Business process automation (BPA), cognitive computing, artificial intelligence (AI), and robots, are all terms that have been used in varying degrees to outline the role technology that “thinks like a human” might one day play in our society.
Like all technology, challenges around adoption, price, and usability are being questioned almost as quickly as new innovations are being released. However, what cannot be denied is that the ability for computers and systems to think for themselves is becoming a reality.
To take a look at this exciting area of the technology a little further, we have put together a list of industries that could potentially be the first to be disrupted by technology automation and AI.
The Technology Industry
For the industry charged with selling the benefits of process automation, in the short term, it might be the one most significantly impacted by its own ingenuity.
A recent report by HfS Research said that by 2021 the IT industry could lose up to 1.4 million jobs globally due to automation. It is believed that the majority of these roles will be ‘low-skilled’ jobs associated with the business process outsourcing industry.
Many industries currently rely on shared services solutions via BPO companies. The belief is that cognitive solutions are at a point where they can compete with BPO solutions.
On a positive note for the industry, however, the research says that although low-skilled IT jobs are set to drop by 30% over the next five years. Medium-skilled and high-skilled roles are set to increase by 8% and 56% respectively.
With pressure for banks to remain profitable, compete with nimble “FinTech” startups, as well as deliver the best customer experience to its digitally native market, the rise of the robots is real for the industry.
In April of this year, global banking powerhouse Citi warned that up to 30% of retail banking jobs could be lost between 2015 and 2025 due to automation.
Locally, ANZ has been leading the charge with developing cognitive solutions for its back office systems. In August of last year, ANZ’s General Manager of Group Hubs, Simen Munter told the AFR that:
“I think if people’s jobs are to do things that robots can do, then that is not a good place to be. It is a challenge for us to ensure we actually move people into roles and enhance the roles so that they adapt.”
Although McKinsey recently noted that less that 30% of a nurse’s role could ever be automated, the constant pressure on global healthcare systems is seeing robotics pop-up in a variety of different guises as the technology reaches the right level of sophistication.
Already robots are being used as therapists, with hospitals deploying robots to work with children who sit within the autism spectrum. One US company, Robokind, is already selling a robot named “Milo” that connects with children with autism.
The use of automation does not stop at a social level for health. The autonomous robot, STAR, recently performed a surgical procedure on a pig, stitching up its bowel.
With online juggernauts like Alibaba and Amazon forcing retailers to reinvent their business models to remain relevant, many retailers are looking at robots to reduce labour costs in an industry that is traditionally based around low-skilled employment.
In Australia and New Zealand, pizza company Domino’s has introduced us to DRU (Domino’s Robotic Unit). DRU is the first autonomous delivery driver. The robot has already been put through its paces in via trials in Queensland, and at the cost of $30,000, could be set to replace your local delivery driver.
In the US, retail giant Target is testing a robot named Tally to take stock and inventory in the aisles of its shops. Another robot already eating up roles on the front line is Softbank’s “Pepper” the robot. Pepper has been employed as a customer service agent in Japan, as well as landing a gig at leading French retailer Carrefour.
However, the power of cognitive technology will soon see the industry become unorganisable within a matter of years. Already some of the world’s leading insurers are investing heavily in automation, with IBM’s cognitive pin-up “Watson” already being employed by Swiss RE to assist with the underwriting process.
McKinsey believes that up to 1 in 4 jobs in the insurance industry could go within the next ten years. Australian insurers are onto this, just last month IAG posted a role for “Robotics Lead” via its digital lab’s team.
Its upstate rival Suncorp released a whitepaper last year which discussed how the power of automation in underwriting could potentially bring on a skills-shortage for the industry.