June 3, 2021

How Does Natural Language Processing (NLP) Work?

Most people use natural language processing (NLP) every day but have never heard of the formal term. Things like smart assistants, email filtering, keyword extraction, autocorrect… the list goes on. Do you ever think about how those useful tools work?

Let’s delve into what is NLP and what are some business applications of this useful technology.

What is Natural Language Processing (NLP)?

NLP is the part of artificial intelligence (Ai) that gives computers the ability to process and understand text and spoken words similarly to humans.

Machine learning in conjunction with NLP allows the computer to continually learn more words and phrases. Over time, the computer can hold a conversation as naturally as a human. The technology is ever-evolving, however, and we have not yet reached the pinnacle of NLP.

ElectrifAi is ahead of the curve, however, with several data scientists and data engineers that have been working in NLP for almost two decades. We can bring that type of experience to bear in a way that very few companies can do, even the big technology companies.

ElectrifAi stands out by enabling our clients to punch above their weight class in terms of their ability to implement machine learning. Otherwise, they would have to build out a team and all the overhead costs that go along with that.

ElectrifAi has pre-built machine learning models with the same level of expertise as the big technology companies. But we’re making them available for smaller companies who don’t have access to the same type of tooling as the big companies. We are a machine learning enabler.

How Can Natural Language Processing (NLP) Help Businesses?

Humans communicate with each other through life. That’s a Captain Obvious type of statement. But here's the problem… if you want to communicate with a computer or have a computer understand what's happening in a conversation, you must teach that computer to understand human language.

In language, context has a lot of weight. The spoken word is handled a bit differently than written word. Even then there's different context. We use different words and language when talking with friends than in a professional setting. The same applies to legal language, such as writing a contract.

The business applications of NLP are so expansive we could write a book. Let’s investigate two that we’ve found to be very useful for businesses:

  • Smart Assistants
  • Contract Text Processing and Keyword Extraction

Smart Assistants

Historically, context is something that machines have had a hard time griping onto. You can test this out if you have a smart assistant (e.g., Siri, Alexa, Bixby).

For example, if you ask your smart assistant to tell you about a band, you’ll receive information about that band (e.g., who they are, name out the members, where they’re from). And then if you ask what was their first album? The smart assistant will trip over that question because there is no context to understand by following the previous question. The answer will be something unrelated.

Understanding the context of a conversation can be hard to do. In fact, it’s hard to do even when you’re talking to another human. You’ve probably been in a conversation with your significant other and you’re talking about one thing but they have no idea how to respond because they weren’t tracking the conversation. As the saying goes in one ear, out the other.

It’s hard to teach a machine something that’s hard for humans to do as well. It’s one of those things where the real cutting edge of NLP technology will take place… hopefully soon!

Contract Text Processing and Keyword Extraction

Text processing is one part of NLP that every company can relate to, because everyone has text. Documents such as contracts, invoices, etc. If you’re able to process text documents (whether organized/structured or chaotic/unstructured), text is important.

For example, there is a certain semantic structure to any document (e.g., book, resume, contract). When a human reads the document, they have all this wealth of knowledge to support their understanding. That’s not something machines would natively know. But you can teach machines to process written text, to understand sentiment and subject-verb-object (SVO) to understand what’s happening in the document.

If you’re dealing with contracts, you want the machine to act like a paralegal where you can just ask it questions about the document. Machine reading comprehension (MRC) is the machine’s ability to really act like that paralegal and respond to questions accurately and intelligently.

Even as consumers, when a contract is placed before us … do we really read the fine print? We see the end user license agreement come up and we just hit agree. We don’t really know what we’re agreeing to. Many business owners are busy running their company and not really spending a lot of time going through contracts the way they should.

Now, some business owners do take that sort of thing very seriously by retaining legal counsel. ElectrifAi’s products, at least, are not a replacement for that. But think about it as opening a can. You could open a can with manual tools or you could use a can opener. ElectrifAi is like a can opener for legal documents and contracts.

How can ElectrifAi help?

ElectrifAi can help companies bridge the gap between the structure of a document and the structure of how a computer could read that document. How? Through an ElectrifAi SaaS solution, ContractAi.

What is ContractAi? Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) powers this intuitive SaaS solution, translating raw contract data into detailed insights - exposing hidden risks and opportunities. By reading and understanding inaccessible and complex contractual language and clauses, ContractAi grants full contract visibility with unprecedented accuracy—empowering you to take action in the most business-critical moments.

When you’re dealing with contracts, you must pay someone, even if they’re a paralegal, a fair bit of money. And every business on the planet deals with contracts of some sort. So, how can you go through and find ways to ensure your business is compliant with all the terms and conditions?

You could hire 50 paralegals to read through perhaps 1,000 contracts a month. But with the implementation of machine learning, those 50 paralegals can now read through 5,000 or 10,000 contracts a month. Machine learning does the heavy lifting for those employees, it doesn’t replace them.

Machine learning does the type of work that no one really cherishes. ContractAi is a force multiplier for any organization to read and consume more contracts, perhaps even analyze contracts already in place so you can better understand what you have already agreed.

There are a lot of companies out there who are trying to boil the ocean. But we don’t want to boil the ocean; we want to solve a specific business problem. What’s one thing every business must deal with? It’s contracts. And that’s what ContractAi was built to do.

If you need help getting your journey to machine learning started or want to find out more about NLP, reach out to us today!