societies, and other values enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Many of us take it for granted that we can conduct our lives in our native languages without any constraints or prejudice.  But this is not the case for everyone.

Of the almost 7,000 existing languages, the majority have been created and are spoken by indigenous peoples who represent the greater part of the world’s cultural diversity. Yet many of these languages are disappearing at an alarming rate, as the communities speaking them are confronted with cultural prejudice, linguistic assimilation, enforced relocation, educational disadvantage, poverty, illiteracy, migration and other forms of discrimination and human rights violations.

Given the complex systems of knowledge and culture developed and accumulated by these local languages over thousands of year, their disappearance would amount to losing a trove of cultural treasure.  It would deprive us of the rich diversity they add to our world and the ecological, economic and sociocultural contribution they make. More importantly, their loss would have a huge negative impact on the indigenous cultures concerned.

It is for this reason and others that the United Nations chose to dedicate a whole year to indigenous languages, to encourage urgent action to preserve, revitalise and promote them. Let’s hope it is a successful year.

This blog is based on information supplied by the project’s official site:

Where information on related events and what you can do to help can be found.

Aidan Collins is Marketing Manager at KantanMT.

KantanSkynet to Rain Down Opportunities for Linguists Worldwide

One of the wonders of the modern I.T. era is the extent to which technology has shrunken this world. I.T. has given industry a global reach that can be measured in mere nanoseconds, or less. It is a brave new world. A reality that could only have been the stuff of science fiction only a few short decades ago. For example, when I started in this industry in 1990, we neither had the internet nor email, and I am no fossil!

In 1990 I started working with a localisation company who housed its own team of translations for the FIGS languages (French, Italian, German and Spanish – for the uninitiated). Those were pretty much the main languages requested by USA and European companies for localised products. That was the focus of their market at the time. After all, it is the market that drives the demand for products in local languages. Other localisation companies used the telephone and the fax, as well as couriers to manage their workflow. It was a clunky system by comparison to today, but it worked. What suffered was speed of delivery.

The revolutionary change in workflow practices was brought about by the introduction of the internet and email. Overnight, the localisation workflow model changed. No longer was it necessary to house teams of translators. In fact, it made economic sense not to. People eat up space – space eats up money for overheads – spending money puts up costs etc. And add to that dynamic new world of digital communication streams the Cloud, the Edge, and fibre optic cable connected to super powerful computers and the world suddenly becomes very tiny.

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Today, instead of sitting in an office in Dublin, London or Amsterdam a translator can be virtually anywhere and still be available for work. Ironically, translation has reverted to something of a 19th century kitchen industry work model. Most translators work from home. If they want to, they can sit on a beach and work. The important thing is they have connectivity and they deliver a quality product on time at the right price. With modern lightweight laptops (boy, where the old ones heavy!) and the seemingly ubiquitous WIFI no translator is restricted to where and when the translate.

And for those established translators it can be a lucrative business. The demand for them is high. Yet one of the banes of being a translator is the dreaded “downtime”, that period where they are waiting for a large project to arrive. While they wait it is difficult for them to take on other work unless it is small. The worst thing a translator can do is agree to do a large project and then announce at the last minute that they are no longer available. It destroys their reputation. So rather than put themselves in that position, most translators will suffer the downtime, a time when no money is being made.

Well, the good news is a new product from may well make such downtime a thing of the past. The new product, which launches in October, is called KantanSkynet. The product is a “Human-Powered Machine Translation Platform”. It is a global crowd-sourcing translation platform, where anyone with a language skill can earn money. KantanSkynet lets team members improve machine translated texts in their spare time, also improving their own language skills, while working to a schedule that fits best with their lifestyle.

It is the aim KantanSkynet to provide human-powered translations to enhance MT-produced texts. Using advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies, KantanSkynet evaluates the quality of machine translated texts and routes low-rated quality texts to human translators for them to improve. These improvements are then used to fine-tune future machine translated (MT) texts, allowing the MT engines to continuously learn and so improve future work.

If you speak a foreign language, KantanSkynet will allow you to earn money by being part of this language improvement team. All you need is an internet-connected mobile device, and the KantanSkynet opportunity is ready for you to access. It’s a simple equation – the more you work, the better the language quality you provide, the more you’ll earn.

KantanSkynet also allows translators to work to their own schedule. They can work when they like, where they like and as often as they like. In doing so, they’ll improve our machine-translated texts and put their spare time to good use earning money. It is mutually beneficial.

Under this revolutionary workflow model, downtime will become a thing of the past for translators. For example, if a translator is travelling by train, they can logon and work for the duration of the journey. If they are between large projects, they can fill their time logging on and working on a KantanSkynet project. The bottom line is translators can now earn money anytime, anywhere simply by logging on and using their mobile device to improve machine-translated texts. It’s this simple: logon to a KantanSkynet-allocated account and start earning money anytime, anywhere! If you are a translator waiting for the next big project to land in your inbox don’t waste that time, use KantanSkynet to earn money in the interim.

And KantanMT will make sure that you get paid fast! – KantanSkynet will pay you as you work! There are no delays and you’re paid directly for work completed. The more you work, the higher the quality of your translation, the more you’ll get paid! It is your opportunity to be a part of the KantanSkynet translation community, providing the power and flexibility of machine translation coupled with the quality and authenticity of native language speakers like you. Get yourself an accountant and get earning.

Aidan Collins is Marketing Manager at KantanMT.

So, What’s the Big Deal About Big Data Then?

It started with the flu: not just any old strain of flu, but a virulent virus known by the name of H1N1. The year was 2009 and a public health epidemic was rocking the USA. And the authorities were sure if things were not controlled it could well become a pandemic (i.e. a country- or world-wide epidemic). The problem was the authorities were chasing the spread of the disease. By the time they had identified an area where it might appear it was already too late. The challenge then was how do you get ahead of the spreading disease, how do you treat it like a forest fire and surround it by a fire line that would stop it spreading? It seemed an impossible task. Step in Big Data and Google. No company in the world could do what Google could do in 2009. Google handled 3 billion search terms every day and had the huge processing power to do it. (Source: Big Data, Viktor Mayer-Schonberger & Kenneth Cukier).

Then someone had the brilliant idea of harnessing this intelligent to try and identify the path the spread of the epidemic might be taking, and as close to real-time as was possible under the circumstances. The idea was to identify search terms that people would use if they were worried about getting a flu or were beginning to feel the symptoms of the flu. The search words could be identified and the computational might of Google would allow them to identify 45 search terms that would set off an alarm, but more importantly it would allow them to identify the area where the people where located who were doing the searching. Suddenly, instead of chasing a spreading flu, the health authorities were able to identify probable hot spots and quickly deploy health professionals to treat the population ahead of any arriving flu bug. They were at last able to throw down a fire line and contain the spread. The pandemic would not happen – this time. This was the first time Big Data was harnessed in such a fashion. A new industry was born, and it has continued its relentless growth right up the present day. And it’s not about to disappear anytime soon.

Big Data.jpgSo, what in a few words is Big Data? Well, the Big refers to the volume. Digital data has existed since the first bytes were input into a computer. Many computers had very large volumes of data on them. Think of all of the photos you have on hard drives, all of the documents you have created, all of the emails you have written, all of the Tweets you have tweeted, all of the Facebook messages you have posted and you are beginning to get an idea of the personal data you have created and are continuing to create, daily. Not multiply that the amount of people in the world who are doing the same thing. Here’s a figure for the active users of Facebook per day – 1.56 billion. (Source: Facebook DAU, March 2019). Add to that Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn etc and you see where we are going with the numbers. Colossal! For me the numbers are incomprehensible, but I will share them with you: are you strapped in? Well, according to IBM there exists today 2.7 zettabytes of data online. A zettabyte is 1 billion terabytes – are you any clearer? To say that is a helluva lot of information would be something of an understatement.

That is one humongous potential source of business intelligence which could render an enormous variety of information and at a comparatively rapid speed. Using the right equipment, methodology and specially trained data scientists that information mother lode could be sliced, diced and parsed to uncover very valuable information. And every global company worth their salt wants to do just that. And the reason for that? – it is estimated that today’s online spending is $50 trillion per annum. Any company wanting even a fraction of that needs to have the ability to identify markets, trends, sentiments, opportunities and to do it damn quick. Have your grey cells exploded yet? Well, here’s one last figure for you – it is estimated that the volume of online business data doubles every 1.2 years! (Source: Users Bring Real Value to Big Data Machine Translation, Wired).

Yet what made all this possible. Why now in the 21st century did it become a phenomenon? Well, the answer to that is the incredible explosion of the computational of computers. The development of fibre optic cable which allowed data to travel at fantastic speeds and the birth of the Cloud – a seemingly unlimited storage somewhere out there. Tie these elements to get and you get a completely different computation paradigm that hitherto existed. In addition to these technological rockets you had a change in mindset as to how Big Data could be used. It was as though a treasure chest (or Pandora’s box?) had been opened and made available to those who had the savvy as to how to exploit this global gift. The key word is global, as that is the key challenge. If a company truly wants to grab a slice of that $50 trillion-dollar market it needs to be able use online data, interrogate its own data collection, all of which exists in a multiple of languages. That is the reality of a global market. Only one third of those online are English speakers. It is estimated the other two thirds are covered by 45 other languages.

Enter Machine Translation – a technology that has existed since the 1960s and that has seen huge growth and refinement in the last 10 years. If a company wants to be truly global it must develop a way of handling huge volumes of data in multilingual formats and at fantastic speed – some even need it real time. The shear volume of what needs to be translated – to some degree or other, and not always perfectly – is, as we have seen – phenomenal. Machine Translation is the tool of choice for doing that. Not every translation needs to 100% perfect – companies like law firms need only “gist” translations. Other companies employing online chatlines need similar services – a translation with a quality that gets the message across. However, there are those who need perfection (if that exists – see my blog above on this). That too is being supplied more and more by MT AND Human Translators (HT). The latter will never disappear as a vital part of the translation equation. MT and HT are an essential partnership.

MT algorithms can crunch huge volumes of data and tremendous speeds and to an increasingly high-quality level. But we still need HT to bring the product to the accepted quality level (that can vary from customer to customer). The industry is giving shape to this new partnership translation paradigm. HT will always be a vital part of the translation/localisation industry. MT does not threaten their hard-earned status. I predict that the earning power of translators will rise over the coming short while. In theory, and I believe it will be in practice, translators will have the option to access work online 24/7/365. Only sleep will prevent them from accessing work when and where they want it. Things are developing rapidly behind the scenes and I believe that soon sky’s the limit for all translators out there.

Aidan Collins, Marketing Manager at KantanMT.

The Roar of NMT Engines is Growing, Says

I am not a great fan of Formula 1 racing. For me it is a lot of going around in circles interspersed with some moments of confused drama. But the one part of it I do enjoy is the moment when all of those powerful machines are lined up on the starting grid. The highly tuned turbo-charged engines are roaring ready to spring forward at tremendous speeds when unleashed. It is wonderful to behold such a superb collection of state-of-the-art technology, brilliantly designed and programmed to achieve the pinnacle of success.

Well, according to the 2019 NMT industry report the domain of turbo-driven engines is not only to be found in Formula 1 racing. Apparently, developers of neural machine translation solutions are also “turbo-charging” their engines as they attempt to capture huge swathes of business in an ever-expanding market.

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The report, published, earlier this year, titled “Neural Machine Translation Report: Deploying NMT in Operations”, says that there are now a dozen global tech companies “aggressively” pursuing enhanced solutions in machine translation and natural language processing. The list of global companies pouring millions into high-tech research reads like a Who’s Who of the IT world; Microsoft, Amazon, Salesforce, eBay and Facebook are just some of those who have poured millions into developing the technology.

For some – such as Microsoft and Amazon – the rationale behind their initial investment was self-serving, driven by internal needs to handle billions of words of their own translation projects. However, these global companies now see the advantages of taking this same self-built technology and monetizing it as a product they can now sell to smaller companies and also make available to individual users around the globe.

In parallel to this corporate push is a rapidly expanding level of research into the technology across many colleges in the USA, China and Europe. A chart in the report illustrates clearly this phenomenal growth, revealing that there was a notable rise in papers on NMT published in 2018. That year saw the publication of 391 papers, almost double that of 2017 and a six-fold increase of the 2016 numbers. Asia is to the forefront in the development of the technology.

Indeed, some Chinese academics controversially argue that the whole NMT industry was started by them and is now being propelled by their research. Undoubtedly, the exponential growth of the technology has been remarkable, growing from only a handful of champions just five years ago to a plethora of them today. The report talks of the current development spurt as being the “Third Wave” of MT technology. It suggests that with the huge investment by so many global companies – and growing levels of academic research – that this is a technology with a promising future.

As with the growth of any technology, there is the beginning of diversification processes as companies seek unique ways to monetize their product in an effort to recoup some of their investment. The industry is being driven by the global goliaths whose researchers were initially tasked with creating a solution for internal needs. These solutions are now seen as an opportunity for these corporations to develop another line of revenue. To harness this growing potential many of the tools’ companies, the companies behind such products as Catalyst, MemQ, Déjà Vu, Across, Wordfast etc have created APIs so that their product has the ability to interface smoothly with these NMT solutions.

Development efforts have also gone in many directions depending on the perceived needs of different markets. Some developers have concentrated energies in creating more and more language pairs; Google, for example, supports 50 pairs bidirectionally. Microsoft supports 41 pairs but uniquely allows its users to upload data if the do not have bilingual data. Amazon takes the lead by supplying up to 127 language pairs but is quite restrictive in how its users employ their engines.

One of the things all of these technology suppliers have it common is a menu of charges, although each menu differs as to when the charges kick in, and as to how is much is free. The report briefly highlights how many LSPs are struggling with how they should charge their customers for NMT services. Most have opted to go with the traditional per word method. However, the report suggests that this is something that might evolve into another method of charging as the service matures.

One thing that does jump out of the report is the number and scale of the Asian companies who are serious players in this field. In fact, Chief Scientist at Chinese search giant Baidu, Andrew Ng, claims that “Neural machine translation was a technology first pioneered and developed and shipped in China” and that US companies only came in “well after Baidu.” A comment that has stung many of the developers in the USA. The report seems to suggest there is a bit of a technology race between East and West development giants.

And as in the case of the huge sharks of the ocean, there are “pilot fish” companies swimming around the huge NMT companies seeking to feed off their efforts. This sub-industry is made up of companies who have seen an opportunity for supplying data-hungry developers with the billions of words they need from different market-types. Other enterprising companies have developed training courses aimed at addressing the growing demand for qualified post-editors. There has also been an increase in the number of “boutique” suppliers. These are smaller companies who offer the NMT technology to businesses who have neither the capital nor time to invest in developing their own NMT solution.

The report quotes several CEOs who argue that the technology will only become truly efficient when a comprehensive, qualitative form of integrated testing technology is available. The report interviews CEOs across a range of user companies and gives interesting feedback on their experiences in using NMT. Many of the reports are upbeat and give optimism that the technology is going in the right direction. A few of the CEOs have commented that after some initial reluctance many translators are now seeing that NMT is something that can help expand their earning power and are beginning to feel comfortable about where they now fit in the new L10n workflow.

The report is an easy read. It is not heavy on jargon, and it gives an interesting insight into the industry. Although the authors themselves don’t declare that machine translation technology is the future, taken in the round, it clear that NMT has become established, is making huge strides and is expanding from translating text to also translating voice. Clearly, this is an exciting time to be involved in the world of neural machine translation.

Aidan Collins, Marketing Manager at KantanMT.