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The powerful promise of AI

The powerful promise of AI

From healthcare to manufacturing, AI and robotics are revolutionising how we live and work

How far will AI take us in areas such as healthcare? Will we see medical pods like this one featured in science fiction film Prometheus to treat future patients?

Image source: 20th Century Fox

How far will AI take us in areas such as healthcare? Will we see medical pods like this one featured in science fiction film Prometheus to treat future patients?

Image source: 20th Century Fox

CIO veteran and industry consultant, Geoff Wenborn, sees enormous opportunity for artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare - identifying 35 use cases alone for robotics and AI at places like UnitingCare Queensland.

Wenborn, who provides IT transformation consulting to several organisations including UnitingCare Queensland and Starlight Children’s Foundation Australia (and built some proof of concepts), said the sky’s the limit in terms of use case possibilities.

At UnitingCare, he was the interim CIO charged with doing transformation, and is currently the chair of the Starlight IT Advisory Board.

He said AI makes sense in hospitals, aged care, community services and retirement living. He sees huge growth opportunities - across many markets - and is excited by the application of AI technology to enable different outcomes. Just looking at healthcare alone, AI and robotics will help society take care of an aging population and allow much longer independence.

“The application of automation and artificial intelligence to assist capability to support a diagnosis and prevention cure is very exciting in this sector. I call healthtech the new black - like fintech was a few years ago. But fintech is so done and healthtech is the next big thing.”


Indeed, AI is a game-changer, creating so many uses cases in so many different industries from healthcare, energy and utilities, financial services and manufacturing, and we’re only just scratching the surface, Wenborn noted.

From SIRI to self-driving cars, AI is gaining momentum. While science fiction portrays AI as robots with human-like characteristics, AI can be anything from Google’s search algorithms to IBM’s Watson to autonomous weapons.

At the nonprofit organisation, Starlight - founded in 1988 to bring joy and comfort for hospitalised kids and their families - Wenborn said he’s been working as the CTO over the last three months, helping the organisation “connect the dots” in terms of its technology readiness and possible use cases of AI engagements and souping up automation.

Geoff Wenborn
Geoff Wenborn

“There’s an all-round experience that robotics can enable. It is not just automating whatever’s manual. There are a lot of things that are manual in an underinvested technology environment.

“But it is then, ‘how can you then create delightful experiences for sick children through the application of these technologies and how can you apply AI algorithms and models to data about people who donate? Because as a not-for-profit, understanding behaviours is absolutely critical.”

At Starlight, he’s focused on two potential AI applications: a chatbot interface, and revenue optimisation (with a view on fundraising).

Regarding revenue optimisation, he said it involves asking: “What information do you have about individuals that donate and how can you connect it to understanding what their proclivities are?, while understanding the joy they get out of supporting sick children and how you can build on that.”

But you have to be careful around applying business rules around the datasets, he warned. “If you have a sick child, you don’t want someone asking you for money at the same time. So you have to be really really careful about how you manage that.”

Predicting the future

Certainly, the list of possibilities for the use of AI is endless - and healthcare is providing great stories.

One company already deep into AI and robotics technology - in all of its many forms - is Robonomics AI, a technology start-up that uses an “AI-first” approach to solve what company founder Samir Sinha said are real-world problems like driving growth, cutting costs, reducing risk and enhancing customer experience.

The company was recently selected in phase two of IBM’s Watson Build challenge to develop its holistic healthcare solution into a working prototype using IBM Watson APIs on the IBM cloud.

“We are a one-year-old startup and the only Australian company to be selected into the global IBM Watson Build Competition,” Sinha said. As part of the program, IBM will provide Robonomics AI with access to IBM development tools, business mentors and cognitive specialists to bring the concept to life.

Speaking to CIO Australia about the use of AI and robotics, Sinha said the company is already partnering with leading robotics, big data and AI product vendors in order to architect the a mix of solutions required for business outcomes.

Samir Sinha
Samir Sinha

“We imagine new customer journeys that can redefine business models. New business models are made possible by orchestrating new age technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, software robotics (RPA), blockchain, big data and chatbots."

Systems like the Robonomics AI holistic healthcare system could, over time, be able to predict the illnesses, thereby helping plan for outbreaks better, Sinha explained.

“It would create greater transparency for the family members, ensuring their loved ones are being looked after. Lowering of costs would mean more people would be able to afford personalised care and potentially, lower costs for the government and insurance companies.”

Mixing AI with wearable technology, for example, is changing lives, Sinha noted.

“The wearable device is a little gadget - very light - that sticks onto your chest. It is a sensor device. Normally, when you go to a doctor, the doctor looks at one ECG datapoint. And based on his experience, he’s required to make sense out of that one datapoint and then predict what’s going on - diagnose and predict.

“What we're doing now with these devices is actually taking one datapoint every 30 seconds and doing that 24 by 7 - and it could be worn for months. Which means that one datapoint is multiplied thousands of times, which is good for an algorithm. It can now start predicting what’s going to happen next,” he said.

“For the doctor, he will probably not know what to do with that volume of data. It would be an information overload for that human being, but if an algorithm can do that data crunching, and then feed to him those specific aspects of what the doctor needs to focus on, it just makes his life so much easier. It’s like having an assistant that can actually do all of your grunt work and you focus on your facetime with the patient."

Sinha said the holistic healthcare example is just one case, explaining the company focuses on the ‘experiences’ and the outcomes.

“The holistic healthcare solution is our vision of how new-age IT systems would be architected and delivered in the future. It is aimed at helping clients disrupt their industries. This approach is aimed towards creating new customer experiences and business models using a wide range of new technologies that can loosely be grouped as 'artificial intelligence'". 

And while the holistic healthcare solution is targeted at aged care, the very same approach would be used to re-imagine any industry, any organisation, any function and any business process within an organisation, Sinha explained.

He said the company enables organisations to disrupt their industries with an “AI-first” approach to digital transformation.

“You may be aiming to increase your revenues, reduce cost and risk, or you may want to wow your customers with the experience they could never imagine before. Till now, your legacy IT estate could be holding you back in achieving these goals.”

The aim is that AI and robotics will help a company achieve its required objectives.

“We have these multiple technology components that are made by other people. These tech components can be applied to any organisation. Any scenario. We’ve taken healthcare as a showcase of what the future would be like.”

As an example, Sinha explained the company has built a chatbot using IBM Watson, dubbed RAI (Robonomics AI), which also means ‘advice’ in Hindi.

“It can start recognising people, reading their emotions. And then we build it into a customer journey,” he said, explaining it’s like a person sitting in front of a patient, taking a visual image of the patient and then using datasets (the algorithm) to make sense of it.

“The interesting part is people are focusing on the natural language interface part of the chatbot. . . We’re looking at the other components that actually add value and we integrate that with multiple scenarios.”

He said this same functionality, which is being built for the Watson program, is being extended into analysing the emotion of a person.

“We might be able to build psychometric models, not just with the face, but with so many other actions.”

For CIOs like Wenborn, who’s tasked with delivering business improvements and helping companies with the journey of digital transformation, this type of technology is very appealing.

“I’m really keen to use this at Starlight. It is not about the individual’s psychometrics of the video or picture image, it’s more that by using the technology - robotics and AI together - you can bring together that whole profile of the individual’s proclivity to do something at a particular time,” he said, explaining the technology is ideal to help ascertain donor behaviour.

“Understanding who those donors are and what’s happening to them at that point of time, and how could we service them better, is ideal.”

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