“Looking to the future, the next big step will be for the very concept of the “device” to fade away. Over time, the computer itself—whatever its form factor—will be an intelligent assistant helping you through your day. We will move from mobile first to an AI first world.” — Sundar Pichai, CEO Google
- A global oil and gas company has trained software robots to help provide a prompt and more efficient way of answering invoicing queries from its suppliers.
- A large US-based media services organization taught software robots how to support first line agents in order to raise the bar for customer service.
Software agents or Robotic process automation (RPA) is becoming a mainstream topic at leading corporations. I have seen a massive uptick in corporate strategy work in this area as C-Suite execs look at new ways to do more with less.
Software robots ∼ Conversational-AI products like Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, IBM Watson, Google Home, Alexa, drones and driverless cars ∼ are now mainstream. What most people are not aware of is the rapidly advancing area of enterprise robots to create a “virtual FTE workforce” and transform business processes by enabling automation of manual, rules based, back office administrative processes.
This emerging process re-engineering area is called Robotic process automation (RPA).
Machine Learning (ML) and graph processing are becoming foundations for the next wave of advanced analytics use cases. Speech recognition, image processing, language translation have gone from a demo tech to everyday use in part because of machine learning. Machine learning models, e.g., in driverless cars, teaches itself how to discover relevant things like a stop sign with snow partially obscuring the sign.
The market opportunity of artificial intelligence has been expanding rapidly, with analyst firm IDC predicting that the worldwide content analytics, discovery and cognitive systems software market will grow from US$4.5 billion in 2014 to US$9.2 billion in 2019, with others citing these systems as catalyst to have a US$5 trillion – US$7 trillion potential economic impact by 2025.
RPA – What?
“Robotic automation refers to a style of automation where a machine, or computer, mimics a human’s action in completing rules based tasks.” – Blue Prism
RPA is the application of analytics, machine learning and rules based software to capture and interpret existing data input streams for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses and driving business process automation around enterprise applications (ERP, HRMS, SCM, SFA, CRM etc.).
RPA is not a question of “if” anymore but a question of “when.” This is truly the next frontier of business process automation, enterprise cognitive computing, predictive analytics and machine learning. To make a prediction, you need an equation and parameters that might be involved.
Industrial robots are remaking blue-collar factory and warehouse automation by creating higher production rates and improved quality. RPA, simple robots and complex learning robots, are revolutionizing white-collar business processes (e.g. customer service), workflow processes (e.g., order to cash), IT support processes (e.g., auditing and monitoring), and back-office work (e.g., data entry).
I strongly believe that as cognitive computing slowly but surely takes off, RPA is going to impact process outsourcers (e.g., call center agents) and labor intensive white collar jobs (e.g., compliance monitoring) in a big way over the next decade. Any company that uses labor on a large scale for general knowledge process work, where workers are performing high-volume, highly transactional process functions, will save money and time with robotic process automation software.
Business Impact of RPA – Where?
A satisfying experience is the driver of any business’s revenue growth. Disney Theme Parks is no exception. Disney is executing a guest (and fan) personalization strategy leveraging wearables (and analytics) to track, measure and improve the overall park experience. The goal is increase sales, return visits, word of mouth recommendations, loyalty and brand engagement across channels, activities, and time.
Wearables are the next big thing. The new crop of gadgets — mostly worn on the wrist or as eyewear — will become a “fifth screen,” after TVs, PCs, smartphones, and tablets.
Wearables are already being used to monitoring vital signs, wellness and health. Devices like Fitbit, UP, Fuelband, Gear2 track activity, sleep quality, steps taken during the day. Consumers of all sorts — fitness buffs, dieters, and the elderly — have come to rely on them to capture and aggregate biometric data.
What most people don’t understand is how powerful wearables (coupled with analytics) can be in designing new user experiences. Businesses thrive when they engage customers by creating a longitudinal predictive view of each customer’s behavior. To understand the wearables use cases and potential we did a deep dive into a real-world application at Disney Theme Parks.
Wearable Computing at Disney: MyMagic+
Another day, another data breach. Just received another “We’re sorry you got hacked”…letter.
This is the fifth letter I have received in the past 3 months: Forbes.com, Target, Neiman Marcus, credit card company and a previous employer. What is going on?
Why aren’t firms investing in beefing up their predictive ability to spot the cyber-security intrusion threats? What’s taking them so long to identify? Why is the attack signature – sophisticated, self-concealing malware – so difficult to spot? Do firms need to invest in NSA PRISM type threat monitoring capabilities?
The three impediments to discovering and following up on attacks are:
- Volume, velocity and variety – Not collecting appropriate security data
- Immaturity and not identifying relevent event context (event correlation)
- lack of system awareness and vulnerability awareness
Obviously… where there is pain…there is opportunity for entrepreneurs see below – data from IBM). There is a growing focus on big data use case for security analytics after all the breaches we are seeing. General Electric announced it had completed a deal to buy Wurldtech, a Vancouver-based cyber-security firm that protects big industrial sites like refineries and power plants from cyber attacks.
Here are three recent examples that I was personally affected by – Forbes, Target, Neiman Marcus.
Self-tracking, Seamless Engagement and Personal Efficiency improvement’s new frontier is Personalized Big Data and Digital Health. This is really becoming a viable idea around wearable and sensor computing and the basis for new data platform wars.
The new platforms for digital life or data driven life — that collect, aggregate and disseminate — will cover a wide range of new User Experience (UX) use cases and end-points… medical devices, sensor-enable wristwear, headset/glasses, tech-sensitive clothing. All of them are going to collect a lot of data, low latency analytics, and enable data visualization. Several new firms are entering the activity tracker market LG (Life Band Touch), Sony (the Core), Garmin (Vivofit), Glassup, Pebble, JayBird Reign etc.
Data collection is just one piece of the solution. The foundation for personalized big data is Descriptive and Predictive Analytics. Ok…What do i next? what is the suggestion? in the form of predictive search (automated deduction or augmented reality).
How do i discover useful patterns, analyze, visualize, share, query and mobilize the collected data? A wide range of start-ups – Cue, reQall, Donna, Tempo AI, MindMeld, Evernote, Osito, and Dark Sky – and big companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, LG and Samsung are working on predictive apps — aimed at enabling new robo-assistants that act as personal valets, anticipating what you need before you ask for it.
As a data engineer and scientist, I have been following the NSA PRISM raw intelligence mining program with great interest. The engineering complexity, breadth and scale is simply amazing compared to say credit card analytics (Fair Issac) or marketing analytics firms like Acxiom.
Some background… PRISM – “Planning Tool for Resource Integration, Synchronization, and Management” – is a top-secret data-mining “connect-the-dots” program aimed at terrorism detection and other pattern extraction authorized by federal judges working under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). PRISM allows the U.S. intelligence community to look for patterns across multiple gateways across a wide range of digital data sources.
PRISM is unstructured big data aggregation framework — audio and video chats, phone call records, photographs, e-mails, documents, financial transactions and transfers, internet searches, Facebook Posts, smartphone logs and connection logs – and relevant analytics that enable analysts to extract patterns. Save and analyze all of the digital breadcrumbs people don’t even know they are creating.
The whole NSA program raises an interesting debate about “Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes.” (“But who will watch the watchers.”) Read more