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Let’s Talk: Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the power to completely transform the way we do things, personally and in business. We have seen many cases of small businesses that have used AI to deliver exceptional services and products that go on to outshine the competition, or examples where businesses have completely revolutionised an internal process.

In October, we saw tech startup Devika, work with their client Equalution (health-tech app) to deliver a better service to users. Implementing AI gave the body transformation platform customised health plans for users, based on their mindsets. In the long run it made the service provided much more effective and affordable.

Just a few weeks ago we found an expert to explain what Artificial Intelligence Specialists actually do in organisations, hoping to educate employers on the key roles

With all of these discussions and stories, our aim is to remove some of the “unknown” around AI. Today we’re asking people in business “What does AI mean for your organisation?”

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Lourens Swanepoel, Australia Data & AI Lead, Avanade

The ability for artificial intelligence (AI) to learn and process massive amount of data will continue to grow as we make greater strides in computer processing power and deep learning algorithms. At Avanade, we believe a human-centered approach to AI can deliver exceptional customer and employee experiences when it augments human workers and integrates with existing legacy systems and processes. As the adoption of AI becomes more prevalent, ethical frameworks to address issues such as bias and privacy increasingly become a priority for businesses and an agenda in boardrooms. We believe that organisations driving the development and applications of AI have a responsibility to define its ethical use and consider the potential ethical ramifications on people, society and environment.

Will Calvert, Director Technology & Enablement, RMIT Online 

The growth of AI and smart technologies is shifting the education landscape and providing students with new, accessible and easier ways to study online. At RMIT Online, we’re using AI and personalisation to help direct students to the right content and course information based on their online activity and demographic information. From a student experience perspective, we are also able to use data to drive teaching and learning design capabilities, personalise learning and support journeys, and automate triggers to help students who may be at risk or new to studying in online learning environments. While there will undoubtedly be jobs displaced from AI and automation, I remain optimistic and excited about the possibilities these new technologies will bring to the individuals and organisations who are upskilled in their capabilities, as well as the transformation we will see to the education landscape.

Adam Ioakim, managing director, APAC, Emarsys

AI can mean a lot of different things depending on who you ask.

For Emarsys, AI is integral to our marketing platform. It’s the engine that drives 1-to-1 personalisation for our customers, enabling them to unlock new revenue opportunities.

For our customers, most of which are brick-and-mortar and ecommerce retailers, AI is an incredibly valuable technology that helps them deliver experiences that lead to loyal customers. This might be as simple as an abandoned cart campaign that leverages AI to identify customers who’ve exited a purchase before checkout. Retailers can then provide offers or incentives tailored to influence conversions (such as a new loyalty program tier or a discount), customised to the individual.

For others, AI is an unknown technology with ambiguous capabilities. It’s viewed as an overwhelming leap forward (often it’s not) and businesses often don’t know where to start. But AI isn’t something to be feared. AI is here today and here to stay. We interact with AI every time we use Netflix, Google, Facebook, etc. and no doubt it will continue to change industries such as marketing. But at the end of the day, the human has the control. Businesses need to think about AI differently—not focusing on the unknown but on the possibilities!

Chris O’Brien, Lead Data Engineer, Vend

We’re privileged to work alongside thousands of Australia’s most innovative independent retailers. Emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence has the ability to empower these retailers, in an evolving business environment. AI can seem pretty high-tech, and perhaps even a little scary – but it’s not all robots, or expensive systems that only big businesses can afford. Smart AI tools have the ability to learn, grow, and give personalised assistance to users and store owners, and will transform retail in the coming years.

In implementing AI, we look to understand how retailers do business and provide guidance based on that. This can be anything from informing them about new product trends or customer behaviour, providing regular reminders to replenish stock, or modelling how they browse Vend in order to speed up processes like purchase order creation and making sales. Creating applications is no longer about telling users how they should use software, but using AI to understand and predict how they use it so we can improve their experience every day.

Vijay Shankar, Director of Solutions Engineering at Freshworks

AI is driving some of the biggest changes we are seeing in customer experience right now. More and more, customers are using a complex mesh of physical and digital interfaces to interact with brands — from phone calls, texting, social media and voice assistants, to visiting physical stores. At many stages, AI is helping brands track, understand and act upon these various touchpoints.

Market leaders have cottoned on to the capabilities of AI early and are already using data analytics to anticipate customer needs. A great example is Dominoes. Customers can now order pizza from the fast-food industry leader in 24 different ways.  A number of these methods — including chatbots, automated phone ordering and self-service kiosks — are powered by AI.

As the tech continues to advance, brands that stand out will be the ones that use it to make data-driven decisions and enhance their offerings across the board to provide a truly personalised experience. We already know customer experience can make or break a business, but when implemented well, AI will enable brands to level-up and blow their customers away!

Andy Hardy, Strategic Director of Employee Engagement for Genesys in Australia and New Zealand

At Genesys, we see AI and automation as powerful tools that assist customer service agents to deliver more personalisation, maximising the entire customer journey through faster and predictive services whilst providing customers with self-service options customised to their individual needs. It offers the capability to match customers with the employee best suited to deal with and resolve enquiries more efficiently, and for businesses to achieve targeted outcomes like increased sales, customer satisfaction and lead conversion.

A recent consumer survey by Genesys discovered that ANZ consumers place a high premium on customer service staff being knowledgeable and capable of providing accurate information. AI technology facilitates suitable and effective real-time solutions by tracking and predicting each step of the customer journey, resulting in a faster and more accurate resolution to their problem.

A similar Genesys employee survey revealed that AI empowers employees to do their jobs better, with greater satisfaction.

Empowered staff = satisfied customers = healthy organisations. That’s a win, win, win for AI.

Raju Vegesna, Zoho Chief Evangelist

Artificial Intelligence is already changing the way many businesses operate. Indeed, 37% of organisations have already implemented some form of AI in their operations. Siri and Alexa are both examples of AI that already exist in everyday life. Discussions about the future of work often centers around AI and automation; yet fears that these trends could threaten human jobs are unfounded, with as many jobs expected to be created as replaced.

These technologies can actually enhance what businesses, and the people that work for them, can achieve. So at Zoho, provided a human element remains, we view AI as an opportunity, not a threat. The benefits of embracing this technological shift include the ability to automate mundane processes, minimise human error and make more precise and informed decisions. What’s more, utilising AI and automation can help companies motivate their employees and provide them the opportunity to spend more time on the more important and rewarding aspects of their job.

 Marcel Shaw, Federal Sales Engineer at Ivanti 

Ai in business

As we step into a new decade, 2020 will witness an upsurge in the usage of advanced technologies, such as Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), to accelerate technological progress. They will enable machines to process large quantities of data, make predictions, suggest actions and rule out false alarms, so professionals can focus on real threats and still have time to support core business initiatives.

AI technology is already being used in chatbots software, helping to move the task of dealing with customer inquiries and issues away from IT staff. On the security side, AI will revolutionise threat intelligence by quickly analysing vast quantities of data and responding in a timely fashion to critical threats. Without the help of AI and automation tools, overworked security teams can miss critical alerts, and even be forced to skip investigations altogether.

Furthermore, applying automated real-time data and analytics tools to large volume of data from multiple IT systems within an organisation, introduces the ability to see much larger patterns, resulting in incredibly high operational efficiency.Automation will continue to deliver exponential gains in effectively managing organisational security environment with larger endpoint resiliency in 2020.

Nathan Knight, General Manager for Lenovo Data Centre Group ANZ:

According to Gartner, by this year, it is estimated that while 1.8 million jobs will be eliminated worldwide due to AI, a whopping 2.3 million new jobs will be created in its place, displacing fears around wide-scale job loss. AI plays an invaluable role in relieving the workforce from time-consuming routine jobs, accelerating how we and our customers do business and liberating employees to take on projects in which they excel and are passionate about.

AI, therefore, in many ways, has been instrumental in enabling us to work on innovative research that advances humanitarian efforts. In Australia and New Zealand, we are in the early stages of an exceptionally exciting technology shift as we see extensive investments in AI innovations being made from both our commercial and academic customers. On a global level, the technology has allowed us to work with the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the National Taipei University of Technology for brain research – developing a video game that allows participants to race virtual cars via cerebral activity. This tool has the potential to be used to help children with ADHD, and even allow patients with severe disabilities to communicate.

Simon Marchand, CFE, Chief Fraud Prevention Officer, Nuance Communications:

Australian consumers are demanding higher security standards from the organisations they do business with following several high profile data breaches—a seemingly difficult task in such a quickly evolving cyber threat landscape. However, Artificial Intelligence (AI) allows businesses to meet this demand by powering some of the most sophisticated cybersecurity technologies.

More specifically, AI has dramatically enhanced the security of identity verification processes across some of the most fraud-ridden industries, including telecommunications and finance. Voice biometric authentication employs AI and deep neural networks to analyse over 1000 unique characteristics of a customer’s voice with as little as half a second of audio and authenticate their encrypted voiceprint, which cannot be mimicked or synthetically produced. Relying on AI for biometrics also allows you to be one step ahead of future threats such as synthetic speech creation by fraudsters.

Eliminating the need for PINs, passwords or security questions which not only are often forgotten by the customer but, historically, are easily compromised, AI-powered voice biometrics can drive both trust and customer satisfaction. It’s use cases like this that shows why AI is considered the top emerging technology that will have the greatest impact on customer experience projects over the next three years—AI powers more efficient, intuitive and secure customer interactions with businesses.

Jeff Olson, Head of Applied AI and Analytics for ANZ, Cognizant

Information is moving faster than ever before, competition is increasing in both speed and intensity, and customers’ digital skills and choices are exponentially growing. In the midst of these challenges, business leaders must make high-stakes decisions faster and more frequently, while confronting greater and greater volumes of data. As business opportunities become more dynamic and complex, so must also the capabilities necessary to realise those opportunities.

Recent advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) have offered approaches to stay on the front of that decision cycle. One advancement in particular, Evolutionary AI ― which applies the behaviours of biological evolution to AI development ― is a successor to deep learning models and a breakthrough in AI capabilities. While deep learning is contingent on what data is fed into it, Evolutionary AI instead self-learns as it evolves and crosses multiple learning models based on their success, just like biological evolution, discovering entirely new insights and AI behaviours.

What does this mean for businesses?  It means that your AI capabilities can be as dynamic and responsive as your increasingly demanding business challenges. Businesses who use AI typically optimise models for specific tasks. With Evolutionary AI, I have seen businesses grow these models to dramatically improve their value, whether it is for fraud detection, credit assignment, or healthcare and diagnosis. As the business world has increased in complexity, the opportunity for Evolutionary AI to deliver greater value and offer more choice faster is virtually limitless.

Ali Akbari, Senior Artificial Intelligence Lead, Unisys

AI is an advanced technology designed to efficiently deliver on the vision of enhancing people’s lives.

It’s replacing the processes that rely upon hardcoded logic which is limited to the knowledge of its creators, with clever mechanisms that observe, learn, and act based on the facts available in the real data and accumulated experience.

We consider AI to be increasingly secure and reliable in its ability to reduce the influence of unconscious bias associated with the human condition. We can replace a single human decision with the logic developed and refined by a diverse designing team and factual data.

This means improving performance, accuracy, and speed by automating repetitive decisions, creating time for the human mind to focus on other more important, creative, and engaging tasks.

Mike Featherstone, Managing Director, ANZ/APAC, Pluralsight

Artificial intelligence (AI) is estimated to be worth AU$22.17 trillion to the global economy by 2030, and Australia currently has 6,600 artificial intelligence (AI) specialist workers, which has increased from 650 AI workers in 2014 and is slated to grow further. While the growth in the talent pool base is great, it still severely falls short of the 160,000+ AI specialists required in the next ten years. The same issue is reflected in another emerging technology—cloud computing. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the lack of knowledge and skills on how to use existing paid cloud computing services were the greatest factors limiting their adoption, despite 77 percent of all Australian organisations using more than one cloud platform.

These findings indicate that emerging, and rapidly growing technologies, such as artificial intelligence and cloud computing require a constant need for employee upskilling across all areas of technology. There’ll never be a reality where artificial intelligence, or any other technology, will remain static, and if organisations wish to remain at the forefront of their industry and ahead of competition, technology skill development must remain a priority. To keep talent at the top of their game, a technology skills development platform is the most practical way for CIOs and business leaders alike to address the strong demand for tech skills.

Gerardo Contreras Vacca, Head of Marketing, APAC at MINDBODY

It may seem like just a buzzword, but we truly believe AI is the future of the fitness, wellness, and beauty industries. Research shows that six in ten calls to businesses go unanswered, with 80% of callers not leaving a voicemail. That’s a lot of missed clients!

To help our customers tackle on this opportunity, we now offer an AI receptionist that help businesses automatically respond to and book customers over SMS, Facebook and Web Chat.

Alongside this, MINDBODY is also further expanding AI capabilities across our portfolio of products, so that we can provide more impactful and personalised experiences. All this, with the aim to continue to connect the world to wellness – On average, 22,000 wellness appointments and classes are booked every day though the MINDBODY platform in Australia.

Dan Taylor, General Manager, Member Engagement & Innovation at TAL:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is progressing in leaps and bounds, revolutionising the way businesses operate today. All of this is enabled by the technologies that are advancing rapidly and becoming increasingly affordable. With the ability to learn and improve, AI is able to develop more sophisticated capabilities that will complement our workforce and improve our processes and services.

At TAL, the innovation team is constantly researching and working to understand the current trends and challenges facing our industry and the community. We know that AI is at the core innovation and leveraging it and other emerging technologies has allowed us to step-change parts of our business.

Some good examples of this are in Underwriting where AI has played a significant role in a number of steps of the process at TAL and we believe it will continue to help ensure quality and consistency in our processes. TAL’s Regtech Solution, a voice analytics tool deployed in partnership with Deloitte, and the award-winning Wunder Writer tool, are examples where we take advantage of AI and machine learning to improve the overall effectiveness of our quality assurance program for underwriting, ensuring best outcomes for our customers.

Felix Dintner, CIO, CALUMINO

For Calumino, A.I. is game changer. For the first time we can use artificial intelligence and deep learning to extract unprecedented data out of thermal sensing. It unlocks innovative benefits in healthcare, security, smart building, fire safety and automotive industries.

For example, we use A.I. to capture the activity data of residence in aged care, without intruding privacies. The sensor detects heat patterns and the AI extracts activity, posture, people count, and falls. Nurses receive instant fall detection notifications and can act fast. A short reaction time means reduced physical damages caused by falls. Further the AI can pick up any unusual health patterns, such as decreased sleep quality or reduction of wellbeing.

We know that we are looking only at the tip of the iceberg. The more data is collected, the smarter, more powerful and more beneficial the A.I. will become.

We’ve recently been accepted into the inaugural RealTechX growth program, and we’re excited to take our business to the next level.

Simon Daniels, Sales Director, ipSCAPE

Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools seem like a natural fit for the customer service industry. The vast amount of data generated (meta-data, performance metrics and call recordings/transcripts) provide a rich source of valuable information – if you know how to extract it.

And more importantly – use it intelligently.

For example, measuring ‘customer sentiment’ as a single stat, over time, is a common use case for ‘speech analytics’. However, the sentiment score is so generic that it is not very helpful unless its tied to a specific business outcome.

Where I have seen real value for a business using AI is measuring specific outcomes, for example, Fraud risk (with insurance), Promise to Pay (debt collection) and propensity for a complaint (customer service) or even as specific as ‘propensity to switch mortgage’ (Banking).

How does this work? – the AI tool processes the massive data set seeking patterns and correlations and builds a predictive model of based on what is determines are true indicators of behaviour.

The result is the tool identifies actual customers for a specific intervention that will drive the business outcome.”

Benjamin Weldon, Regional Director ANZ, AppDynamics

We are already seeing consumers expect faster download speeds, better video quality and more immersive experiences, in any location and across any device. Poor performance and outages are no longer tolerated by the consumer. As Australian businesses continue to develop intuitive digital experiences, they must also equip themselves with the technologies required to solve back-end application complexity.

Artificial Intelligence, machine learning and application performance monitoring will all become critical in 2020 and beyond. Artificial intelligence for IT operations (AIOps) for instance, leverages big data and machine learning to monitor, automate and resolve technical problems in real-time. Businesses now require greater visibility into online performance issues, but most importantly, they require the ability to take immediate action to address these issues before they negatively impact the end customer experience.

In the ‘Era of the Digital Reflex’, businesses have a greater opportunity to innovate and invest in their digital experience. Businesses must keep pace with both their customers and the competition, by embracing the use of real-time, data-driven insights to drive customer stickiness and remain relevant. However, for those that fail to do so, 2020 will be a year of reckoning.

Dr Rhoda Abadia, Program Facilitator, UniSA Online

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been around for a while but Moore’s law and technological advances have allowed researchers like me (and my organisation) to analyse data in novel ways and help tackle the slow-down of productivity. Since the availability of ‘big data’ has supercharged AI, naturally there have been talks of potential abuses particularly data privacy. People like the head of Google have expressed concern about the perverseness of AI in our daily lives. Some technologists and governmental agencies have called for certain aspects of it to be regulated.

It’s not a question of regulating AI, but how to do it without stifling innovation. Wider humanitarian benefits – such as predicting natural disasters and aiding agricultural productivity – are noble endeavours. AI technologies need to be ethical and not only useful; and healthy, on-going debates are necessary.

Jarrod Kinchington, Managing Director, Infor ANZ 

Artificial intelligence is a seemingly limitless force and requires an organisation to be nimble and ready to advance day-to-day. We’re seeing strong interest in using AI to automate HR and recruitment as it holds great potential for many areas of business as we’re witnessing within our own organisation, with our customers and partners.

“While AI will never eliminate the need for human input and intervention, it can vastly improve the hiring process to make it easier and fairer. We also expect to see an increase in AI-powered technologies being used to source and retain diverse talent groups as organisations strive to match the right talent with the right opportunities.

Danny Lessem, CEO and Co-Founder of ELMO Software

Artificial intelligence isn’t about robots taking people’s jobs―it’s about technology making people’s jobs more effective by removing the administrative burden in their roles so they can concentrate on the big decisions that really matter. For HR professionals, AI presents enormous possibilities to spend more time shaping the future of their organisation by streamlining processes that would once have been laborious manual tasks.

ELMO has been working on an AI project with UTS to create predictive analytics systems that use AI to examine deep pools of aggregated, anonymised employee data. This means our customers can have a deeper understanding of their employees so leaders can make informed decisions. Whether it’s taking steps to retain a top employee who is feeling bored in their role or boosting company morale, AI has the potential to help leaders make faster and more informed decisions.

Sean Girvin, Managing Director ANZ, Rackspace

We have seen an explosion of cloud-based collaboration in the enterprise space, and often multiple teams within an organisation are working with competing tools and systems simultaneously. In the future, artificial intelligence (AI) can potentially solve this issue and serve as a ‘middleware’ for disparate enterprise systems. This will positively impact organisations working with multiple partners across the channel ecosystem as an effective means of internal and external collaboration.

Remaining is the last mile problem. AI systems inevitably require a human element to operate to make the final, impactful business decisions. While there is no doubt that AI can revolutionise the way we do business, the question is whether it will live up to the hype in 2020.

David Williams, CEO, K-TIG

One of the most exciting things about machine-based AI and automation is seeing its disruptive potential across industries that have long remained resistant to change. Welding and fabrication industries around the world have historically proven to be too reliant on conventional welding methods that are very labour intensive.

However, with the ability to pioneer high-speed robotic technology and automation, coupled with the use of IoT, in a way that can help manufacturers overcome these traditional challenges, there’s no reason why the industry can’t evolve. AI and automation plays an integral part of our mission at K-TIG to change the economics and quality of fabrication. By applying an automated high speed, full penetration welding technology, we are able to produce exceptional quality welds up to 100 times faster than conventional welding methods. As industrial welding readies itself for disruption, those companies that are willing to embrace AI and automation will be able to keep pace with the growing demands placed on welding and fabrication industries.

Seth Butcher, national manager – IT solutions sales, Konica Minolta

Konica Minolta is at forefront of applying artificial intelligence (AI) in business today. From robotic process automation (RPA), which uses elements of machine learning and rules-based decision-making, to chatbots with natural language processing capabilities, businesses are already benefitting from technologies that they consider to be AI.

However, real AI can decide how to act when faced with an unfamiliar situation or data set. It mimics human-like responses but with a greater chance of finding the optimal solution or next best action because it aims to increase the chance of success as opposed to simply being accurate.

Most companies currently rely on machine learning to automate manual processes, which isn’t strictly AI but it’s is a great place to start. It can deliver exceptional business benefits including cost savings and improved efficiencies. The next step, AI, will expand on these benefits exponentially in the next five to 10 years.

Dr Robert Kay, Incept Labs
Our focus is complex social systems, and AI can help extend our research without the cost of more staff. With large corporates or education systems, there is an inherent risk that arises from having so many people in one space. These risks are a lack of productivity, staff turnover, and reduced learning or development. Increased personnel numbers in a business bring great benefits but if relationships aren’t properly understood and managed then these risks, often hidden, can grow. As a small organisation, we are acutely aware of this. So for us, integrating AI is about force amplification without increasing our company headcount.