AI: the challenge ahead

22 October 2019

Artificial intelligence is already having an effect on our lives and its influence is only likely to become greater with the rapid advancement of innovative technology.

It is spreading into the workplace, and we all have to monitor in the months and years ahead the challenges it poses as well as the opportunities AI presents.

However, there is no doubt it can assist organisations by removing processes that are currently performed manually and the likelihood is that employees will welcome being relieved of tedious and time-consuming tasks, which will in turn allow them to dedicate their time to more productive functions.

We certainly have nothing to fear and it is pleasing to note that the government is at the cutting edge of this phenomenon.

I saw with my own eyes, at the recent Delta Summit, the commitment of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Parliamentary Secretary for Digital Technology Silvio Schembri to the sector as they launched a strategic vision for AI.

Muscat rightly said he wants his government to lead by example by becoming one of the first that is AI-powered and that various pilot projects are being devised in education, healthcare, transport and customer relations.

But we need to be just as well prepared in private industry. Take the insurance sector, for example, which is currently contending with an issue of trust among clients.

In a recent report featured in the Australia Readers’ Digest on the 50 most trusted professions, insurance agents came 48th. That’s two places below sex workers!

Bankers did not do much better, while it is no surprise that fire-fighters ranked highest.

What has led to this erosion in confidence? Inefficient processes lie at the very heart of the issue, coupled with reliance on old statistical models, lack of transparency in communications and perceived conflictsof interest when it comes to advising customers.

Fortunately, we have a good idea of what needs to be done: introduce automated processes (the recent insurance distribution directive is moving into this direction), real time data feeds, 24/7 on-demand connection and tangible measures that will help to improve customers’ quality of life.

We also know that AI, the Internet of Things and blockchain technology can provide us with the tools we need to transform the industry by determining personalised coverage and price (roboadvisory is already an efficient tool to determine the customer risk profile and to deliver the most suitable investments).

It can also offer on-demand insurance (the customer may choose from temporary or long-term cover for any risk. For example, if I travel to New York I can be automatically insured for the days of my stay and the cover is automatically extended if I am there longer; or I can insure my watch only for the time it spends on my wrist).

It can also source data from each customer (for instance, wearable devices that can precisely determine the health condition of a customer and adapt the price of the policy in real time); and provide immediate solutions to certain problems (such as, installing sensors in customers’ homes that can alert insurance companies if there is a gas or water leakage, which will then send a technician to repair the problem without the customer having to lift a finger). What will all this lead to?

Firstly, AI is likely to provide customers with faster settlement of a claim – which is the yardstick many clients use while they are evaluating and differentiating insurance companies – and this, in turn, will foster more trust. 

Secondly, AI will enable insurance companies to spend more time with their customers, meaning they can stay better connected and introduce concierge-style options, thereby providing a more personalised service. Clients will also be in a better position to collect data and information which can be used to better define the coverage on offer and price.

Simplicity will be essential, since customers do not want to waste valuable time on complicated processes, and clients will have more faith in an industry that replaces standardised insurance products with tailor-made and on-demand policies.

This is where we need to go if we are to give this sector the shot in the arm it really needs and, as technology advances at a rapid pace, both service provider and customer will become more familiar with artificial intelligence and using it to make faster and more informed decisions – not to mention reducing costs in the process.

It does not take artificial intelligence to recognise the benefits of such positive changes both in the public and private sector.