Cork firm to host procurement sequel to Kasparov vs Deep Blue

Competition will pitch procurement bots against human expert with decades of experience
Cork firm to host procurement sequel to Kasparov vs Deep Blue

Alan Holland CEO of Keelvar wants to see if their software can perform better than a human. Picture: Victor Horgan

A Cork artificial intelligence (AI) supply chain company is hosting a competition to determine whether man or machine has the edge when it comes to procuring goods and services for business purposes.

The contest, hosted by Keelvar, is being pitched as procurement's sequel to the famous Kasparov Vs Deep Blue chess matches in the mid-90s.

Spun out of UCC, Keelvar works with some of the world's leading blue-chip companies, managing over €84bn in spend annually for Siemens, BMW, Coca-Cola, Novartis and Logitech among others.

Former world chess champion Garry Kasparov will be the guest speaker at the contest which will be live-streamed on December 3.

Former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov will be the guest speaker at the event.
Former World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov will be the guest speaker at the event.

Kasparov played a series of chess matches against IBM's Deep Blue computer in 1996 and 1997 with the computer emerging as the ultimate winner.

Founder and CEO of Keelvar Alan Holland said the competition is an opportunity to put itself to the test and see if their software can operate to a "higher standard” than a buyer can operate.

“We will be able to compare the performance of one of our sourcing bots in Ocean Freight to a human expert with decades of experience in the ocean freight industry," he told the Irish Examiner.

Holland said the software Keelvar builds for procurement teams in multinationals has an emphasis on AI and intelligence systems.

“We have a vision to build software systems that can be used by humans but can also operate themselves autonomously.” He said that for many multinationals “there are a lot of tasks involved in procurement”, some of which are mundane and repetitive.

"It’s about which one can get the best deal which doesn't necessarily mean the cheapest; sometimes the best deal means the fastest or the option that reduces CO2 emissions. For different buyers, it means different things.” 

“The contest is a benchmarking exercise for us really; we want to see if intelligence systems for running supply chains can become faster and more effective — we see a big change occurring in how we do procurement,” Mr Holland said.

“It’s also going to provide an opportunity to see what tasks can be automated and what tasks can’t. There is a fear out there with regard to the intelligence that AI is bringing with it.” 

And, is it a threat? “Well it is if we don’t adapt to it; by adapting, opportunities present themselves to us,” he said. “Humans just need to get better at the things machines cannot do. The company that does this will have a big advantage over the one’s that don’t.”

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