AI and the Evolving Workplace


If you have interacted with a chatbot on a website, navigated in your car using GPS, searched for something on Google, or read a transcribed text message on your phone, then you are already familiar with just a few of the artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled innovations available in the modern workplace. Whether in an office environment or on the factory floor, technology is moving relentlessly ahead in its pursuit of productivity and profitability. And over the past few decades, AI and machine learning (ML) have enabled a large percentage of that technology. 


The benefits of AI in the workplace are far-ranging and continuously evolving. Topping the list is increased productivity. By automating rote and repetitive tasks, e.g., eliminating the need for security personnel to watch camera feeds all day, workers are freed to focus their time and intelligence on work that requires creativity, judgment, and complex problem-solving. This capability enhances productivity and results in a more competent and professionally motivated workforce. 


Another major benefit is AI’s ability to turn complex data Into digestible insights. Automatically reading, contextualizing, and summarizing enormous volumes of written material (emails, social media posts, technical manuals, maintenance records, etc.) enables companies to make active use of information that previously went unused simply by virtue of its vast quantity. AI-enabled anti-virus and anti-malware software (such as SparkCognition EPP) protects valuable company data resources, enhancing customer privacy and competitive advantage.

And AI-powered visual analysis systems like Visual AI Advisor use existing company cameras to deliver greater workplace safety by automatically detecting a wide range of workplace conditions, including worker/equipment interaction hazards, unsafe environmental conditions, and workers in need of assistance, to name but a few.


SparkCognition provides leading-edge offerings in these categories, each designed to enhance workplace productivity, security, and safety. For a few examples, check out our Visual AI Advisor, NLP, and Cybersecurity product descriptions. 


Real-world examples

The engineering firm Honeywell has developed AI-enabled systems that employ augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) to capture the experience of technical work and “lessons” that can be passed on to new employees to get them more quickly up the learning curve. These seasoned employees wear AR headsets while carrying out daily tasks, thus capturing and recording everything they do. Then, using image recognition technology, these experiences can be played back, allowing trainees or new hires to experience the role through VR.


Hilton has found success using an on-demand digital interview platform that enables them to interview multiple candidates simultaneously with no human resources (HR) team member present. They can then review the video and evaluate the likelihood of the candidate being a good fit for the position. This capability has reduced Hilton’s prior 45-day hiring window to just five days.


Morgan Stanley has provided 16,000 financial advisers with machine-learning algorithms that automate routine financial tasks and decisions, enabling their advisors to focus on the more complex aspects of serving their clients’ needs. 


Additional examples of AI-enabled workplace productivity systems abound, including:


  • Human resources—candidate resume screening, training, and performance tracking
  • Decision-making, e.g., loan applications, legal judgments, etc. 
  • Email spam detection 
  • Multi-language translation (verbal and written)
  • Digesting and summarizing world/industry news automatically with natural language processing (NLP)
  • Patent/legal searches 
  • Sentiment analysis/opinion mining (NLP-enabled analysis of reviews and social media posts)
  • General text summarization
  • Writing articles and blog posts 


Toward a more efficient hiring process

Over forty percent of HR activities worldwide now use some form of AI-enabled technology. A recent PwC report says that an increasing number of global business leaders now understand the value of AI in supporting workforce management.  In addition, thirty-two percent of personnel departments in technology companies have redesigned their organizations with the help of AI to enhance operations “for adaptability and learning to best integrate the insights garnered from employee feedback and technology.”


So-called “people analytics” is an increasingly popular HR practice, employing big data and AI/ML to “measure, report, and understand employee performance, aspects of workforce planning, talent management, and operational management.” 


A variation on the people analytics theme involves filming job interviews and using AI to judge verbal and nonverbal cues to gain additional insights into the suitability of candidates for particular roles. Companies like Nike and Unilever are using these technologies to speed up  their hiring practices and make them more effective. While the late 19th century practices of Taylor and Gilbreth (so-called Taylorism) measuring heart rates, eye movements, hand gestures, etc. with microchronometers may be long past, the use of AI technology to optimize hiring and work productivity is only increasing. 


It isn’t just about software

In addition to the vast and growing range of AI software applications transforming the modern workplace, hardware is making its presence felt as well. In particular, the market for wearable devices in industrial and healthcare settings grew from $21M in 2013 to $9.2B by 2020. These devices—augmented by GPS and RFID capabilities and employed by firms like Amazon—enable employers to track worker movements and health status, all in the name of greater efficiency and productivity.  


Humans and AI working together

A recent MIT paper discussing AI’s impact on the future of work painted a relatively optimistic picture of the role of AI and technology in the evolving workplace. Rather than contributing to the obsolescence of human labor, the paper predicts AI will continue to drive massive innovation while fueling existing industries and could even create many new sectors for growth, ultimately leading to the creation of more (and more fulfilling) jobs.


Concerns about automation replacing human workers are as old as technology itself. But AI has, to this point, demonstrated that it is most successful when coupled with a human touch—or at least a healthy measure of human oversight. AI will likely play a prominent role in the future of work, but rather than replace employees, the technology will instead change what type of work they perform. Humans will, for the foreseeable future, still be better suited to data analysis, software development, and other jobs that require creativity, judgment, and mental agility, such as marketing and sales. As has always been the case with technology, AI will, in the end, eliminate some jobs while creating other new ones and also making workers more productive.  

Visit our Visual AI Advisor, NLP, and Cybersecurity offerings to learn more about SparkCognition products and how they enhance workplace productivity, security, and safety.

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