7 mins read

While some may perceive it to be a threat to humans, we believe the true potential of technology lies in humans and machines working together. 

Senior Product Manager
Lead Data Engineer

Society is in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which presents a fundamental shift in the way we live, work and play. No longer the stuff of science fiction movies, this new era has already introduced us to the likes of the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence (AI), smart robots and more.

In line with this, we see almost all industries changing, with the use of technology to automate certain processes presenting new benefits and opportunities. However, there are still challenges hindering the integration of technologies, and a significant obstacle is the ongoing debate about whether these advanced tools can replace humans and surpass our capabilities, leaving us all out of a job.

While some may perceive it to be a threat to humans, we believe the true potential of technology lies in humans and machines working together. The transport and mobility sector is an example of how technological advancements can be leveraged to provide greater value to the public while enhancing human skills and productivity.

The role of automation in smart cities 

Improvements made to infrastructure and vehicle safety mechanisms have contributed to a reduction in the number of road traffic accidents in recent years. However, authorities’ concerns have not diminished as they continue to be a huge cause of death and injury and cost billions of dollars every year in medical bills and loss in productivity.

This is where smart solutions, such as AI and machine learning, come into play. Smart city management systems play a dual role in today’s society – firstly, they help authorities in their day-to-day running of the city and secondly, provide real-time support during emergencies. In both scenarios, large amounts of data are collected to gain a better understanding of the situation on-ground to ensure appropriate response and measures to be executed. Government authorities are not the only beneficiaries of smart cities; access to real-time data also allows the public to better plan their routes.

At Intelematics, we do the same for our customers by leveraging AI to analyse the massive volumes of data collected from road authorities’ public platforms such as Twitter, their websites and direct message feeds to derive insights on road and traffic conditions, for example, traffic incidents and road closures. Previously, this was done manually – our employees would monitor these channels to get the most up to date information. But to improve efficiency, we developed a signature AI platform to do the job, which we’ve called ‘TOASTi’.

Automating how we collect and upload traffic information is not what makes Intelematics unique, instead, it’s how we do it through our bespoke AI solution. While companies may automate, if it is not fit for purpose, the results can be inaccurate. Take, for example, vehicle probes that determine the presence of vehicles on the road. If there was no traffic on the road for a certain period, a conventional AI solution might conclude that the road is closed, and provide that information to end-users, causing them to avoid the area and look for alternative routes, causing disruption. This solution takes a ‘one size fits all’ approach, and while this would work in countries with high-density populations, in Australia, it’s not as accurate – due to our sparse population. It is a given – authorities must have access to accurate information around road accessibility, particularly in times of emergency that require swift evacuation.

Rather than relying solely on automation across the whole chain of the transport system, which some might deem to be more efficient, the methodology we have adopted ensures that the data collected for input to machine learning algorithms are verified and vetted by human authority. This allows us to deliver highly accurate updates to our customers while ensuring that we avoid the pitfalls of misleading interpretations of data.

From a business perspective, employing bespoke AI systems has enabled us to gain a competitive advantage as we increase our operational efficiency and make faster and more informed decisions. For our traffic data customers, including road authorities and Google Maps, improvements to the speed and scale at which data is interpreted means they can deploy accurate information more efficiently to guide drivers and commuters better.

Harnessing technology to superpower humans

Contrary to popular thinking, the automation of certain processes does not diminish the value and importance of humans. In fact, automating parts of a job is likely to improve employees’ productivity and quality of work by complementing their skills with machines, as well as allowing them to focus on higher-level tasks that most need their attention.

Similarly, at Intelematics, by introducing our ‘TOASTi’ system, we have given our employees 70 per cent more time to use their expertise better to benefit the company. For example, they can better spend their time investigating more complex traffic patterns – looking into cause and effect in more detail – then to input their new findings into ‘TOASTi’ to ensure our data is as accurate as possible.

By introducing automation, we’ve enabled faster career progression for our people – transforming our employees who were previously responsible for data entry into product designers and co-creators. The specific roles they have moved into following the greater integration of automation, span business and technical support, including knowledge management and ensuring service reliability.

Phrases like ‘machine learning’ and ‘automation’ may have made employees uneasy in the past; however, they now recognise the value as they witness the benefits it brings to their professional growth. Instead of fearing the inevitable, the team at Intelematics embraced and used the new technologies to their advantage – elevating their skills in the process and creating new career opportunities.

Encouraging human-machine collaboration 

The key to success in this rapidly evolving technological landscape is a business’ ability to capitalise on the competencies of new tools to deliver more value and service to customers while taking stock in the importance of human touch. The role of humans is not diminished but enhanced and elevated when new technologies are applied appropriately.

To take full advantage of new technologies businesses need to understand how humans can effectively augment machines, how machines can enhance what humans do best as well as how jobs and workflows can be redesigned to support this partnership.