April 13, 2017
Automated intelligence: The future is here
By: Emma McGuigan

From automated cars to digital assistants, many of the things predicted in the science fiction of the past have come to pass. But this is just the beginning: Looking ahead, the potential of technology is truly astonishing. One area holds particular promise to transform our lives: Intelligent Automation.

Automated Intelligence (AI)  or Intelligent Automation brings IT and computing to life. Through AI, machines and devices can learn and improve. They can become largely autonomous and enable us to achieve much more as businesses, communities and individuals. The scope of what Intelligent Automation will enable is truly vast, with many of its eventual uses unimaginable today. However, there are a number of emerging applications that illustrate well the revolutionary potential of this emerging technology.

Intelligent Automation today

At Accenture, we’ve started to explore how AI can drive value in our business and in those of our clients. In one project, we’ve used AI to develop a system that enables staff at an engineering business to work on large-scale operations.

Our solution does away for the need for engineering books and manuals. Instead, the engineer sits beside the machinery they’re working on—a jet engine for example—and dons a pair of digital googles, which displays the information the engineer needs to complete the task. Significantly, the system then uses AI to assist engineers in solving problems; by suggesting potential causes of mechanical faults for example.

We’re also seeing these technologies play an increasingly important role in how businesses optimise Internet of Things applications. For example, some of our utilities clients use network sensors and devices to monitor the flow of water or electricity. Intelligent Automation enables these devices to "learn" over time so they’re not constrained by the rules they were first tuned by: They come to understand behaviours that underpin usage and alter the functioning of the network in real-time to ensure optimal efficiency and performance.

However, for some people AI brings with it a certain unease. They believe that it somehow devalues human worth and threatens jobs. In our experience this simply isn’t the case. For instance, at Accenture, although we replaced 20,000 manual roles in business processing operations with robots—a number which continues to grow—no-one lost their jobs. Instead, those affected by the move were given more sophisticated and rewarding roles that freed them to be more creative.  

The pace of change

The only factor limiting the potential of Automated Intelligence is our ability to accept change.

Over the next 10 years, technology is going to completely transform business. With machines now able to understand natural language and learn unassisted, they’ll be able to transcend their programming and add equal, if different, value to businesses as human employees. This extraordinary acceleration of technology, and evolution in the way we interface with it, is creating a new world, and one which will deliver new opportunities for growth. 

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