AI set to transform businesses in Singapore

22 Jan 2019

Of all the frontier technologies that are disrupting businesses today, perhaps none is spoken about with as much anticipation and anxiety as artificial intelligence (AI).

Once the stuff of science fiction, it is appearing in various forms today to bring new efficiencies and carry out tasks not possible before. They range from analysing network traffic to suss out potential cyber attacks, to powering robots that help carry the laundry from hotel rooms.

In Singapore, the adoption of AI has evolved over the years, as it transforms into a smart nation. AI is seen as a glue that will bind many of the pieces – smart sensors and high-speed connectivity - together to make sense and make use of the digital data generated each day.

For businesses, AI is also one of several crucial technologies that the country has identified for digital transformation. Each industry vertical, from retail to finance, is encouraged to adopt the technology to solve business problems, as a way to be more competitive and scale up for the world market.

In May 2017, the Singapore government launched AI.SG, a national programme to bring together research institutions, AI startups and companies developing AI products, to acquire knowledge, create tools and develop talents to power Singapore’s AI efforts.

The key objective for this programme is to grow the expertise here as well as encourage AI adoption in real-world cases. In particular, three key sectors - healthcare, smart cities and finance - can reap immediate benefits by making use of AI to solve everyday problems.

In healthcare, AI is enabling clinicians to better detect and diagnose illnesses by analysing data generated by medical imaging machines. For example, it can analyse thousands of images of different patients and learn to identify signs of cancerous cells. After being guided by humans to identify patterns at the start, well-designed AI can begin to seek out similar patterns in future.

This means that patients can receive accurate and prompt analysis after taking tests. For clinicians, the AI capabilities will assist them in making a diagnosis that may have not have been possible or would have taken a long time in the past.

In banks, AI is seeking to make a difference as well. It is capable of powering chatbots that better understand what people are asking and providing more relevant and useful answers online.

While many such chatbots start on a basic level, with guided questions and prepared answers, AI can improve conversations by understanding the context of the question and respond accordingly. This calls for an understanding of natural language, as well as the business that it is representing.

These AI bots will free up human operators, who can now focus on answering questions that the software cannot. For example, a query on interest rates can be given quickly by a chatbot, but a bank officer should take the time to solve more complex queries that are non “repetitive”,such as providing consultation to personal wealth management..

The same impact from AI is being felt in smart cities. In hotels, robots that are programmed to pick up laundry at hotels and deliver room services, are completing the tasks more efficiently than humans. In smart buildings today, AI helps managers look out for signs of an impending failure of key equipment such as lifts and elevators, proactively alerting maintenance teams to an issue before it causes inconvenience to tenants.

AI is the cutting edge


In a country facing labour crunch, these AI-enabled solutions empower many businesses to grow and expand, while ensuring that service and product quality is maintained.

AI also brings insights that previously would not have been available. For example, its ability to learn from large datasets can help spot patterns and predict market conditions to assist in data-driven decision making.

What this means is that businesses that innovate with AI will ride the digital disruption wave. Conversely, failing to do someans falling behind as the competition pulls ahead with the added advantage of better insights, improved efficiency and enhanced customer service.


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