Neural Machine Translation – the time is now, more than ever?


Neural Machine Translation – the time is now, more than ever?

As the world faces one of the most challenging times in living memory, many businesses are facing uncertainty around sustainability, longer term forecasts, and managing costs while revenues are potentially impacted. At the extremes, some industries are seeing increased demand for their products and services, while others have ground to a halt. For the majority, the reality exists somewhere in between, with the uncertainty likely to persist for some time.

On a recent call with a prospective client from the legal industry, we asked the question, “What is prompting you to look at adopting machine translation now?”. The answer was a little surprising, and is ultimately what prompted this article…“It’s been on our roadmap for a while and we thought, what better time to pull the trigger than now?”. The conversation continued as to why this was, and later we began to think how this applied across other sectors.

“It’s been on our roadmap for a while and we thought, what better time to pull the trigger than now?”

Fortunately for Iconic, we provide our solutions to a range of specialist industries that are still operating and, in some cases, expanding despite the difficult economic conditions. Whether it’s ongoing litigation and compliance monitoring, new clinical trials, drug development and patent filing, or simply maintaining the status quo when it comes to operating a global business, machine translation still has an important role to play. And perhaps now more than ever.

So what are the drivers behind business’s ongoing and increasing demand for machine translation? To a large extent, it will depend on the specific industry, so we tallied what we’re seeing with some colleagues’ experiences to date across a few key sectors.

Legal and Financial

We have experienced a massive uptick in MT usage in this area over the last few months. In March 2020 alone, we translated almost 400 million words across 10 languages for legal users. e-Discovery and litigation are still ongoing as courts are adopting technology to keep proceedings up and running.

Monthly Words Translated by Iconic MT

Monthly Words Translated by Iconic MT

Technology adoption is already widespread, and has been on a consistent trend upwards in this area over the last number of years, and even more so now as companies endeavour to keep legal costs down.

Additionally, with most working environments going remote, information security awareness is also heightened. MT solutions – which have been vetted and infosec approved – are possibly offering a more attractive, secure option than distributed, at-home, native language document review.

Finally, we can clearly see that the wheels of the financial industry are still spinning, and it’s crucial that they do so. That means that compliance monitoring must also continue, not least because of the regulatory requirements. As with document review, the sensitivity here is heightened with people working remotely. This is a burgeoning area of translation automation as we recently covered and we anticipate this will continue.

Life Sciences

This is clearly an industry that is operating at the “frontline” over the last few months. Pharmaceutical and biotech companies have been moving at an incredible pace in the search for vaccines and treatments for the novel coronavirus. New drug development means clinical trials and, in March, we already saw the first human trials kick off.

This is a space that has been on the road to adoption of AI technology and automation (so-called Robotic Process Automation) over the past 18 months and there’s certainly no reason to halt that now. The ability to be able to share and interpret information quickly and effectively across borders is vital at this time. We should still not forget about data privacy and compliance when it comes to personal healthcare related information and, as with the legal instruction, well-vetted technology solutions can enable this.


IP / Drug Development

On a similar theme to life sciences, the IP (intellectual property) space is one that is still relatively active. Research and innovation in the area of drug development and chemistry is obviously picking up when trying to solve a new problem. This is an industry that has been using machine translation for a long time already, so there’s no let up now.

Interestingly, last month the European Patent Office reported a third consecutive year of growth for filings in the life sciences. It will be curious to see the statistics for 2020 in due course, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see this trend to continue for the life sciences, but perhaps fall in other sectors.

Adoption Robotic Process Automation

Growth in patent applications at the EPO in life sciences (credit: European Patent Office 2020).


Other Industries

Across other enterprises, it’s business as usual or better, particularly in the IT/internet, communications, and online spaces. One example of this is e-commerce. With the majority of bricks and mortar retailers closing stores (hopefully temporarily), there’s been a huge shift to online shopping. For those businesses that operate and sell globally, the multilingual demand isn’t going away, the scale is only going up, and thus the need for multilingual content remains.


That’s now, what’s next?

Schedule a DemoPutting our optimist’s hat on, many businesses might be able to anticipate an upsurge in activity once lockdown restrictions are softened. The intervening period could be an ideal opportunity for organisations to future proof operations and workflows to be ready to meet the demands of clientele!

If anything here strikes a chord with you, or you would like to learn more about what Iconic does from the experts who contributed to this piece, get in touch with us below to schedule a call or demo.

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