AI is getting smarter, and critical infrastructure is set to benefit

Issue 6 2023 Surveillance

Marcel Bruyns.

With technology advancing at an astonishing pace, AI has emerged as a defining trend in today's business arena. Enterprises across all sectors are prioritising this technology, embracing its transformative potential to drive change and growth.

We are embarking on an exciting AI journey filled with boundless possibilities in South Africa. AI-centred developments are visible across various sectors. Take healthcare, for instance. AI is increasingly being deployed to improve diagnostic accuracy and patient care. South African start-ups are making waves in this area, employing AI to provide quicker, more accurate medical imaging diagnoses. In the agricultural sector, AI forecasts crop yields and optimises farming practices, boosts productivity and sustainability, and supports food supply chains in Africa.

We have already taken significant strides, as evidenced by establishing the South African Artificial Intelligence Association (SAAIA). The association aims to boost AI adoption for commercial endeavours, while unlocking societal benefits. We are not just promising progress, but delivering it; paving the way for AI to revolutionise our businesses and the broader South African society.

AI: An ally, not a replacement

Let us clear up a widespread misconception about automation. In South Africa, where an unemployment rate of 32,9% in the first quarter of 2023 – among the highest in the world – is an alarming statistic, we must stress that AI is not about substituting humans with machines. It is about optimising internal business operations and freeing workers to be more creative by automating certain tasks, making better decisions, creating new products, enhancing external processes, pursuing new markets, and capturing and applying data where needed. AI is empowering human operators, facilitating quicker, better-informed real-time decisions. AI is not just a tool – it's a powerful ally for businesses.

Critical infrastructure sectors are no exception. AI's transformative power is particularly evident in sectors such as energy and utilities. In a South African context, where load shedding has cost the country more than R1,2 trillion, AI could prove to be a real, fundamental enabler for energy projects offering multiple applications. These include production optimisation with computer vision to analyse asset utilisation, reducing downtime for predictive maintenance of equipment, capacity understanding, and modelling for predicting corrosion risks to reduce maintenance costs on power plants.

Similarly, in transport and logistics, AI-powered predictive analytics could be used to reduce traffic congestion and accidents, lessen carbon emissions, and minimise overall financial expenses.

AI in action: Enhancing surveillance and security

We recently witnessed an example of AI's vast potential within our business environment, embodied by a development in object analytics. A new feature was introduced that leverages AI to analyse movement patterns within a specific area over a given time, aiding in detecting anomalies.

This advancement in AI capabilities is not just enhancing reactive measures; it is transforming proactive threat identification and mitigation. Picture a world where our assets are protected more effectively, our premises are secured more robustly, and our businesses operate more efficiently. This is not a theoretical vision; it is rapidly becoming a reality, redefining how we approach security and surveillance in our crucial infrastructure sectors.

The recent AI-powered innovation is a testament to the transformative potential of AI within our critical infrastructure. It is an upgrade, a game-changer that reshapes our understanding of safety and security in the digital age.

The future is AI: Seizing the opportunity

AI is not just a trend; it is an unprecedented opportunity for innovation and growth. As AI continues to mature, it has the potential to redefine our processes, boost our productivity, and strengthen the security of our critical infrastructure sectors. This goes beyond merely automating tasks. It is about enhancing our capabilities, reshaping our operations, and transforming our approach to problem-solving.

This transformative power of AI extends to every aspect of our society, from healthcare and agriculture to energy distribution and security. As such, South African enterprises and public institutions must seize this opportunity. Investment in AI and other advanced technologies is no longer optional; it is a strategic imperative for any organisation looking to stay relevant in the modern world and drive South Africa's future success. The onus is on us to turn the promise of AI into tangible results for our economy and society.


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