May 19, 2020

The top five technological innovations of 2017 so far

Frédéric Dupont-Aldiolan
3 min
The top five technological innovations of 2017 so far

Artificial intelligence, robotics, machine learning and the Internet of Things: 2016 stood out as a year marked by technological development and significant advances in several fields, not least that of connected, driverless cars. Against this backdrop, a clear trend is appearing: the growing influence of robotic technology in daily life.

In 2017, we have seen more promising innovations. Here is my review of the top five things we are seeing:

5. IoT, the Internet of Things

Stars of the Consumer Electronic Show (CES), which took place in Las Vegas in January, and Viva Technology, which took place in Paris in June, the Internet of Things was thrust into the spotlight in 2016 and continues to bring increasingly intelligent connectivity to our daily lives. Smart devices, equipped with bar codes, RFID chips, beacons or sensors, are taking the lead and enabling companies to gain greater visibility over their transactions, staff and assets.

In 2016, information and technology research and advisory company Gartner estimated that there were 6.4 billion connected devices globally, an increase of 30% on 2015. By 2020, this figure is likely to have grown to 20.8 billion.

4. The explosion of Big Data

Network multiplication brings with it a proliferation of data generation, whose analysis, use and governance have become a burning issue. According to estimates by IDC, an international provider of market intelligence for information technology, by 2020, every connected person will generate 1.7MB of new data per second.

The concept of ‘perishable data’ has lost validity. In 2017, companies now have the capability to use data before it becomes obsolete. Devices connected via the Internet of Things will rapidly speed up data decoding and processing for actionable insight.

3. The ramp up of artificial intelligence and automatisation

Artificial intelligence has been one of the main talking points in technology over the last year. Encompassing areas such as machine learning, robotic intelligence, neural networks and cognitive computing, it’s now in daily use in numerous forms including facial and voice recognition, endowing velocity, variety and volume.

This year, artificial intelligence has taken on an increasing number of repetitive and automatable tasks, beginning with wider use of ‘chatbots’ with the capacity to give coherent, easily formulated responses. IDC pinpoints robotics driven by artificial intelligence as one of the six innovation accelerators destined to play a major role in the digitalisation of society and the opening up of new income streams. Indeed, Amazon and DHL are already making use of warehouse handling robots.

2. Location technology, the Holy Grail of customer satisfaction

Location technology has taken great strides over the last year or so, to the marked benefit of customer satisfaction in the hotel, health and manufacturing sectors. Customers can now receive geo-targeted offers on their smartphones, for example for promotions or reductions, depending on their physical location.

In 2017, RFID chips enable yet more accurate tracking of customers and enhancement of their buying experiences.

1. Virtual reality makes way for augmented reality

One of the biggest innovations recently has been virtual reality, and with it came much media coverage too. From Facebook to Sony, Google to Microsoft, big brands grasped this new technology to offer an outstanding user experience, through the merging of virtual and real imagery.

In 2017, these virtual devices have acquired an awareness of their environment and give users a real sense of immersion of the digital environment from within their own homes. The potential of augmented reality for business will be harnessed too in the coming months. Some companies, among them BMQ and Boeing, are already employing it to increase their retention and productivity rates, or to provide training to their workforces across worldwide subsidiaries.

Over the next few months, as we gear up for another round of product launches, we should expect to see advancements in these key areas of technological innovation. Within business, this technology should help to improve customer service by speeding up and streamlining the manufacturing process, which can only be a good thing, as well as providing new and exciting ways to reach and engage with customers.

By Frédéric Dupont-Aldiolan, VP Professional Services at Sidetrade

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May 28, 2021

Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work

Kate Birch
4 min
As a new report reveals most office workers are crushed by repetitive tasks, we talk the value of automation with UiPath’s MD of Northern Europe, Gavin Mee

Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.

Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.

Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.

When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”

And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.

Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work

By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.

“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”

These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.

Repetitive tasks that can be automated

Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”

These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.

“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”

Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.

Five business areas that can be automated

Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.

  1. Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
  2. Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
  3. Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
  4. IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
  5. Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.

“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”


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