AI is everywhere. It’s in cars and banking systems, in dating sites and all over the media.

Competing in the AI age

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) | Ting Li, Professor of Digital Business

Ting Li

Professor of Digital Business Ting Li studies how companies can benefit from data at the Erasmus Centre for Data Analytics. You probably don’t realise it, but Google gets smarter with every search you make. “It’s a learning algorithm and it’s becoming more and more precise. The more often we click on a page, the higher that page will appear in the list of search results”, she explains.

AI is everywhere, says Li. It’s in cars and banking systems, in dating sites and all over the media. Companies often use recommendation systems – a form of AI – to recommend products, such as movies on Netflix, music on Spotify, and all manner of items on Amazon. “You might think that you never click on those recommendations, but 30 to 35% of Amazon’s sales come from smart recommendation systems that are increasingly being fine-tuned by their data engineers”, she says.

One of Li’s PhD students is helping an insurance company to understand why customers switch from the one insurer to another. “We analyse the data to find out whether customers are mainly motivated to switch by comparison sites such as Independer, by Google search ads, by links on other websites, or after being called by a sales representative”, Li continues.


Stock market forecasting with Twitter

In another project, Li is investigating whether you can predict the stock market using Twitter or Facebook. “Algorithms can browse through those media and distil sentiments. For example, based on the sentiment ‘Apple did well in the first quarter’ you might be able to predict how their share price will go”, she says. It’s not certain whether this will work yet; it could also be that the sentiment only becomes more positive after the share price has risen.

It is not just about making money. “You could also improve your service based on such data and AI systems. For example, I work with public transport companies who want to improve their fare structure based on travel patterns, or ensure that passengers do not have to stand.” Li describes the core of her research as follows: “I’m always looking to understand the relevance of information, be it for the benefit of companies, individuals or society as a whole.”