To drive IoT and AI success, UAE companies must look at them through the lens of customer experience and business strategy. By Pieter Bensch, Executive Vice-President at Sage Africa & Middle East.
Even before the outbreak of the pandemic, it was clear that artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are here to stay. The growing reliance on digital platforms to ensure business continuity through the work from home period solidified this insight. Worldwide, spending on IoT is expected to increase 15.4 per cent to US$745 billion this year, according to IDC. As for AI systems, the market researcher projected that global spending was set to climb 44 per cent to nearly US$36 billion in 2019.
This surge in spending means that companies in the UAE need to step up their investment to remain globally competitive. But rather than thinking about these disruptive trends as new technology platforms, companies should embrace them for what they really are – a way to transform their business and its processes.
AI and IoT projects tend to fall short of the mark in helping companies to radically improve their business processes when they are not viewed through a strategic lens. As was the case with mobile and the cloud – success in IoT and AI will come from understanding how these solutions can reshape consumer and employee behaviour as well as how they can be leveraged to transform business operations and operating models.
More than just another tech project
IoT and AI aren’t simple technology projects – and implementing them isn’t a valid goal in itself. They are value creation tools, a way to transform the customer experience and reinvent business processes for the digital age. To maximise their potential, the business’s senior leadership should drive a comprehensive strategy and consider how these tools can enable new business models, underpin innovation and bring massive improvements to efficiency and productivity.
The IoT is a complex and interconnected network of related parts that sense context, transfer data, process information and initiate action. Data streams originating from all sorts of sensors built into a wide variety of “things” (for instance, machines, cars, mobile and immobile goods, clothes, or even human beings) enable companies to create innovative processes, services and products.
The real magic comes into play when machine learning is used to put that data to work. Smart algorithms and AI can be applied to data collected at scale to find patterns, trends and indicators that the human eye might miss. A few of the possibilities include:
* Using predictive maintenance for technical infrastructure in cities, factories, plants and other environments to improve the reliability of machinery while reducing maintenance costs.
* Leveraging traffic data from many different sources, including smart city data from traffic lights, streets, or other vehicles to optimise the management of corporate and government vehicle fleets.
* Creating innovative consumer offerings, such as Amazon-style dash buttons to supply customers automatically and predictively with goods and services.
* Providing medical care services. For example, consider using wearables and even ingestible sensors in the future, to monitor older people living alone at home.
* Using automation to free human beings from tedious manual work. AI-powered chatbots on a website will be able to handle many common customer queries and requests. At the same time, robotic process automation can carry out repetitive tasks such as accessing data from back-end systems to populate forms.
The leaders in digital transformation will have the ability to build, deliver and repeat innovations based on AI and IoT significantly better than their competitors who do not use these technologies. But to get it right, business leaders will need to understand the role these technologies– and others like blockchain – can play from a business outcome perspective.
Business leaders that begin with a vision for using these digital technologies to transform customer, employee and partner experiences will enjoy a headstart in achieving the goals of the business.