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Aboitiz ramps up business applications of AI with its first ‘digital team members’

Elsie and Albert
Elsie and Albert during their unveiling at this year’s Aboitiz’s Leaders Conference, introduced by Aboitiz Equity Ventures Transformation Head, Dea Franko-Csuba.

The concept of artificial intelligence (AI) has become so ubiquitous in our modern society that it is now a serious consideration for businesses to stay competitive. The Aboitiz Group has taken a step further in exploring the applications of AI when it recently unveiled Elsie and Albert, the Group’s first AI-powered digital team members.

First introduced during the annual Aboitiz Group’s Leaders Conference last May, Elsie and Albert are digital avatars with human forms that can independently display expressions and answer questions with their own voice. During the conference, the avatars showcased their capabilities by responding to cues and providing accurate summaries of presentations when asked.

“In today’s rapidly evolving technological landscape, the imperative for leaders and professionals to adapt and transform is key. This is why we keep People and Technology transformation in the forefront of our Great Transformation efforts and the seamless collaboration of our human and AI colleagues is a great example of how we can build an exciting future together with smart technologies,” Aboitiz Equity Ventures Vice President of Transformation Dea Franko Csuba said.

More than just ChatGPT

Aboitiz’s new digital team members can answer queries using a vast pool of data. This functionality may remind one of popular and publicly available chatbots such as ChatGPT. Elsie and Albert, however, can bring much more to the table because of two key factors: context and form.

Aboitiz Equity Ventures’ Vice President for Transformative Technology Wolfgang Merkt explained that a challenge of public off-the-shelf chatbots such as ChatGPT is that they lacked the context required for precise business solutions. Elsie and Albert meanwhile, have been programmed specifically with Philippine and the Aboitiz Group’s business context in mind and have been fed internal documents and data related to the Group. In that way, the help they can provide is targeted, accurate, and specific.

“(Elsie and Albert) can make use of the vast background knowledge that we feed them. So this is anything from press releases and annual reports, to internal company documents or public websites. They can look the data up and then use those in their responses and synthesize information from it. So it’s really tailored to the organization or to the event in this case,” Merkt said. He explained that it was important for the AI to be able to function within the organization and know everything that an employee should know or could access, making it a sort of ‘digital employee’.

Elsie and Albert
Albert and Elsie, Aboitiz Group’s new ‘digital team members’.

Another defining feature of Elsie and Albert is that they have human appearances, or a visible form. Resembling two Aboitiz team members, Elsie and Albert greeted those who required their services with a friendly smile and cheerful tone. Merkt said that besides the novelty factor, giving the AI forms through their avatars adds to their approachability and encourages Aboitiz team members to be more open to using Elsie and Albert’s services.

“If you think about the form factor… that makes quite a significant difference. Their appearance makes it so that people’s inhibition to interact is reduced,” Merkt said.

The Aboitiz Group plans to develop Elsie and Albert more to increase their use cases for the conglomerate. With their ability to process, analyze, and reference vast quantities of company data, they have the potential to fulfill a series of external or internal facing roles in the organization.

Merkt pointed out, however, that Elsie and Albert would not replace anyone’s role in Aboitiz. He emphasized that the AI’s goal was to augment and optimize work in the company, making simple tasks faster and more efficient. At the end of the day, AI is a tool that will still be used by people, and so far, employees of the Aboitiz group enjoy the support and interactions they get from their newly-appointed virtual colleagues.

About Aboitiz Equity Ventures

AEV is one of the leading conglomerates in the Philippines with over 100 years of business history. It has major investments in power, banking and financial services, food, infrastructure, land, and data science and artificial intelligence. AEV is recognized as one of the best-managed companies in the Philippines and the region, consistently cited for its commitment to good corporate governance and sustainability. Currently, the company is on its Great Transformation journey to become the Philippines’ first Techglomerate as it continues to shape the future by advancing business and communities.

AEV is a member of the United Nations Global Compact, Global Compact Network Philippines Board of Trustees, the APEC Business Advisory Council and the Council for Inclusive Capitalism, and helps champion sustainability initiatives on a regional level through policies, advocacies, and initiatives that contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). With a clear focus on ESG, the company is implementing its #OneAboitizSustainability Synergy model which transforms its life-essential businesses to improve sustainable practices and continue to create a positive impact on society and the environment.

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