SINGAPORE: Call centres of the future may be able to predict the reason for a customer’s call, and banks could prompt clients to raise their credit limit ahead of a weekend sale.
This is Singapore’s vision for the services sector - termed Services 4.0 - as the country pushes for further of adoption of cutting-edge technologies and new methods of designing software solutions in the industry.
At the Infocomm Media Development Authority’s second SG:Digital Industry Day on Thursday (Nov 22), Communications and Information Minister S Iswaran offered a glimpse of how the “next generation” of Singapore’s services sector - which contributes nearly 70 per cent of the Republic’s gross domestic product (GDP) and up to 75 per cent of its workforce - could look like.
“Much has been said about Industry 4.0 and its transformative impact on the manufacturing sector. But the services sector too is undergoing a similar transformation,” he said.
Using the banking sector as example, Mr Iswaran pointed out that not too long ago, customers had to physically go to a bank branch for simple transactions like withdrawals.
But with ATMs and other technologies, that process has been automated and banks are going further to anticipate the services that clients need through artificial intelligence.
Mr Iswaran pointed to DBS Bank as an example of how services can be “more anticipatory and emphatic”. DBS has started to analyse the pattern of incidents encountered by their customers to predict the nature of their calls.
“This has helped customer service officers offer quicker solutions and reduce call handling time,” said Mr Iswaran.
GOING CLOUD NATIVE
To amplify these benefits, the Government is encouraging companies to build and run their applications on the cloud with flexible modular components - a method also known as cloud native architecture.
Conventionally, software applications are developed as a block - which makes it hard for changes to be made and companies could take weeks or months to make amendments.
But using cloud native architecture, developers have more flexibility to pick and choose the technical components they want.
They can also do so quickly because these components could already be commercially-available online and have open standards.
“Cloud native architecture allows solution providers to be more nimble and responsive to customer’s needs and at a lower cost … (It) may sound like an advanced technology, but no company is too small or young to go cloud native,” said Mr Iswaran.
One company that has adopted such a method is Tessaract.io. The company offers case management software to companies such as law and accounting firms - which may ask for additional features like the ability to extract text from PDFs, or transcribe calls.
Being cloud native means that solutions can be easily interfaced and integrated with other technology service providers to offer compatible, centralised solutions for its clients.
“(We) are not in the business of making solutions to transcribe calls, but there are service providers who provide that and what we just need to do is to integrate their system into our (solution),” said the company’s head of client success, Sharon Tan.
To help more adopt this practice, IMDA will roll out an initiative called GoCloud by early 2019. SMEs that qualify will receive help from expert coaches on a short-term project with up to 50 per cent funding.
DIGITAL SERVICES LAB
Separately, a Digital Services Laboratory (DSL) has been set up to bring together researchers, industry players and government agencies, with the goal of creating solutions to solve sector-wide digitalisation challenges.
The two-year programme will first look at addressing issues in the built environment, lifestyle, modern services, as well as trade and connectivity sectors.
One project it is working on is the National Speech Corpus - a database of audio files with locally-accented words. It can be used to train voice recognition software to better understand how Singaporeans speak.
This will allow global technology providers to deliver better speech-related applications in Singapore.
The first version of the corpus contains more than 2,000 hours of audio and 40,000 words including phrases such as “Tanjong Pagar”, “ice kacang” and “nasi lemak”.
The corpus has been used to refine an automated transcription software that Mediacorp and IMDA are co-developing, which is currently being used to create subtitles for English drama episodes.
It usually takes eight hours for staff to transcribe subtitles for a one-hour episode, but the process can be shaved to two hours with the software. It has up to 90 per cent accuracy rate now.
“Once we develop the (software) further, we expect to extend it to other content genres and other languages,” said Anil Nihalani, Mediacorp’s head of digital products and technology.
“We also want to (have) additional features like automatic content indexing and that allows us to do various types of time-stamping and automatic recognition of scenes in programmes.
“This will significantly help us to improve our overall offerings to our viewers.”