If you have ever asked a question of Siri on your iPhone, or Google Assistant on your Android, you have some experience with natural-language processing (NLP). If you have ever settled a billing dispute with an automated online assistant, you have some experience with natural-language processing. It is a type of artificial intelligence (AI) that deals with the interactions between computers and human language, analyzing the thousands of words we use at any given time to help us draw insights and make decisions.
The science behind NLP is not new, but, in recent years it has become the primary driver of many forms of AI, and companies in a variety of industries are trying to maximize its potential.
How does NLP fit in with oil and gas operations? Speaking at the inaugural SPE ENGenious Symposium in Aberdeen, Philippe Herve, vice president of solutions at industrial AI company SparkCognition, said that NLP-based models can serve as a cognitive output that predict future operational behaviors and alert operators to potential hazards in the field, helping them craft more-effective safety protocols. The key, however, is in developing those models to make sense of the data.
“The knowledge is here,” Herve said. “The question is how can we capture this knowledge and pass it to people who can build new platforms? That’s the big challenge.”
NLP has existed in its modern form since the early 1950s, longer than the study of artificial intelligence, but Herve said the recent machine learning boom has brought it to the forefront of business thinking. This is partly because machine learning centers around writing algorithms that can learn beyond their initial programming, rather than being constrained by the rules coded in them.
Instead of trying to hand-code every rule of human language, programmers feed text into a machine learning program and let it figure out the rules for itself, using probabilistic models to determine word usage and context. To improve the model, the programmer can feed it more text and allow it to learn as a human might.
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