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Artificial intelligence: your new right-hand man

A few times a year I meet with the topical experts at Cegeka. Today, I’m speaking to a regular guest: Kristel Demotte, Global VP Data Solutions, and ICT Woman of the Year 2022. We’re talking about:

  • Rollercoasters (yes, you read that right)
  • Whether artificial intelligence can change the world for the better (spoiler alert: it can)
  • The potential of AI and 5G in the healthcare sector
  • The benefits of AI to both patient and healthcare professional
  • The obstacles that first need to be removed

So, quite a bit to talk about… let’s roll!

Kristel, you’ve been ‘ICT Woman of the Year’ for over seven months now. How has it been?

Kristel Demotte: It still feels like a rollercoaster! (laughs). It is very intense and requires a huge amount of energy, but I get so much back in return. It’s extremely motivating, the idea that I might be able to convince women to go for a job in IT… especially when I can see that they have previously come up against obstacles to that. Often these are personal obstacles – for instance, the infamous Impostor Syndrome – but sometimes they can be ones perceived externally, such as being seen as not technical enough to work in IT."

"That is obviously nonsense. IT is about so much more than technology. Of course, some of the women in my team have technical knowledge, but some come from other backgrounds, such as finance. IT is not just about developers; you need project leaders, sales and marketing people, functional analysts, service delivery managers and so on. All these are roles where women comfortably work in tandem with their male colleagues."

Do you want to be part of Kristel’s team? View the vacancies at Data Solutions here.

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When you give keynote speeches as the ICT Woman of the Year, you talk about ‘artificial intelligence for good’. Why focus on AI?

Kristel Demotte: "Because at Cegeka, we believe that technology can save the world. This might sound bombastic, but I really share that conviction. Collectively we face enormous challenges: the climate, the energy crisis, the pandemic and the pressure on the healthcare sector, the gap between rich and poor, etc. I could go on. Technology in itself won’t solve these problems, but it can be an important part of the solution.”

“Take the current energy crisis, for example. The Trinity of Innovation – a concept within Cegeka – of 5G, artificial intelligence and the cloud, can ensure that we work in a much more efficient way. For example, we can use load balancing to help us use energy more smartly… and more economically too. To do that, you need a lot of points of measurement to capture and interpret all the data, but with 5G and the cloud, we are getting very close to a scenario in which we will have many more smart energy solutions to hand. And there are many more examples.”

There are a lot of exciting scenarios being discussed about using AI in the healthcare sector, but also a lot of low-hanging fruit.

The healthcare sector is a focus at Cegeka, and I know you personally feel that there is a lot of potential here. In what way, exactly?

Kristel Demotte: “In the near future, the healthcare sector will very likely evolve in three ways. Firstly, we will see a shift from hospital care to care at home. Secondly, many diseases will be detected faster – or better still, detected even before they manifest themselves – so they can be prevented rather than treated. Thirdly, AI will ensure that healthcare staff are relieved of the administrative burden of many routine tasks and decision making."

“You see, there are a lot of exciting scenarios being discussed about using AI in the healthcare sector – I’ll list a few in a moment – but also a lot of low-hanging fruit that can be easily picked now, especially on the administrative side of things. Making and rescheduling appointments, taking accurate notes during meetings, efficiently scheduling operations in the operating theatre… all of these take a lot of time, 80% of which could be done by an algorithm.”

In terms of diagnosis, can AI ‘see’ things that doctors miss?

Kristel Demotte: “Yes. There is a huge amount of scope for AI to help healthcare professionals to match existing treatments for as-yet unencountered medical conditions in the future. AI will also be able to detect certain diseases much earlier than doctors can do today. For instance, at the moment there are already several tools that can be used to measure the risk of someone having a heart attack, even up to five years in the future, such as using CT scans or a 3D image of the heart in combination with an AI algorithm. Imagine what it would be like to be able to do that for all the different types of cancer, for kidney failure, diabetes, dementia and so on.”

“AI can also help with diagnostics. A well-known example is that of the AI-powered machine that helps radiologists to spot early-stage breast cancer on scans. This means that a large part of the work can be allocated to the machine, leaving the specialist to concentrate on the more complicated aspects of their job. You could say that Al plays the role of an assistant: it doesn’t replace the human, it complements them.”

Artificial Intelligence plays the role of an assistant: it doesn’t replace the human, it complements them.

And the arrival of 5G can only accelerate this wave of innovation.

Kristel Demotte: ”Absolutely. My colleague Mitch also said in this interview: that 5G is about three things: one, creating more bandwidth and making mobile Internet faster. Two, offering low latency, meaning there is virtually no delay in the connection. This is very important for anything that is mission-critical and needs to happen in real time. Remote surgery is a perfect example. And three, facilitating massive capacity – up to hundreds of thousands of devices and sensors per base station."

5G means rock-solid guarantees of end-to-end connectivity, which you don’t have with Wi-Fi.

“5G means rock-solid guarantees of end-to-end connectivity, which you don’t have with Wi-Fi. A 5G mobile private network can be ‘sliced’ or divided into lanes, which you can set up depending on their purpose. Take a hospital, for example. You can provide one shielded lane for everything that is mission-critical and absolutely must not go down or falter. And one slice for the back office, and another for visitors, where that is much less the case.”

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AI is not getting off the ground in Belgium yet. What are the obstacles?

Kristel Demotte: “AI needs a lot of data, and diverse data at that. The data must be representative of a patient population, and there should be no ‘bias’ in it. The data mountain will be huge, partly due to 5G, the explosion of sensor devices and the cloud. But there are obstacles to be overcome, both in terms of regulation and also ethics. There’s a fine line between having the right data (and enough of it to really make a difference for people) and keeping an eye on ethics, privacy, and security.”

“Furthermore – and this is a hobbyhorse of mine – many organisations are still at the start of their data journey. Before you can get started with AI, you need to get your data in order. You need to know the answers to a lot of questions: Where is my data? Who does it belong to? Can I use it? In what format can I use it? How clean is my data? Is it machine-readable? Is it representative and reliable? And so on.”

Where are you with your data project? Do a quick check here.

Thanks to 5G, a lot of remote and mission-critical scenarios in hospitals are becoming a reality.

Finally, what specifically are you working on in healthcare?

Kristel Demotte: “We are collaborating with a number of hospitals at the moment. We are building a data application that should enable these hospitals to get insights from raw data that is now available in the nexuzhealth app’s EPR system (editor’s note: this is a subsidiary of Cegeka, well known as the mynexuzhealth app). For example, this could help a hospital to get better insight into its operating theatre planning and allow them to take action to optimise the service.

“And of course, we are building the ‘hospital of the future’ with Citymesh – Cegeka group’s telecoms specialist. 5G mobile private networks are a real enabler of innovation here. Because of 5G, many remote, mission-critical scenarios are now becoming reality; and if you add AI into the mix, people and machines will be able to work seamlessly together in harmony.”

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