Artificial Intelligence in the Workplace is Nothing to Fear
July 10, 2020
The summer between my high school senior year and my freshman year of college, I was offered a job to make decent money sweeping floors for a machine shop business. This job paid three dollars more than the minimum wage at that time; it was not a night or a weekend job, so I jumped at the chance because it would enable me to save some money for my upcoming college expenses. During my three months of working on this summer job, I got to know quite a few of the machine workers there. All of them were hard-working and very proud of their skillset and the creations they had made.
Every machine worker had access to all the tools that they required to manually make machine parts for orders. For example, an order from a customer required a tailored cog to be made that had multiple holes drilled into it, with the exact hole size located in precise places that could not even be one centimeter off target. One of the best workers there was an experienced man named Earl who was in his early 60s, and nine out of 10 of his cogs were created perfectly. Earl was an expert at manually drilling each hole in the right spot. Everybody respected this man, and he was the floor manager’s favorite employee. But the best worker was a man in his late 20s, whose nickname was “Magic Mike.” Mike operated a computer/machine where he would type in coordinates into a computer, set the metal into the machine and let the machine do the precise automatic drilling for him. Mike was able to make four times the amount of cogs as Earl in the same amount of time, and Mike had zero errors.
One thing I noticed about Mike is that nobody would really talk to him during lunch breaks. I asked Earl about Mike, and Earl said, “People don’t like Mike too much because when they purchased the “Magic” machine that Mike uses, they laid off four employees. Earl told me that the machine was seen as a computer robot that is taking their jobs.
The wheel is often described as man’s greatest invention, even though the most important technology that really makes a wheel work is the axle. And without a doubt, at least one person said “technology is taking away jobs” when the wheelbarrow was invented. Just as we can acknowledge the fears that people have regarding new inventions and new technology, I want to acknowledge the fear in the workplace when it comes to Artificial Intelligence. Yes, you can use AI to replace jobs, but it is a matter of intent. AI is a tool, just as a drill is a tool, and just as a spreadsheet is a tool. The spreadsheet certainly displaced certain things that CPAs were doing, but it did not replace CPAs. But the spreadsheet possibly replaced the CPAs who refused to learn Excel, just as the “Magic Machine” eventually replaced some machine workers who refused to learn to program robot computers.
We are at a new age of revolutionary technologies, much like the early ’80s when personal computers started replacing mainframes. AI is upon us and it can allow us to increase the productivity of workers by creating great tools for them. Tools that increase worker productivity are the ones that save jobs.
When I was a child, I remember a time at the beach with my family when I built a giant sandcastle with shells and sand dollars, and I was very proud of it … until I noticed the tide started coming in. So I quickly built a sand wall in front of my sandcastle and dug some trenches. And while my quick actions slowed the water for a little while, imminent destruction was inevitable, and eventually the water gushed in and demolished my creation. And just as trying to stop the tide from coming in, we cannot stop the wave of technology and AI. Whatever temporary measures you put in place at your job or your office to avoid AI, if it doesn’t happen in six months, it will eventually happen. We are always under pressure to improve worker productivity, or eventually a new person or a competitor will do it faster and cheaper. But if you manage to increase the productivity of the workers, then you will save jobs. By embracing technology, you have a chance to stay ahead in the industry, increase productivity and revenue per worker, or you risk going extinct.
New business technology is focused on creating functionality, but the problem is that humans have to spend time learning how to use that technology effectively, and this could take months or sometimes even years to ramp up. By using AI, you can actually increase the number of people who can adopt technology faster by making it easier to use technology. One extremely basic use of AI is to make things more human friendly so that humans don’t have such a steep learning curve. For example, new software at first did not come with wizards. Therefore, you had to open the software box, put the disk in, scratch your head and then maybe read a manual on how to set it up. Today, people expect and rely on an installation wizard to get started, where it holds your hand step-by-step asking questions, and gives you subtle hints on what you want to do.
Another example would be an application that tracks your expenses. AI can be used to accurately read receipts, detect duplicates and warn the user before submitting the expenses. Similarly, you can use this method in accounting. You will have workflows where you are looking for anomalies, and if the technology can help the person know what to pay attention to, that is a great tool and it will increase the productivity of the person. Ideally you wouldn’t see AI, you wouldn’t see a computer: you would see a natural workflow that cleverly uses AI to help the person achieve their business goals. You are not replacing the person, you are just making them more alert, helping them avoid pitfalls, and allowing them to effectively use their time to make their business partners and customers happier.
On the AI horizon for accountants and CPAs will be simple tools to handle fraud prevention, to create more accurate forecasting and definitely help reduce manual tasks to free-up valuable time. Imagine not having to manually go through receipts to apply expense categories and not having to check for duplicates and errors. Imagine not having to scramble the last few days and work weekends when it is time to do the monthly and quarterly close processes. By leveraging AI properly, you will soon be able to accurately process large sets of data in seconds that you would not have been able to produce with a team of data-crunchers assisting the CFO who does not have all of the time in the world. Also, Some accountants that I have worked with have mentioned to me that even with leveraging the latest software and apps, say that about 75 percent of their time is spent doing menial tasks such as data entry, categorizing and error checking, and this leaves only about 25 percent of their time for high-level strategic and executive-level tasks. So imagine if you could switch those percentages … how much more efficient and valuable would you be to your company and clients? This is the future of AI, if you choose to embrace it.
“Our focus and mission is to use this technology to free up medical staff to focus on more important aspects of care in the hospital environment, which in turn can help lower the burnout rate and mental health issues related to extra COVID-19 care,” says Co-CEO Susan Sly, one of the powerhouse five member RadiusAI leadership team. “Our software takes much of the time burden off the nursing staff so that they can focus more intently on patient care. We estimate that our pre-screening solution will save 8-16 hours per week of nursing staff time at each hospital entrance. This is especially important with the prospect of a second wave of COVID-19 coming.”
Voted one of the Top 10 hottest start-ups in Phoenix two years in a row by the Tech Tribune, RAI’s team is diverse and highly accomplished, including individuals that: have held senior PhD research positions at Google; have been featured on NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Newsweek; have been recognized on Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list; and that have substantial experience in the public and private sector with companies such as Apple, Wells Fargo, American Express, PayPal, and Motorola.
An inventor with over a dozen patents, Co-CEO Aykut Dengi – who received his PhD from Carnegie Mellon University - is an entrepreneur with leadership roles in four previous startups, experience in agile productization of cutting-edge technologies, and in R&D management roles within a Forbes 500 company. Susan Sly is a successful entrepreneur who has built sales teams that have generated over $1.6 billion dollars and sits on the Coplex Mentor Board. She is studying part-time at MIT, has appeared on CNN, CNBC, Fox and has been quoted in Forbes.
Formerly a lead data engineer at Amino, CTO Bobby Chowdary has built the world’s largest healthcare claims platform and has designed software and data products across multiple domains for both Fortune 500 companies and numerous startups. Founder of the data services company Primary Key Consulting, Executive Chairman Jeff Cox has built software solutions and consulted at American Express, PayPal, Wells Fargo, Apple and Fiserv. The fifth member of RAI’s proverbial “dream team” is VP of Strategy and Business Development Bryan Campo, co-founder of four successful companies and master tax strategist who has been featured in NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, WSJ, USA Today and Newsweek. He received his BS and MS engineering degrees from Carnegie Mellon and a professional certification in solid state physics and quantum chemistry from MIT.
RAI’s screening solution also proves itself invaluable beyond medical settings – including retail locations, airports, manufacturing facilities, universities, casinos, and government agencies. With a marketing tagline touting “Advanced, real-time, AI-driven analytics at the edge,” their overall vision is “to explore the art of the possible by using real-time computer vision, at the edge, to create greater operational efficiency, lower costs and improve functionality.”
“Operational efficiency is the driving force behind everything we are doing,” says Sly. “Think of ticket agents at the airport having to tell people to put on masks and maintain appropriate social distancing. Their jobs would be so much easier with technology that includes a dashboard of events happening in real-time. Say someone is entering an airport space with a fever. If that person is scanned, their fever is reflected in a real-time alert. The dashboard sends a picture of anyone who is sick or non-compliant to a supervisor for immediate action. For security purposes, that picture disappears from the system within an hour.”
“No matter the specific setting, one of the most important aspects of our technology is the opportunity to help our clients bring their employees back to their workspaces safely and effectively,” she adds. “We are all passionate advocates for time management and operational efficiency. We are excited about helping more companies integrate Viztel™ to help them increase profits and productivity, which in turn allows them to hire more people and give their longtime employees raises. I see what we are doing as a solution to help people get back to work so that America can start functioning normally again. We are really excited about creating awareness and partnerships with multi-billion-dollar companies and taking our AI solution to their customers as well.
”Viztel™ is also used by its RAI Retail division, which integrates into a location’s existing security cameras to provide insights that cannot be gathered from POS data or the human eye. To this end, RAI has advanced real-time models for tracking customers and their behavior in 3D space using regular 2D monocular security cameras. The RAI team has created unique, anonymized numeric codes to differentiate between customers and staff. The system can track the customer’s journey, behavior, purchases and dwell times at an area of interest. It empowers managers and employees with actionable insights while protecting the customer’s privacy through not using any personally identifiable information. RAI Retail also provides customer demographics, group association and vehicle classification, in addition to queue length, lot-to-store and store-to-basket conversions.
RAI’s story began as a visionary partnership by Cox and Chowdary, who became good friends while working together at Wells Fargo and had mutual dreams of launching their own startup. As years passed, Cox went on to design software solutions for Apple, while Chowdary became CTOof Amino, which has the largest privately held healthcare database in the world. They stayed in touch and when they came up with an idea for a startup in the AI space leveraging computer vision, they partnered originally with Bryan Campo, a longtime friend of Cox who was interested in investing in their idea, legitimizing the company, lending his legal and tax expertise to the company, and leveraging his network of high net worth clients and friends to raise the first $1.3M for the company. Campo says, “After seeing what they had developed, and realizing through extensive research that nobody had what RAI had, I was completely blown away. I knew immediately that I wanted to contribute my finances, expertise, and connections to see this product get to market.”
Cox, Chowdary, and Campo strategically used some of this initial investment capital to acquire Scoring Software and its founder, Abe Othman. Othman, who received his MS in Applied Mathematics from Harvard University and PhD in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University, is currently the company’s Chief Data Scientist, and has been featured in Forbes magazine’s “Top 30 Under 30” list. Together, they designed a multi-camera tracker – the kind of item, Sly muses, that might bring to mind the dazzling equipment in the 2002 Steven Spielberg film “Minority Report.” Campo adds, “RAI’s multi-camera tracker is a big differentiator from our competitors. Most companies that claim to be able to do ‘multi-camera tracking’ rely on cameras with overlapping fields of view and/or exact measurements of the fixed geometry and the locations of the cameras within that geometry. Our multi-camera tracker does not need to rely on any of those assumptions. This allows us to capture the customer journey through different lighting conditions in a retail setting and allows us to deliver more accurate contract tracing in health care environments.”
“I had been working with all kinds of data for companies like American Express, McKesson, Apple and Wells Fargo since 1995,” Cox says. “In 2017, we saw a big data AI tidal wave coming on the horizon, and so we got our surfboard ready and started RadiusAI. While waiting for that wave to come in, we assembled a cohesive all-star team and developed some mind-blowing AI technology. Now that the wave is here, we are ready with the perfect combination of technology, industry experience, a high degree of emotional intelligence, and an unequivocal thirst to push the boundaries of AI in the marketplace.These are the ingredients of a winning team and a technology company being successful.”
They began to pitch their emerging technology to the smart cities base and from there gained interest in the retail sector. Along the way, Cox connected with Sly when she was working on some architecture for her own tech startup. Sly says, “The technology they had developed was incredible. They were looking for someone who could help the company with sales and bringing in investors. I was so impressed by what they were doing and what the tech could do with multi-camera tracking to optimize people’s lives and create safer environments, that I agreed to work with them for free. I thought about my oldest daughter on her college campus and how much safer she would feel walking by herself if this technology were present.”
With former ASU professor Aykut Dengi completing the executive team, RAI was forging ahead in 2019, developing their initial products and exploring their capabilities. Long before the pandemic, they were in discussions with their current-client Mayo Clinic about using computer vision monitoring to reduce the rate of hospital infections via hand sanitization non-compliance. For the most part however, the initial focus of their strategic roadmap was in the retail sector and they had not planned a full rollout of their technology for the health industry until 2021. The team knew they needed to accelerate their health care product rollout.
“I have this weird passion for virology and medical science because I originally went to college thinking ‘I would be a surgeon,’” says Sly. “In January 2020, I began monitoring what coronavirus was doing after the initial breakout in China, looking at the projected RO (“R naught”), which measures the infectiousness of the disease. At a meeting, Sly told the team, “This is super-serious, and if we can do something, we must do something.” They agreed.
“In February, as the numbers began rising in the U.S. and the lockdown loomed, we pulled the hand sanitizing technology (now known as Viztel™) out of the vault and added advanced algorithms that do mask and fever detection, contact tracing, social distancing compliance, and provide real-time notifications to supervisors and staff,” Sly shares, “and our team has been fervently working nonstop to innovate and stress-test the models.”
Chowdary adds, “with my background in the health care sector, it was always our intention to build a scalable product that would help benefit hospitals, clinics, and providers. RAI’s focus on patient care, safety, compliance, and productivity makes us unique among healthcare AI solutions. Our fusion of real-time video analytics, AI, and scalable edge-computing architecture allows us to effectively address the needs of both small institutions and large enterprises.”
Dengi summarizes in this way, RAI represents a great opportunity to prove that AI, productized the right way, can serve the society even in a time of crisis, such as the pandemic we are living through. RAI’s unique perspective on human-centric AI combined with our distinct technical differentiators is creating compelling value for our partners and customers.”
July 10, 2020