Humanizing artificial intelligence: Aboitiz tapping data science and artificial intelligence to serve its customers better

Published August 10, 2022, 12:00 PM

by MB Business

With cloud computing, AI-powered assistants, Internet of Things (IoT, like smart TVs, speakers, and lights) and other innovations becoming more common and prevalent in our lives, companies are also constantly pushing the boundaries of what data science and artificial intelligence (DSAI) can do to deliver high-value and sustainable products and services.

Key technologies like DSAI have the ability to reduce human error, better manage risk, and increase productivity and efficiency. It’s no surprise that one of the Aboitiz Group’s newest subsidiaries, Aboitiz Data Innovation (ADI), is already finding new and more efficient ways to streamline operations, discover new synergies, and reinvent business processes.

ADI is the DSAI arm of the Aboitiz Group, whose task is to unlock the power of data science and artificial intelligence by testing and implementing new ways to tackle specific industry, environmental, social, and governance (ESG) challenges.

The push for this innovation is part of the larger Aboitiz group’s ‘Great Transformation’ mission: a bold corporate move to put innovation at the forefront of its growth strategy. It hopes to usher in the firm’s transition into a ‘techglomerate’ by heavily integrating technology and forward design thinking in all its production, services, and processes.

“Aboitiz Data Innovation represents a natural progression for us that is consistent with how Aboitiz has adopted new approaches and expertise over the years,” explained Sabin M. Aboitiz, Aboitiz Group President and Chief Executive Officer.

Harnessing computing power

ADI banks on its incredibly talented staff and computing power to look at conventional problems and find new and inventive ways to solve them. This goal is not just to lower costs and improve productivity, but also to manage social-economic-environmental trade-offs in order to be a truly progressive and responsible ‘techglomerate.’“An innovative mindset is crucial in creating new opportunities and exploring game-changing solutions to advance businesses and communities,” said Dr. David R. Hardoon, Managing Director of ADI on their approach to finding solutions.

ADI develops and deploys innovative solutions to improve operational efficiency and reduce carbon emissions in the cement manufacturing industry.

Disruptive and sustainable solutions

ADI helped revolutionize cement manufacturing which is considered a traditional industry in the Philippines thanks to its use of DSAI.

Republic Cement and ADI worked together in utilizing AI to predict the compressive strength of cement based on historical data and help operators and quality managers optimize concentrations of raw materials. Not only did this result in saved time, better resource management and operational efficiency, it also improved the consistency of cement products. The application of DSAI in cement manufacturing also led to reduced annual CO2 emissions, contributing to achieve the Group’s ESG goals in the process.

Better services

 AboitizLand has teamed up with Aboitiz’s DSAI team for improved customer engagement and a predictive model that will detect construction delays. This gives buyers timely updates on the progress of their homes. It also uses DSAI to comb through all the figures to process applications faster.

Cleaner, more efficient utilities

AboitizPower is partnering with ADI on a broad range of DSAI-enabled projects under its Data Innovation Program to deliver enhanced and future-ready services to its customers. Among others, these innovation projects include: battery optimization allowing more usage predictability on the best potential uses of industrial batteries and its power sources; visual anomaly detection using satellite imagery analysis; optimization and upgrade of installed field and network equipment across AboitizPower’s franchise areas; intelligent account management and collection leveraging behavior-based analytics; predictive analytics to lessen unplanned outages across AboitizPower thermal units; and intelligent benchmarking of AboitizPower-managed plants against industry metrics and performance.

Dr. David R. Hardoon, Managing Director of ADI.

ADI is also exploring innovative AI-driven solutions with Aboitiz InfraCapital subsidiary, Lima Water Corporation (LWC), to manage its water supply network more efficiently. With the goal of becoming a Smart Water Network by turning its water facilities into interconnected and intelligent systems, LWC’s water facilities are able to communicate with each other and automatically adjust its operating setup depending on the requirements.

These collaborations with the Aboitiz business units involved understanding the challenges they were facing in their sectors, demonstrating the ability to leverage both technology and the ecosystem enabled by a skilled talent pool to connect and deliver value effectively.

Closer to the customers

It’s evident how DSAI can be tapped to improve large scale processes, yet ADI is also working to bring these innovations closer to the customer.

Meeting customer needs

Perhaps the best example of how DSAI can be tapped to produce more personal results is in the banking and financial services industry. By leveraging AI and alternative data, ADI worked with Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) to provide loans to micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises especially during the pandemic.

ADI continues to explore AI-powered solutions to create long-term value for customers in the banking and financial services sector and beyond.

The enhanced, AI-powered alternative credit scoring and risk models enabled UnionBank and its tech arm UBX to be able to offer loans and credit to a broader range of individuals and small businesses who may have not qualified under traditional scoring methods. This initiative effectively doubled the bank’s loan approval rate, continuing to help connect the unbanked and underbanked to accessible financial services.

A DSAI-empowered team

By developing and deploying innovative solutions within the Group, ADI plays an integral role in the Aboitiz Group’s ‘Great Transformation’ into the new Aboitiz.

“The team is uniquely placed to build solutions across the various industries the Group operates in,” said Dr. Hardoon. “Having this multi-industry experience enables ADI to operationalize DSAI and develop innovative solutions for business-and ESG-related challenges as well as unlock new potential in various functional areas.”

It is continuously finding new ways to operationalize DSAI into impactful solutions that can challenge the status quo in traditional sectors, not for the sake of ‘disruption’, but to drive meaningful transformation to deliver business and sustainability outcomes for both the people and the planet.

With ADI’s innovation, the future of data science and artificial intelligence is not only looking bright, efficient, and greener, it’s also looking far more human and sensitive to the customer.