As the world continues to embrace disruptive technologies within the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to transform nearly every walk of life has become enormous. And this is especially the case in emerging markets, where AI can provide opportunities for cost savings, develop new business models, improve governance processes, and tackle some of the toughest social and environmental challenges.
Within the industrial landscape, we have witnessed myriad valuable uses of AI – creating safer workplaces, reducing operational costs, optimising complex processes, and addressing the issue of cybersecurity. But what makes AI a true game-changer is that it can analyze vast amounts of complex data, which in turn can deliver tangible improvements to supply chains and support better decision-making on resource allocation, workflows, and service delivery.
For example, AI-based predictive maintenance — which ensures defects are detected in advance — saves significant maintenance time and labour costs, while AI-powered digital twins can provide real-time diagnosis of production processes, substantially reducing operational risks.
In the coming years, it is certain that AI-driven tools and solutions will continue to drive a paradigm shift across all areas of work, helping manufacturers leverage new digital opportunities and accelerate industrial performance. However, to unlock the true potential of AI and achieve long-term benefits, organisations must focus on creating human-collaborative and trustworthy digital systems that are in line with moral and ethical standards, invest in technologies that can generate societal progress, and build a collaborative ecosystem, where humans and machines coexist and learn from one another.
Indeed, the benefits of AI and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, in general, extend beyond large manufacturers. Small and Medium Enterprises (SME), which represent the majority of businesses worldwide, stand to gain enormously from intelligent technologies that can improve operational agility, reduce the cost of experimentation, increase global visibility, and minimise production losses. And the results of a recent Deloitte survey have proven just how beneficial AI can be to organisations both large and small — 82 per cent of early adopters of the technology have seen positive financial results from their investments.
Even beyond the realm of business, AI solutions are becoming ever more relevant as they help tackle a range of socio-economic challenges for developing economies, where access to internet and advanced technologies are often limited. For example, the technology can bring intelligent remote education opportunities to millions who are unable to access schools, while improving urban infrastructure by providing predictive maintenance of public transportation systems.
In healthcare, the ability of AI to transform resource-poor developing countries is boundless. In Africa, for instance, the technology can improve people’s access to healthcare facilities using low-cost mobile applications, improve early detection of diseases, and assist doctors with minimal resources. However, barriers such as poor digital infrastructure, a lack of data culture and funding, and the absence for AI-centred regulations need to be addressed for the technology to truly thrive.
We are living in an increasingly borderless world where disruptive technologies play a vital role in tackling the social, economic, industrial and environmental challenges of today, and have the potential to lay the foundations for a better tomorrow. In the post-pandemic age, countries will certainly have to work more cohesively towards developing a collective global vision to reap the benefits of AI innovations. In addition, bridges will need to be built between both developed and developing economies to share the latest findings and innovations to enhance global prosperity.
Moreover, greater collaboration and knowledge exchange among experts from the industry, government, civil society, and academia is imperative to maximize AI’s impact across manufacturing, governance, sustainable development, and other critical areas. As such, global opportunities to discuss these vital issues will prove crucial.
The fourth edition of the Global Manufacturing & Industrialisation Summit will be one of those opportunities, taking place from November 22-27 at Expo Dubai Exhibition Centre under the theme ‘Rewiring Societies: Repurposing Digitalization for Prosperity’. The summit will emphasise the importance of data intelligence and connectivity, highlighting the evolving integration between — and among — humans and machines.
Drawing on visionary leaders from all over the world, the summit will help to shape the future of global manufacturing, addressing key themes surrounding AI, the Internet of Things, Cloud Computing, and the fifth generation of wireless network technology (5G). But most importantly, the summit will highlight that, together, we will always be stronger.
Colin Parris is senior vice-president and chief technology officer for GE Digital
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