Our Thriving Ecosystems

Leading the Data Revolution

Better business through analytics and AI

After earning his undergraduate in computer engineering, Mike Branch, MMAI’19, thought he was done with school. Then the vice-president of data and analytics at Geotab in Oakville, Ont., heard about a new graduate program at Smith: the Master of Management in Artificial Intelligence. “I’m in the AI field, and when I looked at the course outlines, I thought, this is exactly what is missing in the industry today.”

The MMAI program provides a strong understanding of the technical principles of AI combined with expertise in its business applications. “We need that manager who can translate the technical side to the business side,” Mike says.

Mike enrolled in the program, becoming part of the inaugural class in fall 2018. He has since hired three classmates to work at Geotab, which specializes in the connected commercial vehicle platform across nearly two million vehicles with over 40 billion records per day.

“We need that manager who can translate the technical side to the business side.”

data

Smith now offers business graduate degrees in both analytics and artificial intelligence.

Analytics ecosystem

As North America’s first graduate business degree in artificial intelligence, the MMAI is an important part of the growing analytics ecosystem at Smith. That ecosystem also includes the Master of Management Analytics degree. Starting this year the MMA is available in two programs: the Toronto-based MMA and the Global Master of Management Analytics, which can be taken from anywhere in the world.

The school’s Scotiabank Centre for Customer Analytics is another part of the analytics network at Smith. Established with an initial gift of $2.2 million from Scotiabank, the centre’s achievements to date include research advances in the areas of pricing, revenue management, loyalty programs, AI, decision making and ethics. In July, Scotiabank reaffirmed its commitment to the centre’s mission and success with $2 million in additional funding, supporting the centre through to 2025.

Working with business

Increasingly, Smith’s researchers and students are working with companies to apply analytics and artificial intelligence to real-life business situations. “We’re very active partners with business and definitely a leader,” says Steve Thomas, assistant professor and director of the MMA and MMAI programs.

Both programs collaborate with industry, getting access to unique cases and datasets. Students in the inaugural MMAI class this year completed some 60 capstone projects for businesses. For example, they presented to executives from the NFL on AI strategies for the league. Last year, analytics and AI students were able to work on datasets from Toronto’s Yorkdale Mall. They looked for solutions to retail issues, such as how to increase shopper dwell time or optimize layout. Some students used traffic patterns to predict when a shopper is about to leave the mall. They achieved 98 per cent accuracy. Such partnerships benefit students, researchers and the companies involved, says Professor Thomas. “Students get to work on real-world datasets while companies get access to top minds in analytics.”