From Efficiency to Innovation: How AI is Reshaping Singapore's Businesses

In the heart of Singapore’s bustling business landscape, a quiet revolution is underway. As companies strive to stay competitive in an ever-evolving global economy, a small but constantly increasing number of them are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) as a catalyst for transformation – and this movement is changing the way businesses are operating, optimising, and competing.

Singapore's calendar of events reveals our nation's interest in AI and the direction we are heading towards. Now, in the foreseeable future, AI is headlining over half a dozen events and conferences, with more on the horizon for businesses, technology experts, and futurists to look forward to. These includes the AI Summit Singapore, the IEEE Conference on Artificial Intelligence, Big Data & AI World Asia (as part of Tech Week Singapore), and others.

The landscape of AI adoption in Singapore is both exciting and transformative, with present-day use cases highlighting the profound impact AI is making across various industries. Looking ahead, it is intriguing to consider what the future of AI implementation could mean for both businesses and employees here.

Automating the mundane, empowering the human: AI in banking and finance

One of the most significant benefits of AI is its ability to automate repetitive tasks, freeing up human capital for more strategic endeavours. This allows employees to focus on areas where their creativity, ingenuity, and emotional intelligence are irreplaceable. Take for instance, financial institutions that use solutions like those provided by ADVANCE.AI, a Singapore company that leverages AI in its digital identity verification, compliance, and fraud prevention offerings.

In our banking and finance landscape, financial institutions are subject to stringent regulatory requirements. This is where AI can streamline compliance processes. By analysing vast amounts of data, AI systems can identify patterns and anomalies that might indicate non-compliance or fraudulent activities. By taking a proactive approach with the assistance of AI, financial institutions can stay ahead of possible issues and avoid hefty penalties.

With AI and machine learning algorithms automating many of these back-office processes, human employees like relationship managers (i.e., financial advisors) can focus on building client relationships, providing personalised financial advice, and conducting complex financial analyses – tasks that require human expertise, experience, and judgement.

This presents a winning situation for financial institutions, their employees, and their clients. Clients appreciate the genuine connection, expertise and personalised attention that human financial advisors offer, while financial institutions enjoy the efficiency that AI-driven backend processes provide. Meanwhile, financial advisors appreciate spending their time on high value advisory work, instead of backend checks and balances.

Making smarter, more proactive decisions: AI in logistics, engineering, and manufacturing

Of course, the benefits of AI extend beyond administrative tasks. Our nation’s logistics, engineering, and manufacturing sectors are also witnessing a revolutionary transformation, thanks to AI.

One success story is Ninja Van, a prominent last-mile delivery provider headquartered on our island. The company is currently using AI for route optimisation, which is an essential aspect of the last-mile delivery process. According to them, AI improves delivery times by selecting the most efficient routes and reducing the time drivers are stuck in traffic. Optimised routes also reduce fuel consumption, leading to lower operating costs. Importantly, their AI also identifies road closures, congestions and other unforeseen factors on the road, then recommends alternative routes to minimise delays. All this translates into more efficient and predictable deliveries, and happier customers.

Meanwhile, ST Engineering, a Singapore multinational technology, engineering, and defence company, has been exploring the capabilities of AI and implementing AI technologies into its solutions. For engineering and manufacturing companies, one practical application of AI is predictive maintenance. By analysing sensor data from machinery, AI can identify possible equipment failures before they occur, preventing costly downtime and ensuring smooth production processes. Compared to the existing practice of gathering big data and generating insights from it, the addition of AI into the process brings an added level of proactiveness into the mix.

Furthermore, the data collected through AI-driven predictive maintenance can be used to optimise machinery usage and improve future designs, further enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of manufacturing operations.

Enhancing customer experiences: AI in travel and hospitality

The power of AI extends beyond internal operations. Businesses are harnessing AI to personalise customer experiences and build stronger brand loyalty. And personalisation is particularly crucial in the travel and hospitality industry, a significant contributor to Singapore's economy.

In this domain, Marina Bay Sands, a renowned integrated resort in Singapore, has led the way with its implementation of AI – being the first hotel in the country to adopt AI chatbot technology when it engaged AiChat to develop a chatbot on Facebook Messenger to respond to general requests and provide recommendations. With its chatbot, Marina Bay Sands reported an 8.3x increase in new messaging connections, an impressive 26x growth in daily active users, and an outstanding 38x growth in the number of views for its Shop & Dine-related content.

Resorts World Sentosa, another leading integrated resort in Singapore, uses its chatbot to enable guests to seek services and answers on-demand, across a variety of messaging apps and voice assistants such as Facebook, Google Assistant, LINE, and Bixby. Crucially, the chatbot’s 24/7 availability means it can answer questions from potential guests around the world, reducing workloads on the resort’s staff.

AI is also revolutionising the way hotels manage their operations and enhance guest experiences. Through AI-powered data analytics, hotels can gain insights into guest preferences and behaviours, enabling them to offer personalised services and recommendations. For example, AI can analyse data from past guest interactions to predict their preferences for room amenities, dining options, and recreational activities. This level of personalisation not only enhances the guest experience, but also increases customer satisfaction and loyalty. Additionally, AI-driven systems can optimise hotel operations by managing room occupancy, energy usage, and staff allocation, leading to cost savings and improved efficiency.

Understanding customer preferences and driving sales: AI in e-commerce

Beyond automation and personalisation, AI is a powerful tool for driving sales, profoundly influencing our nation’s e-commerce landscape. In this space, traditional keyword-based searches may soon be replaced by AI-powered visual searches, signaling a significant shift in how consumers interact with online platforms.

Here, companies like ViSENZE, a Singapore startup that offer AI-powered solutions for integrating visual searches, product recommendations, and data tracking into customers’ platforms, are standing out. On AI-enabled e-commerce platforms, AI has the potential to learn a customer’s preferences, then offer deeply personalised product recommendations that the customer is more likely to add to their shopping basket. E-commerce brands can also benefit from AI-driven insights that will help them improve the customer experience and further increase conversions.

Also, by analysing sales data and market trends, AI models will be able to predict demand for products and advise retailers on optimising inventory levels – reducing the risk of overstocking or stockouts. This also ensures popular products are always available to customers, enhancing their shopping experience and increasing sales, as well as customer loyalty.

Personalising learning and skill development: AI in education

Singapore’s private education sector is also embracing the possibilities that AI brings, with companies integrating AI into their teaching and student learning processes in a variety of ways. This is enhancing educational outcomes and providing personalised learning experiences to students, outside of their traditional school classrooms.

One of the more interesting offerings is JustAskProf, a Singapore-based business and AI tutoring platform that leverages the intelligence of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. According to the founders, the platform is an excellent tool for parents who want to play a more active role in their children’s education, but who may be having difficulty keeping up with the syllabus and subjects. With the assistance of the platform’s AI, parents can create quizzes for their children, learn about their strengths, and gain insights into which areas their child needs to improve in. In other words, the platform allows every parent to become their child’s tutor – a paradigm that could dramatically change the way parents engage with traditional tuition agencies.

On this note, ‘traditional’ tuition companies are also transforming. By integrating AI into their offerings, Singapore-based tuition company Explico is providing parents with ‘AI assessments’. These assessments include an innovation that the company calls ‘AI foresight’, which predicts a child’s probable growth and improvement in a subject, based on their current development. This allows both parents, and the company’s tutors, to better plan each child’s learning journey.

This is just the beginning for AI in Singapore’s private tuition market. Other industry players like Geniebook and Higgz Academia Technology are also gaining recognition for their use of AI in helping students to learn and enabling parents to be more involved with their child’s education. For industry watchers pondering the size of this market, Higgz Academia Technology’s most recent round of funding was reported to be valued at over S$100 million.

By harnessing the power of AI, these companies are making learning more personalised, efficient, and effective for students across Singapore – and growing the interest of AI integration among their peers.

Quantifying the economic impact of AI

The impact of AI extends beyond individual businesses and industries. AI is poised to potentially contribute US$1 trillion (S$1.35 trillion) to Southeast Asia by 2030, with US$110 million (S$148 million) being injected into the Singapore economy.

Singapore's commitment to AI is evident in its robust government support. Initiatives like the National AI Strategy, launched in 2019, and AI Singapore, established in 2017, provide a comprehensive framework for AI development and adoption in the country. These initiatives provide funding, resources, and research collaboration possibilities for businesses of all sizes. AI Singapore, for example, offers opportunities like the AI Apprenticeship Programme (AIAP), which identifies and trains promising Singaporean talents for careers in AI.

Our nation’s AI ambitions are exemplified by our plan to develop Southeast Asia’s first large language model ecosystem. Unveiled in 2023, the National Multimodal LLM Programme (MNLP) is a S$70 million AI initiative that is spearheaded by the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), AI Singapore, and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).

Recognising how AI will continue to be a key driver of growth in our country, Prime Minister Lawrence Wong announced in February 2024 that Singapore will invest over S$1 billion over the next five years for AI compute, talent, and industry development. He also shared how Singapore will work with leading companies to set up AI centres of excellence on our shares – spurring industry collaboration and innovation, and driving value creation across our entire economy.

The announcement follows in the reinvigoration of the National AI Strategy a few months prior. Now in its second iteration, ‘National AI Strategy 2.0: AI for the Public Good for Singapore’ is “focused on nurturing talent, promoting a thriving AI industry and sustaining it with world-leading infrastructure and research that ensures AI serves the public good,” according to The Straits Times.

A future powered by intelligence: Human and artificial

While AI is a topic that breeds both enthusiasm and concern (about the possibility of replacing human jobs), it is undoubtedly the path forward for a nation that itself on being on the forefront of innovation and economy success.

With responsible and strategic use of AI, businesses here can augment human capabilities and use AI technologies to empower employees – automating mundane tasks, while collaborating with humans and empowering employees to do more creative, personalised, and fulfilling work.

Our nation has the vision, strategic direction, and investments in place to drive AI implementation forward. Now, it’s up to businesses to leverage these opportunities and step forward in this exciting new era.