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Portrait of professor Stefan Cronholm and genre photo of foreman and supervisor working at warehouse

2019-10-29 11:15

New research will combine AI with human capabilities


The newly launched project Digital Hybrid Systems for Innovation at the University of Borås will receive close to two million Swedish crowns in research funding from the Swedish Retail and Wholesale Council. The funding will go towards developing systems for innovation in commerce in which both Artificial Intelligence (AI) and human capabilities are utilised.

Companies today collect large amounts of data about their customers in order to develop new services and products. However, the analysis of this data is often left entirely to machines. Stefan Cronholm, Professor of Informatics and leader of the new research project, sees that there are risks to this.

"Today, there is a very strong confidence in artificial intelligence (AI) and the ability of machines to make the right decisions for us. When companies develop new services, they often rely entirely on machines' calculations and then lose the knowledge and experience that people could contribute," he says.

The goal of the new research project is to find systems to combine human capabilities with machines' when companies collect data to develop new services and products.

"We call such systems hybrid systems as they are a combination of machines and humans. The machines have a superior ability to calculate large amounts of data and recognise patterns, while humans can apply knowledge of, for example, contexts, organisational cultures, and customer relationships. If we combine these two perspectives, we will have better decision-making basis for being able to create innovations in business," says Stefan Cronholm.

Can lead to reduced returns of goods

Stefan Cronholm believes that hybrid systems could be applied in many situations in the retail industry. An example might be trying to reduce the number of returned goods in retail.

"When customers over-utilise the opportunity to return goods, it results in products being sent back and forth completely unnecessarily. Computers could provide us with statistics that can explain in detail the return volumes in relation to various articles. In addition, if we can supplement automatically generated statistics with people's real experiences--both strategic and operational--we can create a more complete picture of the problems that can help us to improve service. There are significant sustainability benefits to this."

Research with great relevance to business and industry

The University of Borås has, for many years, built up a strong expertise within digitalisation and retailing. Out of about a hundred applicants, the University of Borås was one of the seven universities that received funding from the Swedish Retail and Wholesale Council to carry out their project. In addition to Stefan Cronholm, Lecturer Hannes Göbel and two companies are involved in the project.

"We hope that our research will, in the future, disrupt business models in retail; that is, that business models will complete break from what was previously common practice and that the entire industry will change. These are changes that, in the long run, should be to the benefit the entire society," says Stefan Cronholm.

Read more

Read more about the project Digital hybrid systems for innovation

Text: Linda Rydh
Photo of Stefan Cronholm: Klas Svensson
Genre photo: Mostphotos
Translation: Eva Medin