IP Australia puts digital intelligence to work

Author:Patricia Kelly
Position:Director General, IP Australia

Not so long ago the average person’s understanding of artificial intelligence (AI) was framed by movies like The Terminator and A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Skynet in The Terminator movies was the fictional AI platform that eventually gained self-awareness after it infiltrated millions of computer servers around the world. In the movie A.I. Artificial Intelligence, advanced humanoid robots... (see full summary)


AI is changing our world and like every leap in technology it has great benefits as well as risks that need to be managed. At IP Australia we have been on a journey of AI discovery, working with leaders in the field from Australia and elsewhere to understand the applications of AI for intellectual property (IP) and the way we administer it. AI is, of course, not the only technology reshaping our world; other technologies including big data, the Internet of Things and advanced robotics will also have a strong impact and together these technologies will lead to fundamental change affecting markets, the workforce, business operations and society in general. The combination of big data and AI is particularly powerful – and useful to the IP sector.

Augmenting our intelligence

As so eloquently put by Virginia Rometty, IBM’s first female CEO, “Some people call this artificial intelligence, but the reality is this technology will enhance us. So instead of artificial intelligence, I think we'll augment our intelligence.” Over the past five years, IP Australia has been working on a proof of concept to achieve augmented intelligence. Our aim has been to develop new, more efficient ways to deliver our services. Our real-life AI platform is far less dramatic than its fictional equivalent Skynet, but its potential impact is just as far reaching, all be it for good. What we learned from these augmented intelligence endeavors is shaping many of our current projects.

Today, over 99 per cent of the 850,000 annual customer transactions handled by IP Australia, worth over AUD 200 million in revenue, are digital. To achieve this we have radically transformed digital customer engagement, positioning IP Australia as the first fully digital Australian Government service delivery agency for Australian citizens.

This journey began in 2013 with the implementation of a digital transaction platform. At that time, the bulk of IP Australia’s systems were paper-based with just 12 percent of transactions undertaken digitally. It was from this foundation that our digital transformation really began.

Our virtual assistant learns like a human

In 2016 we launched Alex, our virtual assistant (VA) on our website. Alex works 24/7 and manages basic customer enquiries. It uses a combination of advanced natural language processing and machine learning to better support customers. Since launch, Alex has had over 85,000 conversations with customers and has maintained an 84 per cent...

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