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Crisis accelerates re-shaping of work with automation and AI

By: Lisa Chai, Sr. Research Analyst, ROBO Global

 

In the race to contain a deadly pandemic, technology infrastructure around the world is being tested by fire as remote work, online training and video conferencing accelerate. Businesses that may have been hesitant to allow employees to work remotely now have no alternative. Office closures, airport shutdowns, travel restrictions, social distancing, and shelter-in-place orders have resulted in a massive and sustained surge in video conferencing, online shopping, and streaming as the world moves personal interaction to the virtual world. Our IT infrastructure and networks are unprecedently strained, and this could well be a transformative moment in the history of technology.

Telework, or telecommuting, has been increasingly popular in the past decade. According to the Federal Reserve, the share of the labor force that works from home tripled in the past 15 years. New technologies that enable companies to create a virtual office anywhere, such as Zoom, Skype or Slack, have experienced phenomenal growth in the past years. This coronavirus crisis has inadvertently created a test for the reliability and security of these applications at scale. So far, they have been operating better than most anticipated, a strong confirmation that our cloud infrastructure and the software tools and applications around it are a real success.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) plays a crucial role in this shift to the cloud, enabling remote project management, e-commerce, education, gaming, and streaming businesses to operate around the world, even in times of crisis.

Here are some examples of members of the ROBO Global Artificial Intelligence Index (THNQ) that are rising to the challenge:

  • Back-end infrastructure players such as Amazon’s web service division AWS, Microsoft’s Azure, Alibaba, and Google Cloud are the backbones supporting essential cloud services for businesses and consumers. Specifically, AWS infrastructure also hosts the largest e-commerce service in the world as well as its Prime video and music streaming—and, amid this surge in demand, there hasn’t been any overload issue.
  • IT engineers use Splunk and its mobile app for real-time data processing and analytics, taking their dashboards on the go to troubleshoot any service issues that cloud services may be having.
  • Cloud software companies such as ServiceNow help enterprises shift their workforce to remote locations and automatically identify, classify, route and resolve cloud infrastructure issues in real-time using artificial intelligence.
  • Web infrastructure and cybersecurity companies such as Cloudflare are using AI to continuously monitor security threats that may emerge in this crisis. In recent weeks, Cloudflare has seen peak traffic in impacted regions up more than 30% on average and a surge in VPN growth.
  • Google’s YouTube division is turning to AI and machine learning to moderate videos and protect its ecosystem and users from harmful content. While AI doesn’t always get it right and some videos may be improperly flagged, this makes up for the shortage of workers, who can’t handle such tasks from their personal laptops for privacy-sensitive issues.

As the Covid-19 crisis drags on and millions around the world strive to remain productive and maintain business operations, we expect more companies will turn to automation and AI as a solution to disruptions in their workflows and business processes. While implementation remains in its early stages, we expect this crisis to accelerate the rollout of AI applications and software platforms. The lessons from this major health crisis will help shape the future of work, and, with the adoption of automation and AI, the current leaders will emerge stronger than ever.

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