Machine vision, intelligent automation and prescriptive analytics will be de rigueur next year, according to this industrial automation expert.

The pandemic has accelerated global digital adoption and key technology developments across almost all industries.

As we move into 2021, we have taken a closer look at enterprise technology trends that will continue to influence and disrupt industries in the Asia Pacific region (APAC).

These technology areas interconnect to achieve value and help businesses improve visibility of their operations through both real-time data as well as source system data. In turn, this transforms the visibility into intelligence to drive automated decisions to the front line. The internal synergy also enables better decision-making resulting from the combined value of these technologies.

  1. Driving automation with computer and machine vision

Developments in computer vision and machine vision solutions are delivering more precise depictions of physical environments, regardless of industry. This is critical for businesses as computer vision systems enable solutions to visually interpret and understand the world in a broader, more dynamic way. For example, computer vision can provide recognition that rivals human capabilities, allowing for better inventory visibility and streamlined check-out at the point of sale. Machine vision is a subset of computer vision, using visual techniques to focus on inspection analysis and anomaly detection.

These technologies can increase efficiency and improve workflow optimization and time savings. Computer and machine vision can be deployed in a flexible, intelligent way to augment or even swap out physical labor in selected parts of an operation and workflow process so workers can focus on more strategic activities. Systems with computer and machine vision will continue to drive automation in 2021, with added capabilities to capture, process, interpret and direct action.

  • The power of intelligent automation: Robotics and AI

Over the years, intelligent automation has been facilitated by virtual assistants in the consumer space such as Alexa and Siri. Enterprises are starting to apply this type of machine learning technology to improve workflows, deliveries, and customer experiences. AI has provided better decision-making capabilities for enterprises and in 2021, coupled with robotics, the technology will continue to drive intelligent automation as part of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 trend.

Increased collaboration between humans and automation will help businesses to optimize operations.

Additionally, by using a decision-automation capabilities (prescriptive analytics) together with various data sources in their operations, APAC businesses can automate labor and inventory planning as well as the workflow itself. This prescriptive analytics capability can be qualified as digital decision automation as it can ingest and analyze all this data to decide what tasks need to be done in real time. It is all about augmenting humans with technology. 

  • Generating actionable business insights and steps with prescriptive analytics

We will see more applications of AI and machine learning (ML) in analytics solutions in APAC, to create platforms that interpret data automatically with easy-to-understand actionable steps.  Prescriptive analytics platforms can recognize patterns and identify when abnormal behavioral patterns occur. This can help direct mitigative actions, avoid errors and inefficiencies, and thereby improve operational outcomes.

For example, a retailer that had forecasted 3,000 units of bleach as part of its inventory planning saw its sales of bleach double in two days due to a COVID-19 cluster in the area. The analytics system identified this surge as it related to the outbreak and then adapted its planning model to adjust inventory at other stores that showed the same outbreak trends happening in the future. Without this capability, this spike in demand would not have resulted in learning that helped to self-heal the demand needed in various geographies based on these changing dynamics. In 2021, actionable intelligence gathered and distributed across operations by prescriptive analytics platforms will be doing more than eliciting swift preventive actions or resolutions. It will help build trust across the workforce while empowering individuals to confidently propose and collaboratively execute positive changes across the entire business with simple actions that deliver results.