The Practical Path Forward: Cognitive Computing, Artificial Intelligence and Analytics

by DON SWEENEY

Philadelphia, PA- On November 15th, I participated in a symposium focused on “The Practical Path Forward: Cognitive Computing, Artificial Intelligence and Analytics” at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. It was held by Fox’s Institute for Business and Information Technology (Fox’s IBIT). I was honored to present on the topic of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), and honored to be a part of such a great symposium with so many thought leaders in artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics. As the title suggests, the focus of the symposium was about distinguishing between what is “real” in AI, and what is currently hype or marketing bravado.

There were a lot of very good case studies and practical examples of how AI is already being used very successfully across organizations. There were also some very good discussions and comments about “AI Whitewashing”, which is where AI is being included in many brands and technology products when it really does not add value. They do this because AI is a very hot topic and everyone wants to be included with the cool kids, but in many cases people are just using new marketing messaging for old topics.

 

The Case Study

A great example of this is Optical Character Recognition (OCR). OCR has been around for decades. In our symposium, I took a quick poll and found that “Ken” did OCR first amongst our attendees. He first did an OCR project in 1976 while working at IBM. This project was to read the codes on the bottom of checks to process the routing and account numbers. OCR is even more prevalent today at ATM Machines (where you can deposit checks and the ATM will “look” at the check and read the amount you are depositing) and in invoice scanning at large organizations. Again, this technology has been around for a long time. However, now companies call this Artificial Intelligence because these algorithms now have super computing power, and are reading the images and learning from the increased volumes of activity in some cases.

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Be Deliberate in Our Endeavors 

One of the resounding messages that was repeated over and over at the symposium was to make sure that we are all solving business problems and have valid reasons for our efforts as opposed to using trending technology because we think it is cool. I could not agree more with this comment. We all need to understand that technology is a vehicle to achieve a result, not a solution unto itself.

 

RPA is another great example of this discussion

RPA is currently a very hot topic in organizations. There are many reasons for the recent publicity, some valid and some because organizations are hearing about successes by the cool kids and perhaps exaggerating some of the applications for AI. At the foundational level, RPA is really process improvement first, and then automation of that process secondarily. This is not new. However some of the tools and technologies have improved drastically enough that what people hope to accomplish with these projects previously are now attainable. The important part to remember in RPA projects (and really all technology projects) is to identify what the business objective is and how you define success. Once you have those items, looking at technology, like RPA, to help expedite you to achieve that success is a great idea.

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