AI for optimised efficiency in the workforce

One of the key deliveries of AI is to reduce operating costs and improve work productivity by simplifying complex tasks

by AZALEA AZUAR / Pic by AFP

ADAPTING to social distancing and travelling restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic is bringing us closer to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0).

Artificial intelligence (AI) — which was initially designed to carry out simple tasks like recognising languages and images and playing games — is now part of our contactless lifestyle.

For instance, checking-in before entering premises is now a must and people generally prefer doing it with the MySejahtera app to writing manually.

Many workplaces have also learned to adapt to working remotely using teleconferencing platforms.

It has spurred further technology innovation and adoption, as well as changes in the business world.

IR4.0 describes the exponential changes to the way we live, work and relate to one another due to adopting the cyber physical systems, the Internet of Things, cloud computing and AI.

Now it has evolved to virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa, Cortana and even robots that can think for themselves like Sophia, a human-like robot which can mimic human emotions and carry out conversations.

Developing Vaccines with AI

AI also plays a big role during the pandemic, where it has helped healthcare experts everywhere treat Covid-19 patients.

For instance, scientists from the Huazhong University of Science and Technology and Tongji Hospital in Wuhan, Hubei Province, have come out with an AI diagnostic tool.

It analyses blood samples to predict the Covid-19 patient’s survival rate quickly and accurately.

Another deep learning model, COVID-Net is used to detect Covid-19 positive cases from chest X-rays and accelerate treatment for those who need it the most.

Currently, the world is racing to obtain vaccines which are deemed the door to escape this pandemic.

Computational analyses and machine-learning systems also play an important role in accelerating the creation of vaccines.

They have helped scientists understand the virus and its structure. At the same time, they are able to predict which of its components would provoke an immune response, which is the most important step in designing vaccines.

AI, the Future of the Workforce

MobileOne Technology Sdn Bhd CEO Benny Toh believed that the current pandemic has reshaped every level of our lives from work processes to acquiring home supplies.

“AI has played a critical role in transforming businesses and it will impact most businesses towards driving productivity to improve revenue and profit,” he told The Malaysian Reserve.

One of the key deliveries of AI is to reduce operating costs and improve work productivity by simplifying time-consuming and complex tasks.

Ultimately, this will aid the workforce when it comes to performing tasks and efficiently completing their responsibilities.

“AI is going to change the world more than anything in the history of mankind. AI’s impact is everywhere from driverless cars, drone delivery services to robotics processing automation and automating repetitive tasks of backroom operation.

“The adoption of these AI technologies will become a top priority in most companies post-Covid-19,” said Toh.

Toh also believes that AI would be deployed to speed up the on-demand workforce marketplace.

“This will in turn decrease the cost of manpower and meet the sudden surge of demand for resources to cope with the increasing number of assignments.

“This needs to be supported by AI to minimise the learning curve, giving rise to operations that effectively rely on automation,” he explained.

Sustainability in the workforce will then be created in the long term.

As the need for immediate information is ever-increasing, Toh believes businesses are more connected in many ways.

He said even business owners are already migrating their processes onto digital platforms.

“I believe with this transformation, our digital footprint and digital information will expand exponentially,” he said.

MobileOne Technology is an end-to-end AI-powered solutions provider for sales and field service management.

Companies can access real-time records of on-ground field activities, streamline multi

step workflows, maximise business resources and provide more comprehensive data for strategic decision-making.

The idea came to life eight years ago when Toh was servicing his FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) customers who were using a business intelligence solution and trade promotion management system.

“I discovered these companies deployed quite a substantial resource on the ground to service their customers,” he explained.

Since his customers were tracking and managing their remote mobile field force manually, Toh realised that they lacked good visibility on what was happening on the ground from attendance, work completion, market intelligence to competitor activities.

Hence, he decided to come up with a workforce solution from the ground up to address and solve their problems.

“The solution, known as mForce, was developed in 2013 and we managed to secure our first customer in 2014,” he said.

Now, MobileOne Technology has worked with well-known brands such as FaberCastell, Unilever, Coca-Cola and Nivea.

Boosting Efficiency, Productivity

The company’s use of AI provides predictive analytics when they manage mobile platforms using a centralised platform which connects the employers with on-ground personnel.

This would reduce manual processes on-ground, at the same time, increasing the efficiency and productivity of field service personnel — promoters, merchandisers, sales officers — and field auditors through the use of route optimisation and image recognition.

“With image recognition, users can just snap an image of a product on display and in just two to three minutes, the image recognition engine will return the scanned result,” said Toh.

MobileOne’s solution will then process and analyse the scanned result to report critical information like out-of-stock levels, on-shelf availability of a specified product and shares of shelf by brand.

It cuts time compared to doing it manually, which typically requires 10 minutes for field services personnel to count and fill up and report manually.

“Route optimisation processes will automate the calculation and recommend the most effective route based on location, past time spent, allowable visitation time, store size and road condition.

“This will ensure all field services personnel can achieve 100% coverage with the shorter travelling route or time.

“AI also suggests the best route to help field service personnel achieve maximum coverage based on the proposed route visitation plan,” Toh explained.

As a result, AI used in image recognition and route optimisation has enabled those in field services to be more efficient and productive.

Toh believes that efficiency and productivity are prevalent problems when it comes to managing a large workforce within field services.

“For example, route optimisation aims to simplify and aid the route planning process which is traditionally human-oriented and time-consuming.

“Moreover, image recognition aims to improve data accuracy and speed up data collection processes from activities carried out by field services personnel,” he added.

By deploying AI technology, these problems can be resolved and simplified.

AI Security

AI has its benefits, but many people are still weary of its uses, especially with privacy issues and how their data are being used.

Have you ever realised that after a conversation with your friends about dogs, your Facebook feed is bombarded with advertisements related to dogs?

This helps advertisers find the right audience for their products.

Although the social network does not look at the users’ messages or listen to their conversations, they admit that they collect “content, communications and other information”.

That includes pictures and videos, accounts, hashtags and groups we are members of.

“This is a very valid concern. I typically suggest my customers to evaluate AI providers and use platforms that are reputable, reliable and highly secure to minimise the risk of security breach,” Toh explained.

He advised users to beef up data security and audit trails to provide better protection and traceability of data used by third parties.

According to a two-year study from McKinsey Global Institute, intelligent agents and robots could replace as much as 30% of the world’s current human labour by 2030.

Jobs that require training are more vulnerable to automation, however, there would be a higher demand for jobs that are related to programming, robotics and engineering as they would need to constantly improve and maintain the AI and automation being used around us.