Beyond the sci-fi scaremongering: the AI revolution will be by humans, for humans, and it’s happening now

Ex Machina and Chappie are just two of the recent films that have reignited the debate around artificial intelligence and the value it holds in assisting humans in everyday tasks. Like a science fiction movie, automation sparks thoughts of humanoid robots that replace people, or that can do things better – or sometimes worse—than we can.

Where is all of this taking us? It can be a divisive topic: luminaries such as Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Elon Musk have been openly sounding alarm bells about the dangers of artificial intelligence. An ‘Institute of Existential Risk’ has been endowed at Cambridge University. Let’s be honest. Automation will likely make some jobs redundant, but it will also create others. Five years ago, who would have imagined the following ‘help wanted’ ad? ‘Twitter Data Wrangler – Apply Within’?

While the debate about job loss to automation and AI will continue, numerous businesses are already using automation to improve operational processes and efficiency. As a result, it is highly likely that the power of smart robots for intelligent process automation may in fact enhance today’s jobs and create completely new categories. That’s because it’s not a matter of simply applying automation to existing processes: it’s about building processes for humans, by humans.

Rise of the robots, but power to the people

The potential is as huge as the benefits are obvious. By implementing a digital workforce of software robots, organisations can ensure that work is done around the clock, eliminate human error and reduce human dependency to save costs and drive revenue.

> See also: AI in the enterprise

AI and intelligent process automation (IPA) have the power to transform and drive positive, important advancements for society in areas like healthcare and education. Consider the Internet of Things, where sensors — including emerging nanotechnologies coupled with artificial intelligence — are beginning to drive advances in workplace safety.

It is true that robots can do the same tasks over and over, with zero variance with significantly fewer errors. But humans must still oversee robots to monitor, orchestrate, coordinate and remediate problems if something goes wrong. So, power to the people! Automation has its limits — and there are some things that robots just can’t do.

That’s where a blended model of automation augmenting talented people can provide extraordinary outcomes. By connecting people across all business functions and geographies, and providing them with relevant information in real-time, intelligent process automation will provide better design, operations and maintenance, as well as higher quality service and safety.

The data generated by intelligent process automation is the real prize, for businesses and workers alike. With advances in machine learning, artificial intelligence and big data, companies enhance the ability of businesses to predict rather than react to rapidly changing demands and expectations.

Businesses that are already embracing these new technologies are capturing more data, improving processes, and generally empowering workers to be more effective at their jobs. For example, having more customer data at employees’ fingertips and being able to share it across the business can allow them to respond to queries directly and more quickly without having to ask colleagues across different departments.

Having access to comprehensive customer data allows businesses (and the robotic machines they employ) to better analyse this valuable information and spot patterns and trends. An example is British Gas, which is using machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyse patterns around customers’ use of energy and highlight any instances of connection problems.

The in-house programme, Hive, monitors the quality of radio signals and learns where wireless network issues may occur by detecting previous problem areas. Armed with this intelligence, the company can proactively alert customers to potential problems and send a signal booster often before they are even aware of the issue. It is this level of service that will really increase customer satisfaction.

Intelligent process automation, machine learning and AI increase the productivity, decision-making and agility of front, middle and back office teams by supplying them with more accurate and actionable information—fast.

Who are the AI innovators?

Many early adopters of process automation are already ahead of the game, embracing innovative ways to create new levels of process efficiency and new possibilities for outdated operational models. In the financial world, ING Netherlands has started to use the power of AI. The bank recently launched Inge, a new AI driven voice feature on its mobile banking app that provides an innovative, simple and hands-free alternative for customers to do mobile banking. This technology not only improves the customer experience, but also helps human resources in the company to take on higher order activities.

While many companies are already moving in this direction, we think much more can be done. Cognizant surveyed 500 senior executives across the US and Europe, and found that half of the respondents saw intelligent process automation as significantly improving their business processes over the next three to five years. 44% see similar importance for analytics. Significantly, nearly one fifth reported having achieved cost savings of greater than 15% from intelligent process automation in just the past year alone.

The research also shows that through these technologies, humans are attaining new levels of process efficiency, such as improved operational cost, speed, accuracy and throughput volume. In short, the use of the increasingly more astute technologies of smart robots is becoming a force-multiplier for smart people.For example, our HPA Health Mason platform allows a unique robot-to-robot management structure.

One robotic global manager delegates work actions to myriad individual robots to automate tasks typically done by a person (such as a claims examiner). While efficiencies are increased and direct labour costs are reduced, the speed of the platform improves medical loss ratios more quickly. Specific HPA implementations have yielded a first pass accuracy of 99.97% over a rolling 12-month average, significantly reducing duplication of claims and the risk of financial errors.

Platforms like ADPART (Activity Diagram-Based Path Analysis and Regression Testing) have demonstrated the potential to reduce test effort in excess of 30% by using machine learning. Over 80 businesses use the intelligent system to automate test design and predict the most vulnerable business processes by learning from past problems and defects.

AI and ‘Code Halos’

Across industries—financial services, healthcare, insurance— organisations are using intelligent systems and the rich data they provide to increase speed to market, reduce human error, seek regulatory compliance and reduce fines, achieve faster processing times and gain immediate ROI through faster implementation times.

But sometimes, ‘doing analytics’ or merely automating an existing process falls short. Prompted by innovative competitors, a full digital re-think may be crucial to transforming core processes. By harnessing the power of emerging technologies, such as social, mobile, analytics, sensors and cloud, companies are completely re-imagining customer, supplier and partner interactions. By igniting the digital information surrounding these entities — also known as Code Halos — organisations can realise business process insights in far greater fidelity than has ever been possible before.

> See also: The day I met Amelia: the virtual assistant hoping to usher in the AI revolution

So while a futuristic version of AI continues to fuel the latest sci-fi blockbusters, we have already entered a new era of human-machine working, in which software tools have emerged as ‘the robots’ for administration and knowledge-based tasks. Though we are likely to see the rise of the machines over the coming years, the human touch will never be lost. But automation with sophisticated technologies is here to stay. And like a good science fiction movie, whether you like it or not, it’s coming soon — to a process near you.

Sourced from Gajen Kandiah, executive VP, Business Process Service, Cognizant

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...