The COVID pandemic has accelerated the technology adoption, and many businesses are riding on a digital transformation journey. AI and analytics are playing a critical role in driving these innovations leading the companies towards a new normal in the post COVID world. With the changing needs of the businesses and uncertainties that prevail around, the predictive power of AI and analytics will play a massive role in helping businesses navigate through these changes. From a change in customer preferences to logistics and more, AI has been a driving force in almost all the segments.
With the increased adoption of AI, IoT, analytics to support business growth, there are a lot of trends that we expect to emerge in the space. In this article, we take a look at a few of those trends in AI and machine learning that are likely to emerge in the post COVID world.
AI is playing a central role in supporting global efforts to combat COVID. Many reports estimate that the use of AI, ML and analytics is going to increase in the coming years to re-define the processes significantly. As the use of AI grows at an unprecedented rate, it is essential to bring frameworks and practices to ensure ethical, transparent and accountable use of AI technologies.
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We are seeing increased interest in moving beyond the wow-factor of ML demos to envisioning the ML lifecycle. “How can we standardise model development and use data and model catalogues to improve reproducibility. What are the right metrics, explanations and monitors to ensure transparency and accountability? We see this as an evolution of Responsible AI systems,” said Dattaraj Jagdish Rao, Head, AI Research, CTO Office at Persistent Systems.
One thing that has changed drastically due to COVID is customer preferences and the way they engage. As the customer buying preferences are going to see these changes post the COVID threat is reduced, AI & ML will be extensively used to understand customer preferences and the product they are most likely to buy. “The process will now evolve from recommendation engines to product design labs. The algorithms will be smart and specific enough to design an on-the-fly product offering for the individual customer in its scope based on their needs, circumstances and preferences,” said Gaurav Kumar, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Valyu.AI.
With the digital outbreak, customer behaviour post-COVID will never completely return to pre-pandemic norms. Consumers will purchase and complete more transactions digitally than before. AI will help companies detect newer purchasing patterns and deliver a more personalised experience. “Businesses will also leverage newer technologies such as VR/ AR to deliver richer and personalised customer experiences. These technologies, coupled with 5G and IoT, will help companies scale and deliver better experiences to customers,” said Srivatsa Subbanna, Vice President- Data Tech, Maveric Systems.
Moreover, AI will also significantly help in reducing the gap between customers and businesses that has been widened due to COVID. There is a desperate need for the human touch in digital communication while managing customer service’s cost pressure. Sachin Bhatia, the co-founder of Ameyo, believes that augmenting customer service with AI can help businesses control expenses and still deliver faster responses over channels, like Google’s Business Messages, gaining popularity due to reduced in-store visits.
“AI will be particularly useful for people involved in the retail and supply chain industries, where machine learning and advanced data analytics will enable businesses to detect new buying patterns and provide a greater personalised experience to online customers,” added Kazim Rizvi, founder, The Dialogue.
Computer Vision Technology
Computer vision-based tools and developments have become particularly popular since the outbreak of COVID to ensure business continuity. It has become integral to enterprises across different sectors, such as retail. It has been deployed to identify masks and monitor social distancing to stop the spread of COVID, and several startups are beginning to provide these solutions to enterprises. “There is an increased adoption of computer vision to identify defects in manufacturing, for PPE compliance and several occupational health and safety use-cases,” says Kunal Kislay, co-founder and CEO, Integration Wizards Solutions.
Many research and reports suggest that computer vision technology will continue to be deployed to ensure the safety of the workforce even after operations are resumed post the reduction of the threat of the virus. It will be integrated with the CCTV camera platforms for surveillance, monitoring and security purposes while ensuring social distancing, detecting body temperature, facial recognition, among others.
From the whole gamut of AI and ML technologies, Natural Language Generation (NLG) is increasingly gaining momentum in the COVID and post-COVID world. “As the companies are looking to serve their customers with a proper, ‘contextualised narrative’ instead of just collating data in dashboards and reports, NLG plays a huge part in constructing such narratives,” says Satheesh Kumar V, Director of Technology at Synechron. He further believes that even in real-time customer engagement scenarios such as customer support, advisory, and even regulatory compliance, NLG will have a lot to offer at times, and is sure to catch up as a popular trend.
In fact, language models are getting extremely good at consuming and generating text – so much so that OpenAI’s GPT-3 model can write content that is indistinguishable from that of humans. “We will see many more enterprise outcomes of this technology like abstractive summarisers, context-aware digital assistants, actionable insight extractors and more in the coming days,” says Dattaraj Jagdish Rao.
COVID 19 has also created a paradigm shift in the perception of the business, and they are shifting their work over the cloud, whether hybrid, multi or private. Talking about the hybrid cloud and AI strategy, Anil Bhasker, Business Unit Leader, Analytics Platform-India/South Asia at IBM said that it is helping organisations weather the perfect storm of challenges catalysed by the pandemic across health, economics, society, culture and more.
While the pandemic has threatened lives and economies across the world, it has also demonstrated that businesses can transform themselves overnight, stated by Kamolika Peres, Director, Google Cloud India, in an earlier interaction with AIM. She said, “The tech industry in India has faced several challenges over the past two decades and has emerged stronger by adopting creative strategies. With businesses accelerating their journey towards cloud and digital adoption to minimise human touchpoints, it will create substantial business opportunities for tech companies.”
Robotics, 5G and IoT
The need for robots and machines will be more than ever before in the post COVID world. The virus has only hastened what was a steady march towards a more digitised, data-driven world.
“For example, it took three months for eight students from IIT Delhi to design and build an open-source prototype for a UV sanitation robot that can be deployed to sanitise rooms on a programable schedule. The effort was recognised by Micron’s global UV Robot Challenge,” said Koushik Ragavan, Director, Data Science, Micron India.
“These are exciting times indeed, as macro technology trends like AI, ML, IOT, computer vision and automated driving, fueled by 5G networks, coalesce to bring an increasingly polarized world together,” he further added.
Echoing the same point, Lux Rao, Senior Director, Solutions & Consulting, NTT Ltd. (India) said that intelligent chatbots and robots that harness the power of AI would enable great engagement and retention in the coming days. “They will help organisations evolve from being purely transactional to a relational engagement model,” he added.
“Besides cutting short the analytical transformation curve of organisations by 2-5 years, COVID has triggered a major re-calibration in the purpose of AI around speed, safety and precision. The future will see a sweeping shift to 5G, breakthroughs in cybersecurity, responsive and self-calibrating ML models replacing traditional static models, and large scale AI-powered automation. This shift will be powered by a greater trend of accelerated digitisation and data-driven decision making across organisations,” remarked Srinidhi Shama Rao, Head of Innovation, TheMathCompany.
“With social distancing and sanitation measures, we will see a faster pickup of automation technologies – whether in the form of ordering kiosks in restaurants, checkout-free shopping or robot sanitation machines,” said Kumara Raghavan, Director, Software Defined Infrastructure, HPC & AI, Lenovo Data Center Group, Asia Pacific region, in an earlier interaction with AIM.
Dr Anish Agarwal, Director, Data & Analytics, India, NatWest Group believes that the use of augmented analytics will gain prominence as it will simplify unbiased decision making while eliminating early hypothesis by offering a 360-degree view of the data structures, closing capability gaps and yielding outputs beyond numbers and figures.
“We think that a large population is now getting used to online shopping and the trend is here to stay even in the post-pandemic scenario. Companies need to deal with a large scale (of orders) while automating decision making. All decision making needs to be automated and must work at scale,” shared Shantanu Bhattacharyya, Chief Data Scientist at Locus.
Undoubtedly, the pandemic has played a significant role in enabling digital transformation at an unprecedented speed. The pandemic has made digital transformation the new foundation for the future and is prevalent in every sector today be it healthcare, education or public services. The trend is going to further increase in the coming days with AI and ML.
“AI was always a critical enabler, but the pandemic has accelerated its adoption and use. It has emerged as a major reagent for digital transformation. From speeding up clinical trials to online shopping, preventing credit card fraud to responsive customer service, virtual learning to food delivery, and telemedicine to digital payments – AI is playing a compelling role. In the post-pandemic era, ALML techniques such as reinforcement and distributed learning will create agile systems to handle multifaceted business situations,” said Dr Anish Agarwal.
“Within the telemedicine and digital health industry, artificial intelligence and machine learning are increasingly utilised and integrated to analyse data and generate actionable insights and improve healthcare. AI & ML would enable us pivoting changes needed, faster. Simply put, AIML allows systems to self-learn the rules instead of waiting for rules to be written manually,” said Sridhar Turaga, Senior Vice President, Data Science at CitiusTech on a concluding note.