Top artificial intelligence trends for 2018

From banking and insurance to travel, we sat down with NIIT Technologies’ Sasanka Panda to discuss what’s on the AI radar this year


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From discussion to action, 2018 has been slated by many as the year that organizations will begin the transition from RPA and workflow based automation toward cognitive automation and AI.

But making this move requires both an understanding of the current market trends and a strong change management strategy, says Sasanka Panda, head of business process services (BPS) and RPA at NIIT Technologies.

This month, as we focus on the governance challenges faced by enterprises in the move toward cognitive automation, we sat down with Sasanka to discuss the trends leaders need to be most aware of as they prepare to up their AI game…

AIIA Network (AIIA): NIIT Technologies is currently doing a lot of work with the travel industry—and airlines in particular. What trends are you seeing in terms of automation and RPA in the travel sector for 2018?

Sasanka Panda (SP): Travel was laggard in terms of automation but in the last couple of years we have seen a lot of traction in travel industry.

 I’ll illustrate the trends I’m seeing through three client examples. The first is a casino company that is trying to use RPA and automation to streamline the finance and accounting process. In particular, their focus is on the reconciliation process when money comes back after a game is played.

The second example is an airline, where product automation is improving ticket reconciliation and queue management. And the third example is of an airline in Australia that is looking to automate everything from operations to cargo to queue management. In fact, their target is to implement 100 bots in this fiscal year and, doing so, they believe they will automate 200 different kinds of work. 

AIIA: You’re also working quite a bit with banking and insurance, sectors that have historically been early adopters of AI and intelligent automation. Tell me about the trends or challenges that these sectors will face in the year ahead. 

SP: In banking, we are focused on the capital market and we are working on multiple RPA programs that allow working with third party websites (banks or trading companies) to automate logging, reconciliation and reporting processes.

In insurance, claims processing side is gaining traction in terms of keeping customer databases clean and reconciling multiple databases through automation. 

AIIA: What is the one trend or technology you’ll be focused on in 2018? How is it going to impact the market? 

SP: One of the trends I’m seeing is the emergence of tools and platforms to determine where automation can work effectively. For example, there’s one tool you can install on your PC which uses AI to analyze tasks to be automated.

"Industry is now at level two or three where bots are allowed to make basic decisions based on data. These are not quite at AI and cognitive level—which would be level four or five"

If we see automation on the scale of one to five, industry is now at level two or three where bots are allowed to make basic decisions based on data. These are not quite at AI and cognitive level—which would be level four or five.

AIIA: How do you see that transition between automation and AI evolving? Is it a natural progression from IA to AI? And what’s the trajectory organizations should be looking at as they move toward cognitive automation?

SP: I think it is a natural fit but we are probably at least a year or two away from reaching levels four and five. The way I define AI is that an instant decision can be made based on high-powered computing drawing on the huge amount of data and supported by or coming from real time action.

Overall, the AI market is still quite fragmented, there is no one big platform that can do end-to-end implementation—this is where RPA was three or four years ago. There will be some consolidation over the coming years to get AI to where RPA is today, but it’s definitely a natural progression from what’s going on right now.

Sasanka Panda is head of BPS and RPA at NIIT Technologies, and a member of the AIIA Advisory Board. 

Read more: Enterprise automation takes time: Q&A with NIIT Technologies' Sasanka Panda