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Will Technology Replace Inspectors?

Monday 20 November 2017 Data Insight & Analytics


At CACI, I work with some of the UK’s most high-profile inspections organisations. Our work with them has proven that the convergence of the “big four” global megatrends – Mobility, Social, Big Data Analytics and Cloud – is driving greater efficiency in the regulation and inspections arena, both through new technology and through rethinking processes.

But technology may be about to have an existential impact on the sector through disruptive innovations that have the potential to change the role and remit of inspection services profoundly.


The digital imperative

The fact that technology will have a strong part to play in the future of inspections should come as no surprise to those who have kept an eye on the increasing number of studies proving that people are more likely to tell the truth when talking to a computer than when talking to a human.
The reasons for this are many (more time to answer with less direct pressure, less likely to care about portraying themselves in a negative light, dislike of authority and ‘testers’ in general), but do point to the fact that inspectors risk missing a trick by marginalising the use of computers and automation.
Against this is the consideration that many people feel that increasing automation of real-time monitoring of their performance, or signing up to a “continual inspection” service, is as close to “Big Brother” as we’re likely to get in our professional lives.
Nevertheless, life on the technological bleeding-edge holds great promise for inspections. Future technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things can dramatically transform the way in which departments work and can streamline business models.
Cognitive technologies and so-called ‘machine learning’ can allow regulators to make clear, rule-based checks or judgments, allowing them to perform large tasks such as workforce scheduling at scale in real-time, ensuring staff resources and travel time are optimised based on best-fit percentage ranking. One example of this algorithmic decision-making is the Planning Inspectorate’s Intelligence Hub which has massively improved inspection scheduling and resource allocation.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) will see the potential to automatically collect, transmit and analyse data, continuously improving the algorithms – ‘machine-learning’. For these new algorithmic approaches to work effectively, they typically require numerous data examples particularly when extrapolating to suggest new areas for regulation – so a degree of human executive decision-making will still be required.
The Internet of Things heralds an age in which the web extends to underpin the interconnectedness of everything.  Sensor and beacon technology will be able to be utilised to gather information remotely and continuously as an alternative to one-off, time-dependent physical inspection events. Taken together, AI and IoT could dramatically transform organisational business models and workforce structures. The potential to ally this with other near-future technologies (such as drones) makes the opportunities even more exciting.
One current example is The Food Standards Agency which is co-funding a programme of work on the IoT and food safety. The programme poses the question: how does the IoT help to make everyday food consumption become safer and less risky, in an affordable manner? It will include a series of short pilot projects around such areas as transportation of food and temperature control.

A future vision

It’s a certainty of the near future that cognitive technologies will increasingly absorb the easiest aspects of executive jobs. But in a world of disruptive change and ever-increasing pressure on resources, organisations shouldn’t be afraid of these technologies, but must understand how they can use them to their advantage.
CACI work with many of the most high-profile inspection organisations like Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission and the Civil Aviation Authority – so we’re trusted to deliver consultancy, insight and technology to ensure inspectors stay one step ahead of the sectors they are tasked with inspecting.
This is last of three blogs on Inspection Services - read the earlier blogs for the full picture - 'The Connected Workforce' and 'Data & Insight in Inspections'

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How will technology impact the inspections sector through disruptive innovations and profoundly change the role and remit of inspection services?

Will Technology Replace Inspectors?


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