AI trends to look out for in 2019

Tom Christodoulou

In today’s digital world where humans and technology-powered systems interact in more connected and intelligent ways, enterprises that strive to achieve future growth realise that it is critical to lead with digital innovation to keep up with the expectations of an increasingly discerning end user. Those who don’t move fast enough will be forced out of the market.
Automation and AI capabilities are integrated into new or existing applications to transform human workflows, interactions and provide them with real-time decision support. They will provide natural extensions of tools already deployed in the customers’ work environments to create a more dynamic ecosystem focused on improving worker productivity, driving more efficiencies and developing safer environments.
Whilst adoption of AI and automation technologies is steadily increasing globally, we are seeing that enterprises are also leveraging on augmentation technologies in complement. Organisations are harnessing mobile technologies to empower their frontline workers with tools and data that enable them to become more productive and be able to make real-time decisions at the edge of the enterprise. This frees workers from repetitive tasks, allowing them to focus on tasks that bring greater impact on delivering better customer service.
This is especially important in markets faced with fast-rising labour costs or rapidly shrinking workforces. Japan, for example, faces both high labour cost and an ageing population, and enterprises and workers have embraced automation and augmentation technologies without fear of robots replacing humans at work.
Supply chain fulfilment transactions are growing exponentially for both B2B and B2C engagements. The exponential growth will drive the customers who are deploying at scale to seek advanced automation. When combined with increased edge power, machine learning (ML) and AI-driven tools, it will augment the human workforce for enhanced productivity.
Inventory management will leverage automation and AI to improve worker productivity and accuracy, and identify stockouts, assigning worker tasks and ordering products. Drones are being utilised to complete cycle counts in warehouses. Moving the process of data capture into the air provides on-demand checks and avoids the additional time and expenses spent on having employees access difficult to reach locations within the warehouse.
Moving material around efficiently and accurately enables manufacturers and distributors to reduce costs, improve productivity and meet demanding customer schedules. In the product packaging phase, robots are using machine vision, sensors and ML to mimic human capabilities (including touch). In addition, customer service can be augmented via automation (robots) and AI solutions, both online or in-store.
In terms of product delivery, drones and robots are used to cross difficult terrain and carry larger objects. Amazon and UPS are using delivery drones to reach customers in remote locations. An integrated service with autonomous vehicles and robots or drones demonstrates a more collaborative way of leveraging automation.
Automation driven by AI has empowered robotic-based capabilities and data management as well, creating a collaborative world where more natural, effective interaction happens among autonomous things or between humans and machines. Advanced automation brings more intelligence to businesses and delivers a performance edge in a data-rich environment.
Tom Christodoulou is the sales director of Zebra Technologies ANZ.

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