With the latest World Economic Forum (WEF) report predicting that half of all work tasks will be handled by machines by 2025, we spoke to five technology experts to get the real story on how automation can make a huge impact across multiple industries, and how businesses can get the most out of this super smart technology.
How robots can save jobs, not replace them
The pandemic has been a catalyst for change for many, and automation only serves to support this, as Animesh Chowdhury, Founder and CTO at Goodtill, explains.
“Machines replacing humans is a tough pill to swallow – but this is often not the case at all. While unfortunately the pandemic has forced many business leaders to reduce staffing levels, in many other industries, such as hospitality and food and drink, new automation technologies are actually saving jobs, rather than taking them.
“Pubs and restaurants, for example, are some of the most restricted businesses during lockdown periods and can no longer welcome guests on site. But tools like intuitive, Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) apps have given these businesses the ability to pivot their services – facilitating delivery, click and collect and new revenue streams that allow staff to work amid government restrictions.
“With the second lockdown now in effect, many hospitality businesses are wondering how they will keep afloat, but with the simple introduction of an automated delivery or collection app, they can still provide their service without breaking lockdown measures. The ‘robot takeover’ is extremely positive – for many businesses it won’t only mean they will survive, they will thrive.”
However, businesses do need to be careful to consider how increasing automation can impact gender equality, and ensure that steps are taken to avoid this. Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President at Skillsoft, shares her thoughts:
“Twice as many women than men are likely to lose their jobs as automation replaces human labour, as roles most susceptible to automation include data processing jobs – such as cashiers or receptionists.
“With the ‘robot revolution’ causing significant implications for gender equality in the workplace, employers need to ensure everyone, regardless of gender, age, or location, shares in the spoils of new technology. This means taking a comprehensive approach to reskilling, upskilling, and job transitioning – cultivating a flexible learning culture which provides employees the opportunity to learn new skills through lifelong learning initiatives.
“By proactively encouraging a flexible learning culture that embraces change and supporting female employees to develop the skills required to fill identified gaps, employers can lead the charge in narrowing the skills and gender gap for a future that is more human, and less robot.”
Efficiency is the goal
Automation is hailed as being great for efficiency, and while that is true if it’s implemented correctly, Stephen Roostan, VP EMEA at Kenna Security reveals why businesses need to get integration right.
“The key is to know which are the right processes to automate. Fundamentally, if the process is wrong to start with, automating it won’t create efficiency in itself, and even if it appears to, it might only be moving the problem onto another team or into a different department.
“Before deploying new technology, enterprises should take the opportunity to rethink the process and reassess its value to the business. Getting it right from outset will ensure that automation becomes an effective tool to measurably increase efficiency and optimise costs.
“Never forgetting that the human element is still essential to successful businesses, organisations need to be wary that technology is there to support employees and that it doesn’t come at the expense of creativity. There is so much value in receiving different opinions: different experiences, ages, characters that all work together to solve problems and create solutions. The balance between human and machine is essential.”
Videos are the future of safety
Working remotely has never been more important than it has been this year. Jim Darragh, CEO of Totalmobile, highlights how smarter video technology is helping many businesses which normally operate in-person to take their work online:
“A prime example of this comes in the deployment of technology for field workers. Mobile workers in utilities, social care or housing repairs found COVID-19 made a lot of their day-to-day tasks difficult to complete. However, some organisations and authorities have now turned to technology to change that.
“For instance, gas boilers that won’t fire up are being diagnosed over video to save an initial call out and make sure that when an engineer is needed to visit, they have the right parts and are in and out as quickly as possible. Often a call out can be avoided altogether in this way.
“The robot revolution has enabled augmented video solutions, allowing specialists to remotely identify and discuss requirements with people in their homes – without the risk of spreading the virus. COVID-19 has proven a turning point for organisations. Finding the balance between machine and human is critical in helping businesses over the next few months, but it also sets them up for long term success.”
Similarly, Rishi Lodhia, MD EMEA at Eagle Eye Networks, explains how insights from video surveillance are also helping to make society a safer place.
“In the video surveillance industry, automation and AI are helping businesses to change from being reactive to proactive, and to intelligently identify what is happening at any moment in time and taking the most appropriate action immediately. Cameras used to be fairly simple – they would record footage and it would be saved on tape or a hard drive on-premises.
“Now, with the technology that is made possible by integrating the cloud, surveillance cameras are making society a safer place for all and are a source of business intelligence that can improve operations and customer experience.”
To conclude, Lodhia comments how:
“It’s making a difference. Take the measures that are implemented around the world to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as wearing masks or keeping to smaller social groups (or no socialising at all). Integrating AI with cloud-based video surveillance enables rules like these to be monitored in real-time and could, for example, deny access of an individual to a building by locking an entry door if the person isn’t wearing a mask, thereby ensuring the laws are upheld and no one is put at unnecessary risk.”