Mar 18, 2015

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

The Intelligent Operations Exchange (IOX), jointly developed by Genpact and the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence (CCI), seeks to use crowd sourcing to identify innovative applications of new technologies to improve business operations in large enterprises. The goal of Genpact and CCI in launching IOX is to cast a wide net and leverage a geographically-dispersed and highly diverse online community to accelerate this process.

Specifically, IOX helps to address two vexing challenges big corporations face:

  • How to make sense of the rapidly changing technology landscape
  • What are the most useful applications of relevant technologies to their business

How does IOX work? Anyone can join our global community and submit ideas about how new technologies can be applied, based on their experiences in their own organizations. Other members can like, share, or comment on proposed applications. As of the end of February 2015, sixteen new technologies had been posted on IOX and more than 140 ideas submitted on how these technologies could be applied to improve business operations.

After observing the community over the first few months, we felt there would be value in looking across the array of new technologies and applications posted on IOX to identify new ways in which people and computers could be connected to create collective intelligence. We identified four clusters:

  • Smart machines
  • Smart crowds
  • Social sensing
  • Mobile and augmented user interfaces

We'll discuss the first in this blog post and the last three in a pair of subsequent posts.

Smart machines
Advances in microprocessors and software have allowed computers to do things that were formerly the sole province of humans. Smart machines can assume responsibility for repetitive or difficult tasks and free people up to undertake other activities.

Two technologies in IOX involve speech recognition, a focus of artificial intelligence researchers for decades, which has recently been incorporated in commercial applications, including digital assistants, such as Apple's Siri, Google's Now, and Microsoft's Cortana; and real-time speech translation, such as the system recently announced by Skype. Members of the IOX community submitted intriguing ideas for application of both technologies.

In the digital assistant category, the most shared idea asserted that “Natural conversations beat 'Select from the following' any day." It advocates that customer support phone lines stop asking callers to select from a menu of pre-selected option and instead use voice recognition to understand the gist of questions, posed in regular speech, by the customer. Such a system could also identify a caller, either through phone ID or by asking for an account number, and then access context sensitive information to further improve voice recognition and provide more appropriate responses.

The most shared, and most liked, idea on real time speech translation noted that this technology could enable globalization of customer support, with the potential for increased automation and standardization and also greater specialization, with customer support personnel possessing particular skills focusing on their area of expertise.

Both these applications have the potential to increase the quality of service provided by product support lines, a very attractive proposition for companies, since customers who call in tend to start out as somewhat disgruntled at the outset, by virtue of their having to contact the support line at all. And by enabling globalization, real time speech translation could generate scale economies that will also reduce costs.

Another example of smart machines on IOX is rapid automation, where computers assume the role formerly played by humans in interacting with complex software applications like enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. The most shared application for this technology described how automation can reduce the time required to process insurance claims, enabling faster payment of claims for customers and lower processing costs for insurers.

Two later posts will cover the final technology clusters—smart crowds, mobile/augmented user interfaces, and social sensing—and wrap up by noting how advanced digital technologies, combined with effective analytics and appropriate operating models, can transform global businesses. Watch this space.


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

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