AI comes down to earth

Editorial Type: Technology Focus Date: 2018-03-01 Views: 1,485 Tags: Document, AI, Print management, Strategy, Workflow, Software, Xerox PDF Version:
Dragana Pavlovic, senior vice president of the Global Development Group for Xerox Corporation, asks what has to change in order for the print industry to use AI to its full potential

If you take an interest in annual industry predictions you'll have noticed artificial intelligence (AI) top nearly every reputable 2018 list. Amidst the sensationalist claims of robots stealing human jobs and societal concerns about AI spinning out of control, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was on hand to ground the AI conversation firmly in the present. In its 2018 AI Predictions, PwC stated that 2018 is the year that "AI will come down to earth - and get to work."

PwC predicts that in 2018 AI will finally start doing things; yet not necessarily in ways which set the world alight per certain overzealous media headlines. For AI to come down to earth, it needs to function at its most basic level and this boils down to automating processes - something the print industry has talked about for some time. With UK printers under increasing pressure to drive cost savings and remain competitive, is the industry really using AI to its full potential?

HOW CAN AI HELP?
The definition of AI is generally accepted to mean the ability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behaviour. Admittedly, this definition is an umbrella term for a broad spectrum of technology so the industry coined four distinctive categories of AI:

- Reactive machines - The most basic functionality of AI where the machine can only react to current scenarios, with no ability to use experience to inform decisions.

- Limited memory - The machine can make observations about its environment to inform a decision i.e. the technology behind self-driving cars.

- Theory of mind - At this point, AI becomes more futuristic. To fall into this category, AI must have the ability to understand thoughts and emotions, and use this to react to the world around it.

- Self-aware AI - The most advanced type of AI and requires the machine to have its own consciousness, something that does not exist - yet.

There may be a lot of hype and speculation around the latter two categories, but in reality it's the AI which falls into the 'reactive machines' and 'limited memory' categories which the print industry should care about. This AI has the potential to open up lucrative new revenue streams for print businesses by improving the effectiveness of the end-to-end printing process, from print job creation through to continuous production and machine service optimisations.

WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO START?
In theory, AI can improve any and every aspect of the print process, limited only by the amount of resource (financial, technological, employee) available to make this change. As with the introduction of any new technology into a business, it takes time to truly assess what makes the most sense for your business.

You may choose, for example, to implement AI to automate tasks that were previously bottlenecks in the printing process - increasing the business' daily output. Alternatively, you might decide to offload some of the more routine work to a machine in order to enable your team to focus on more strategic work.

There are multiple examples of this in practice. For example, many printers have transformed their print process by utilising software with smart algorithms that can decipher different document layouts, such as optimising imposition, in order to minimise printed waste. This drives cost savings and is environmentally beneficial too.

Similarly, those in the business of printing direct mail and catalogues are taking advantage of the data they have available to automatically customise the content for the recipient, creating more relevant mailings. This is a small change but one which can give you the edge over the competition.

Your starting point could also be as simple as installing smart software that has the ability to monitor which presses are busy and then route new jobs to available presses on your behalf. Xerox presses such as the iGen 5 employ sensors to constantly monitor themselves and make real-time in-process adjustments for paper alignment and image quality to provide the best possible printing outcome without human intervention.

From a maintenance perspective, today's machines will also connect back to their supplier - allowing machine data to be analysed securely, compared to expected performance and then adjusted or updated remotely. In the future, this data could be used to predict the need for service before the machine fails.

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT IN THE FUTURE?
Whilst creating real revenue in 2018 is arguably much more valuable than speculating over predicted revenue in 2028, the potential for AI to change the print industry even further is not too far away. With the rise of digital content, there is a huge opportunity to leverage online data to offer much more personalised print services in the future, such as creating customised photo-books by determining a user's favourite social media images, or synthesising targeted print catalogues or newsletters based on what pages the shopper is looking at.

But in the spirit of coming down to earth, there is also a very real opportunity in the here and now to take advantage of the available software and kit to bring the benefits of AI to your business. So what are you waiting for? Step back, look at your current processes and see where you could use this revolutionary piece of technology to unlock even greater value.
More info: www.xerox.com

"As with the introduction of any new technology into a business, it takes time to truly assess what makes the most sense for your business. You may choose, for example, to implement AI to automate tasks that were previously bottlenecks in the printing process - increasing the business' daily output. Alternatively, you might decide to offload some of the more routine work to a machine in order to enable your team to focus on more strategic work."