Smart automation is fait accompli in shadows of pandemic

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Overview: The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has not spared any industry sector from its destructive impact. The entire business mechanism has undergone a paradigm metamorphosis. The social distancing norm was bound to usher in an era of optimum technology and Artificial Intelligence is one of the foremost to be adopted by industry of all hues. In this article we take a closer look at this transformation.

Under the current circumstances we can’t ignore the contribution of artificial intelligence to almost every industry, from automating simple and repetitive tasks to performing specific and high complex functions that humans find difficult or even impossible to complete.

Artificial Intelligence is set for a massive takeover in the years to come. However, the question is, what can this technology do to help in the current pandemic? Will it be able to help to mitigate the costs and reduce the time needed for the global economy to recover after this crash?

China, while being ravaged by the pandemic, has demonstrated the benefits of AI as a crisis management tool. The country was able to identify patterns from big data, support their health systems and control the spread with the help of AI. One good example of the success of AI in China is how it assisted in radiology technologies, speeding the diagnosis of large numbers of patients with the novel Coronavirus.

I feel that other nations should unite their expertise in order to expand AI’s current capability to fight against COVID-19. A number of applications have been deployed so far, and the following are just a few of the ways of how Artificial Intelligence and Automation could solve the health crisis:

how Artificial Intelligence and Automation could solve the health crisis

With globalisation in our daily lives, human activity, especially migrations, has caused the virus to spread virtually everywhere. It makes it especially difficult to track. Canada-based start-up Bluedot developed a software solution to track, recognize and report the spread of the virus. The main concern are the sources of the data needed to feed this tool, which might present a risk of potential infringement to individual’s civil liberties, policy regulations, etc.

Chatbots are not a novelty nowadays, but their use in the health industry was shallow. To help overwhelmed healthcare systems worldwide, Canada-based start-up Stallion.ai developed an AI multilingual virtual healthcare agent. It can answer questions related to COVID-19 and provide information, clear guidelines, recommend protection measures, and even check and monitor symptoms.

A simple camera with thermal sensors and facial recognition AI software can instantly detect people with fever, or i.e., if people are wearing or not wearing a mask. It is generally being used in airports and border controls.

The disinfection of goods, furniture, and even entire rooms can be done completely autonomously and without any human participation through the help of Robots, IoT and AI. Some start-ups, just as Gideon Brothers and UVENTIONS are working on these kinds of solutions.

As we try to imagine the near-term future, uncertainty is the first thing to come to mind for sure. It unavoidably resulted in the propagation of myths and fake news on social media platforms. Multinationals like Google or Facebook are deploying AI technology to try to combat the waves of these myths and conspiracy theories.

It’s interesting to note that the current global situation is pushing the development of robots and the improvement of AI to save lives and reduce human exposure to the COVID-19 outbreak. It could lead to a new era of robotic human helpers.

A hotel in China makes use of robots to deliver food to people placed under quarantine. A fleet of robots is being prepared in Spain to assist with the country’s coronavirus testing. Delivery drones are also under development and improvement by companies like Amazon and UPS to reduce the need for human labour.

All companies want to be able to keep producing and selling during an unstable situation. To be able to do so, manufacturers will need to look closer than ever into AI and Automation.

There are a lot of questions that are waiting to be answered: Which processes can they automate? How reliable will this automation be? The initial investment needed and ROI? And what will happen to all those employees that will get substituted by machines or even by just software?

Increase in interest in AI

Increase in interest in AI is not limited only to substituting humans but as well as supporting them in their daily activities. The majority of office employees can work from home. This “pushed” digitalisation of the workplace, will probably bring a new trend of WFH culture, with new needs.

A simple example: if we don’t have a fancy background to show in our meetings, we will probably use a fake background picture, and thanks to AI integrated into the video-conference software, the camera is able to know what needs to be shown and what needs to be hidden on the background picture.

Even if we completely ignore the pandemic and its impact on the company’s strategies, the growing volume and complexity of business data have forced many firms across a variety of industries to adopt AI to boost growth.

According to data gathered by Learn Bonds, the global AI software market value will jump from $22.6 billion in 2020 to $126 billion by 2025.

Looking at the region, North America is the leading AI software industry in the world and the Asia-Pacific region is ranked as the second-largest market globally.

In the end, it’s quite clear that the coronavirus pushed and will continue to push the improvement and further development of AI & automation, from their core-tech to their applications.

Article by Arijit Nag
Arijit Nag is a freelance journalist who writes on various aspects of the economy and current affairs.
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