Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the hottest topic in the World nowadays. All big Tech Giants such as Microsoft, Uber, Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Oracle, Salesforce, Intel, IBM or Twitter are competing in the race to lead the market and acquire the most innovative and promising AI start-ups. AI is already being used in everyday life with applications including speech recognition, smart cars, purchase prediction, fraud detection, security surveillance, music recommendations and AI-powered personal virtual assistant such as Cortana (Microsoft), Siri (Apple) or Alexa (Amazon). Besides an improved user experience, how useful and practical could AI be in a business context though? Is it something services and industries businesses should consider for their productivity? In conversation with PwC Luxembourg’s experts.
The economic impact of robotic advances and AI
When it comes to AI, the most raised questions are: will machinery replace humans? How many jobs will be lost? The various estimates of job reduction fail to give a concrete and clear image of what we should expect.
Almost everyone agrees that robotics and artificial intelligence will permeate wide segments of daily life in the next future, with huge implications for a range of industries such as healthcare, transport and logistics, customer service and, of course, home maintenance. Although experts are largely consistent in predicting the evolution of technology itself, they’re deeply divided on how advances in AI and robotics will impact employment and the economy as a whole over the next decade. “Instead of trying to predict how many jobs will be lost, we’d like to focus on how everybody’s job will change, what new capabilities AI brings. We think it creates tremendous opportunities to address problems that we can’t solve today” said Serge Hanssens, Consulting Director at PwC Luxembourg.
A successful partnership between humans and machines can bring the world to a next level and benefit each individual. “Advances in technology may displace certain types of work, but historically they’ve been a net creator of jobs” stressed Xavier Roch Lhotellier, Consulting Manager at PwC Luxembourg.
Several studies have researched how robotics and artificial intelligence progress will affect employment in the future. Opinions remain divided, with about half of them saying robots and digital agents would replace a significant number of workers and the other half saying technology would create more new jobs than it displaced.
In fact, technological innovation has already been changing the jobs people do, and the way they do them. “As much as we try, no one can see into the future. But we can look to the recent past to get a sense of how technological change has already reshaped the workforce, creating new job categories while others fade away” said Théophile Werlé, Senior Consultant at PwC Luxembourg.
Cognitive intelligence allows machines to learn and adapt to new situations
Intelligence will be everywhere and in everything. Systems will see, hear, learn and take action accordingly. The car industry with autonomous cars and trucks is at the forefront. The largest players, such as Volvo, Nissan, BMW or Tesla are already investing heavily in a future where cars recognise objects around them and take decision about them.
Artificial Intelligence will also become the new norm for businesses in the financial sector, such as banks. “If you’re a private banker you need to know your clients’ concerns, business news, company trends, issues with your brand or competitors, new tax regulations, choices and interest from similar profiles, latest analysts’ reports in line with your client’s investments,” specified Serge Hansenns. “AI will feed in the right information (from text, images and videos), provide you with the accurate and high quality analysis you need and suggest potential investments for your clients”.
How does this translate into practice? Some of the most pragmatic applications are Drone Powered Solutions. PwC has recently launched an online application (PwC Geospatial App) to collect, integrate and analyse data (images) from various sectors, such as construction, insurance, oil and gas or Telco’s. This solution minimises operating costs, creates new revenue streams and mitigates safety risks of clients.
Another example is the grocery store prototype launched by Amazon, where shoppers pick up goods and they just walk out. The technology uses include computer vision and sensor fusion to collect data from different sensors and increase the reliability and accuracy of the results, as well as deep learning algorithms.
Productivity boost and (insane) time savings
According to PwC’s report Tech breakthroughs megatrend, Artificial Intelligence is among the tech “megatrends” that will change how business is done in the next few years. As the report notes, AI is an “umbrella” term with many aspects to it, some of which are more likely to be used by businesses than others. As enterprises contemplate the introduction of AI across their functional areas, it helps to clearly articulate which stage of AI they’re aiming for. “AI is clearly coming into the workplace; it’s just a question of how and when. We believe this is a game changer for our work – productivity will skyrocket with AI and we see it as unique opportunity to change business processes” highlighted Serge Hanssens.
What’s in it for business?
Decision process – quicker and better with AI!
Businesses need accurate insights for their decision-making process; AI will drastically improve the quality of the decision process, while speeding it up.
Solve insolvable problems to date.
New cognitive technologies help take advantage of the huge amount of data and bring insights humans couldn’t get.
Deliver analysis, research and diagnosis almost immediately
Artificial Intelligence helps machine learn from people and their work to the extent that they will understand questions and anticipate answers or suggestions people are looking for.
Getting things done automatically such as scheduling meetings, answering basic emails, summarising a document, analysing data, performing researches, etc. This is where machine learning can improve companies’ daily routine in understanding email context and creating appropriate replies, managing calendar conflicts and quickly providing accurate data analysis.
Exciting times ahead!
2017 could be called the year of Artificial Intelligence: from better improved data analytics to smart homes, cars, and more. Every day seemed like the world of tech was making a step closer to true AI, like AI comes a little step closer to being human. All these new capabilities open ways beyond what’s expected, creating tremendous opportunities. “To make the best out of it, businesses need distinction, intuition and expertise” stressed Xavier Roch Lhotellier. “Will the potential be the same as when the world discovered electricity?” asks Théophile Werlé. “We know it’s huge but we probably can’t imagine how big it actually is and how fundamentally it will change our working habits”.
AI is taking over the world. “Today, we accompany large and small companies on this journey. They want to know how they can take advantage of these new technologies, be ahead of their competitors, retain their best talents, provide the services their clients are looking for, increase productivity and improve decision-making processes. These are all challenges that require a deep dive into the changing digital world its opportunities and threats”, concluded Serge Hanssens. Are you ready?
 In 2013, Oxford Martin School suggested that 47% of U.S. jobs were at high risk from automation, but a 2016 working paper from the OECD gave a significantly lower estimate—9%. Another study from McKinsey in 2015 concluded that 45% of the activities that workers do today could already be automated if companies choose to do so.