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Digital innovation primer: Part four – AI and robots are here

By Craig Baty FIML


In this fourth of five articles on digital transformation for non-technical leaders, we’ll look at AI and robots. In last week’s article we saw how pervasive the Internet of Things has become, now let’s look at how AI and robots impact today’s workplace and world.


A higher intelligence?


Artificial Intelligence is the application of computing power to problems previously solvable only by human thought, if at all. It comes in many forms. Key technologies and applications include:


  • Advanced analytics: the proliferation of Big Data has led to the creation of massive data sets that can be effectively analysed only with AI tools. AI can spot complex patterns in the data visible to humans. AI’s usefulness as an analytics tool is especially relevant in the use of predictive analytics and decision automation.
  • Natural language processing (NLP) and speech recognition. NLP involves the interaction between computers and unstructured speech and text. The technology involves massive processing power and complex algorithms and is used in such applications as speech recognition and machine translation.
  • Cognitive processing: Otherwise known as semantic computing, refers to digital processing that attempts to mimic the operation of the human brain. It is especially suited to the analysis of large unstructured datasets and has been shown to be more effective than humans in the diagnosis of many diseases.
  • Robotic process automation (RPA): RPA has grown out of Business Process Automation (BPA), and refers to the use of AI techniques to automate workflow and business processes. A good example is the use of NLP to scan incoming emails and undertake the appropriate action, such as generating an invoice or flagging a complaint.
  • Machine learning: The use of AI techniques to help computers make decisions based on previous events. Like many AI techniques, machine learning involves a combination of raw computing power and logic-based models to simulate the human learning process.
  • Chatbots and virtual assistants: Chatbots are robotic processes that simulate human conversation. They are often used for automated online help functions. The technology is also used for so-called ‘virtual assistants’, which uses AI to interact with humans to provide information that helps them undertake specific tasks.


Brain and body: AI and robots


AI is software, while robotics is hardware. Robots are machines, usually but not always driven by AI-based software. Their first widespread use was in production line manufacturing, where they could be programmed to perform repetitive tasks. As AI becomes more sophisticated and robotics technology evolves, robots are increasingly performing more complex functions, from domestic tasks to education and training to mimicking human performance and behaviour.

Any application that involves AI being applied to the physical world is essentially robotics. This includes autonomous vehicle and aerial and seaborne drones. These also cross into the Internet of Things (IoT). It is common that these evolving applications typically draw on a range of technologies.

Although we are many many decades away from AI being able to completely replicate human decision making and behaviour (and opinion is divided as to whether this will ever happen), AI is not going away and will increasingly permeate all aspects of daily life. To remain ahead of the curve, leaders need to understand the potential for using AI to augment their capabilities and should begin the process by working with their teams to identify potential applications, then develop these ideas into proofs-of-concept (POC).


Digital transformation – why you should care


Join us in Sydney where Craig will present an informative and insightful TEL Talk: Digital Transformation – Why should I care? This brief primer on Digital Transformation will address:


  • What is Digital Transformation and why is it important for today’s leader?
  • What are the key technologies and processes to be aware of?
  • How have these technologies been used to create truly transformative business outcomes?
  • As a leader, how can you prepare yourself for an increasingly digitalised future?

Craig Baty is Principal and Founder of Technology & Management Services (TMS), which specialises in research-based data-driven thought leadership and consulting for ICT strategy, outsourcing, vendor management, go-to-market execution, and market and competitive intelligence. TMS also consults on cross-cultural communications and managing virtual teams across multiple geographies. He previously held C-level leadership roles with global telecommunications provider BT (British Telecom), Japanese ICT & technology giant Fujitsu and ICT research and advisory firm Gartner. Craig currently serves as NSW Vice Chair of the Australian Computer Society (ACS) and on the NSW Council of the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA).


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