Mar 23, 2015

Intelligence of the crowd - Innovative applications of advanced technologies (Part II)

March 23, 2015 - The preceding post on this subject laid out the rationale behind the launch of the Intelligent Operations Exchange (IOX) by Genpact and the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence. IOX is a community that seeks to help large, global organizations run their operations in smarter ways by crowdsourcing creative ideas on how to apply new technologies. The post also described several intriguing ideas for applications generated by the platform in the smart machines technology cluster.

This post will note applications identified on the platform in the two other technology clusters:

  • smart crowds
  • mobile/augmented user interfaces

A final post will cover the last cluster—social sensing—and wrap up by noting how companies can transform their operations by applying advanced digital technologies.

Smart crowds
Machines are generally good at simple tasks, while humans are better at activities that require creativity and judgment. Harnessing smart crowds involves inviting lots of people to contribute their ideas or judgment. Research has shown that asking a far-flung crowd to contribute can often generate highly creative, radically new concepts that would not have been discovered by traditional mechanisms. This is the principal behind IOX itself.

One example of the use of smart crowds in IOX is crowdsourcing to generate product information in emerging markets. Another is prediction markets, which pool the judgment of many people to make predictions about what will happen in the future. When used in organizations, prediction markets have been able to unearth hidden knowledge that does not come to light in the normal course of doing business.

In the crowdsourcing category, a well-liked and frequently shared application involved using mobile phones to collect data in emerging markets, especially information that would otherwise be difficult to obtain, like figures on the quantity of goods present in the last mile of logistics chains. Interested parties could send data via mobile phones and receive airtime minutes in return. Such data could help consumer goods companies and retailers alike achieve logistics savings and also increase sales by ensuring that goods are in stock when customers are ready to buy.

The most popular application of prediction markets noted that this tool could be used not just to obtain predictions about the future, but also to identify when there are greatly varying viewpoints within an organization that may be valuable to surface. In this way, companies could identify instances of organizational misalignment, thereby preventing costly future mistakes or missed opportunities.

Mobile/augmented user interfaces
The next cluster of technologies involves new kinds of user interfaces. Wearable interfaces like Google Glass allow people to access information online while on the go. A highly rated application for this technology was for use in the verification of claims by customers that shipments of goods are damaged or short.

Interfaces like virtual reality headsets can provide a far more complex display of information than is feasible with a two-dimensional screen. An intriguing application of this technology surfaced in IOX was the creation of wearable conference rooms to allow operations workers from remote locations to feel as though they are assembled together in one place. The improved communication enabled by such a mode of interaction could help to increase the efficiency of geographically distributed operations teams.

Finally, interactive tabletop displays, which work like touchscreens, and motion tracking input devices allow users to provide more complex inputs than are possible with a keyboard, mouse/trackpad, or small touchscreen. Applications put forward for these technologies included the use of tabletop displays for mapping business processes and motion tracking devices to enable the remote repair of complex equipment. Both have the potential to reduce costs and increase quality.

The final post in the series will cover the last technology cluster—social sensing—and also outline how large organizations can use some of these advanced digital technologies to transform their operations.

Authors:

  • Subroto Gupta - Vice President, Digital Transformation & Innovation, Genpact
  • Robert Laubacher - Executive Director, MIT Center for Collective Intelligence