Pushing the Frontiers of AI | SGInnovate

Pushing the Frontiers of AI

Monday, June 03, 2019

Technology and humanity have been at odds since the first industrial revolution. The struggle between the two is nothing new—the Luddite movement back in 1811 protested against automation for fear of job displacement. Workers needed time to adjust to the labour upheaval that followed the industrial revolution. This involved a long-term overhaul of education systems—an approach which may be called upon again at the dawn of the age of AI.

Impact of AI

The human workforce will undoubtedly be affected by AI as the latter can potentially help tackle some of humanity’s biggest challenges. AI will bring many benefits, notably improve productivity levels, and enable greater innovation. Traditional jobs involving routine skills (physical and cognitive), activities in predictable and structured environments, as well as in data collection and processing, can be taken on by AI-powered machines for greater efficiency across industry sectors—allowing people to focus on other job aspects which create more value.

For example, some aspects of healthcare will increasingly rely on AI to assist doctors and nurses, of which the ethical and responsible use of AI is an important ongoing conversation. “We believe there will be an increasing number of practical applications of AI in areas such as healthcare and transportation in the next few years,” says Founding Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SGInnovate, Mr Steve Leonard. “With mounting pressures on healthcare systems worldwide driven by a growing and ageing population, AI will be a vital part of a faster diagnosis, better patient management, and new methods of robotic surgery. AI can help healthcare professionals have more time for face-to-face engagements with their patients.”

Building a Future-ready Talent Pool

Work at SGInnovate is steeped in technologies that drive the future economy. Head of Talent Networking, SGInnovate Ms Juliana Lim believes that Deep Tech, or ‘technology-intensive’ products borne out of scientific research, can help tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges. “Our mission is to help ambitious and talented individuals launch, prove, and scale their Deep Tech innovations from Singapore for the world,” she says. “In terms of responding to talent capital needs, SGInnovate is focussed on building the Deep Tech talent pool in Singapore by enhancing the technical capabilities of talents through learning opportunities as well as expanding the Deep Tech talent marketplace. One initiative that we have launched is the Summation Programme where a curated pool of students in multiple disciplines from local and overseas institutes of higher learning (IHLs) are placed within some of Singapore's most promising Deep Tech organisations.”

New Applications; Evolving Conversations

Conversations revolving around AI are changing too. Discussions on automation have made way for conversations about how AI can augment human expertise and produce actionable insights to help people do their jobs better. Many such AI applications span across various industries and sectors. Here are three of SGInnovate’s portfolio companies that have put AI to good use:

Company​Use AI to:
​AIDA Technologies​• Help companies increase revenue by understanding their customers better,
• Improve operating margins by enabling Straight Through Processing (STP) for certain class of operations, and
• Manage Risk and Compliance by looking out for outliers and behavioural changes.
TabSquare​• Offer personalised dining experiences and recommendations based on individual tastes and preferences,
• Enhance the dining experience of patrons by eliminating the need for manual labour for customers and staff,
• Understand the business models of their users’ customer segments to optimise solutions that increase revenues and customer satisfaction.
​• Increase efficiency and reduce errors in the clinical workflow of stroke care, and
• Uncover new information and add new tools to clinicians’ toolbox.

AIDA Technologies has built an AI-powered Straight Through Processing (STP) engine that has helped a major health insurer in Singapore speed up the processing of its health insurance claims from days to mere seconds. To do this, the guidance and actions of the leadership team is important as they must convey and sell the right message to their people that AI is there to assist, and not replace. “The challenge in AI adoption can be broken down into three phases,” says Dr Tan Geok Leng, CEO, AIDA Technologies. “(1) Scepticism about AI’s ability to handle the problem; (2) Now convinced that AI may work, users worry about the accessibility, usability, and sufficiency of data; and (3) AI deployment. Generally, data issues for (2) can be resolved if there is good support from the company’s IT team. For (3), the challenge is getting the buy-in of different departments. A successful AI project requires a strong mandate and support from senior management and the impacted business unit.”


Constrained by limited data from point-of-sale (POS) systems, the restaurant industry hardly leverages AI technology as guest experiences mostly reside in the minds of waiters/waitresses, resulting in an impersonal and typical dining experience. Every customer sees the same menu and receives similar recommendations and offers without any consideration given to their personal tastes, preferences, and diets.

With customisation and personalisation indicating bespoke treatment, Mr Anshul Gupta, co-founder of TabSquare says that customers will want to be able to manage their own experiences. “In building AI capabilities into our products, TabSquare is able to add value to a standard dining experience. Through our digital solutions in over 6,000 deployed devices, we collect over 30 million data points on a monthly basis. This allows our product to understand the behaviour and preferences of diners, to create a completely personalised dining experience for every customer in each restaurant within the network. Imagine walking into a restaurant and being presented with a menu that has personalised recommendations and offers based on your tastes and preferences. Furthermore, AI enables us to better understand the business models of our users and their customer segments. Understanding these patterns allows our AI engineer to optimise solutions to increase revenues and customer satisfaction for our F&B customers.”

Ms Juliana Lim says the collective efforts of the public sector, corporate leaders, non-profits, and innovators are needed to raise a stronger awareness of the opportunities and challenges brought about by AI. (SGINNOVATE)

Mr Steve Leonard believes that AI has the potential to tackle some of humanity’s big challenges. (SGINNOVATE)

See-Mode Technologies

Reporting a vascular ultrasound scan is a time-consuming and error-prone task for sonographers. See-Mode Technologies' first product automates the reporting of vascular ultrasound, while the expert sonographer oversees the performance of the AI throughout the reporting process and intervenes whenever an error is made by the AI. This cuts down the reporting time and reduces subjectivity in the reports. Building on this product, See-Mode Technologies is uncovering new risk factors of stroke from the vascular ultrasound scan that are currently invisible to the human eye, even the most well-trained neurosonologists. “We are doing rigorous clinical trials to validate these findings through multiple research collaborations with leading stroke centres around the world,” says Ms Sadaf Monajemi, Director and Co-founder of See-Mode Technologies. “Once completed, this is a perfect example of AI not only increasing efficiency in a healthcare workflow but improving patient outcomes by adding new prognostic information to the clinician’s toolbox. We have found latest Deep Learning methods to be an enabler of the key features of our products and it has allowed us to solve complex medical imaging problems that we could not solve using traditional computer vision techniques.”

As AI permeates our lives, we might find ourselves working alongside machines and can expect to see new organisational workspace and workflow designs geared towards enabling humans and machines to work more closely together.

Through various industrial revolutions, societies have adapted and moulded the environment that we live in for our betterment. AI should be seen as complementing human skillsets, rather than a threat to our livelihoods.

Original article: Singapore Institute of Management

Topics: Investments, MedTech, Talent

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