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All Eyes on AI: How Businesses Can Capture AI’s Opportunities

All Eyes on AI: How Businesses Can Capture AI Opportunities

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  • Artificial intelligence is estimated to lead to a US$15.7 trillion increase in global GDP by 2030, according to a PwC study.
  • Organisations that want to capture AI’s opportunities must first identify use-cases where AI can make a meaningful impact to their business.
  • Beyond just upgrading business, AI-readiness requires the alignment and commitment from stakeholders towards a human-centric approach.
Artificial intelligence industrial applications

Proliferation of data and improved algorithms are two key contributors to the rapid growth of artificial intelligence (AI) in recent years. From smart devices in healthcare to smart factories, the benefits of AI are already evident across various verticals — and it’s only the beginning.

“We are just scratching the surface of AI and machine learning,” says Michael Zeller, Temasek’s head of AI Strategy and Solutions. “The application of AI is profound, comparable even to the rise of the Internet.” 

He leads AI@Temasek, which offers deep expertise in the field and seeks to make strategic investments to accelerate AI’s deployment and the creation of scalable AI products and solutions within Temasek and its portfolio companies. 

In short, the team wants to apply AI technology to generate better business outcomes and ultimately, shape a better world.

The application of AI is profound, comparable even to the rise of the Internet.

Michael Zeller, head of AI Strategy and Solutions, Temasek

AI is expected to lead to a 14 percent increase in global gross domestic product (GDP) — amounting to US$15.7 trillion — by 2030, according to a PwC study. 

Zeller believes fundamental transformation can be expected in areas where Al solutions lead to automation of operations, business processes and services. 

Take autonomous vehicles, for example. “They don’t drink, don’t text while driving, don’t race and don’t get tired,” says Zeller. Vehicles that can function without any human intervention are just one area where AI can deliver substantial efficiency, safety and profitability gains for companies that deploy systems at scale.

While most solutions today are not fully automated, they provide immense support to us, enabling us to focus on what we do best. This includes AI-powered solutions in healthcare, which help to track a patient’s vital signs or even spot early warning indicators. This in turn improves health outcomes while driving down cost, allowing health care professionals to concentrate on high value tasks by reducing their involvement in routine tasks, observes Zeller.

Temasek head of AI Stragey and Solutions Michael Zeller

Michael Zeller, Temasek’s head of AI Strategy and Solutions, leads AI@Temasek, which offers deep expertise in the field and seeks to accelerate the deployment of AI.

AI can help to improve efficiency in healthcare

AI-powered solutions in healthcare are already helping to improve health outcomes while driving down cost.

Steps to Becoming AI-ready

Businesses are increasingly aware of the potential of AI. According to an Accenture report, an incredible 84 percent of C-suite executives agree that they need to leverage AI to achieve their growth objectives.

“Most organisations are eager to capture the potential of AI, but stall at the overwhelming set of potential applications and use cases that are realistic and feasible,” Zeller observes.

So what does it take for organisations to really become “AI-ready”?

Before deploying AI solutions, it is key for companies to first identify use-cases where AI can make a meaningful business impact to internal operations or customer experience, says Zeller. “This is often very specific to your industry and depends on your strategy and business model. Focus on use-cases that drive competitive advantages specific to your firm, and don’t compete with the AI R&D scope of Big Tech players,” he adds.

Applications of AI

To first become AI-ready, companies should identify use-cases where AI can make a meaningful business impact to internal operations or customer experience, says Zeller.

For now, Zeller stresses that AI works best with large amounts of data that can be cleaned and refined to power AI algorithms and applications: “If we subscribe to the notion that data is the new oil, then AI is the new oil refinery.”

As a result, companies need to tie their use-cases to key data assets that they can use to train and deploy AI models. Adequate data infrastructure needs to be established to collect, store and share data in a trusted and secure way. Since data is often spread across departments, data silos have to be broken down and collaboration across data owners and users — the business, data science and technology teams — must be fostered.

Responsible deployment of AI solutions requires a human-centric approach. Companies should ask deliberate questions about how far and how fast AI should be pushed. “We should not ‘de-skill’ humans faster than we can ‘re-skill’ them,” Zeller notes. At the heart of it, businesses need to recognise the value of human experience. That means focusing on broad data fluency and training across the organisation.

“It is critical that it’s not just the data scientists or engineers who understand AI; you also need people at multiple levels of the company to appreciate where AI and data can make a meaningful difference, as well as where it cannot,” Zeller stresses.

Employee upskilling by learning about AI

Companies should focus on broad data fluency and training across the organisation.

The World Economic Forum’s latest Future of Jobs report estimates that while 85 million jobs may be displaced due to technology, about 97 million new ones may emerge by 2025. With the rise of automation, some employees will be worried about losing their jobs. 

“Staff should be assured that AI is not there to blindly replace them but to reduce routine tasks, enhance productivity and drive innovation,” says Zeller. 

“Being AI-ready is not just about upgrading business processes, model deployment and automating tasks. AI-readiness also requires the alignment and commitment from stakeholders towards a human-centric approach,” Zeller maintains. 

“However, if decision makers and employees are resistant to AI adoption, any attempts to deploy AI will naturally fail and the benefits will be lost. For businesses, this may mean losing the battle against competitors or disruptors,” Zeller cautions.

Employee discussion on AI impacts

More than just upgrading business processes and automating tasks, being AI-ready also involves taking a human-centric approach and assuring staff that AI is not there to blindly replace them.

Challenges in Deploying AI

Among a company’s key decision-makers, a lack of thorough understanding of AI and its capabilities can also become a critical bottleneck. AI needs to be demystified. Key decision makers must understand what AI can or cannot deliver and how it ties into the broader corporate strategy, Zeller says. Only then can a business identify potential AI solutions and the allocation of required resources, as well as enable smoother collaboration across the organisation.

An area of legitimate concern for companies is the data privacy considerations around the collection of and access to data, across jurisdictions and even across departments. Some industries, such as banking, also struggle with access to tools and open-source libraries, due to data security restrictions.

The rise of AI will raise ethical concerns, such as possible algorithmic or data biases and just how far to go with the use of the data. Companies must address such ethical considerations thoughtfully, Zeller says, as they bring potential reputational risks or broad-based consumer pushback if the AI solutions are deployed irresponsibly.

“We aspire to play the role of an enabler of data collaboration across our ecosystem and tackle some of these challenges,” shares Zeller. 

To do so, Temasek is focusing on AI ethics and governance, which Zeller says “form the foundation for innovative and accurate algorithms, personalised consumer experiences and progress on research”.

AI ethics and governance form the foundation for innovative and accurate algorithms, personalised consumer experiences and progress on research.

Michael Zeller

Temasek has been an active contributor to Singapore’s Model AI Governance Framework. Deputy CEO, Chia Song Hwee, is a member of the Singapore Government’s Advisory Council on the Ethical Use of AI and Data. At the start of 2021, Temasek also signed up to the Singapore Computer Society’s AI Ethics & Governance corporate pledge to create awareness, propagate the ethical application of AI and encourage staff to adopt good principles and guidelines.

“If we promote the use of AI for the betterment of society rather than feed into the perceived threat, we can help inform, curb fears early, manage expectations better and determine the right ethical approaches to key questions,” says Zeller.

“Data science and AI can do a lot of good — that needs to be our primary focus and guiding principle.”

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