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Interview with Dr Evan Shellshear,

– Head of Data Analytics at Biarri

Data is a constant part of modern-day life. Captured and used well, it informs our future decisions. With an abundance of data available to industry, it’s important to get the correct support and advice to help take this data and use it for something meaningful. Dr Evan Shellshear, Head of Data Analytics at Biarri and Digital Advisor at ARM Hub, has spent his career doing exactly this.

Evan started his journey into data through his education, and slowly used the skills he was taught to create real-life applicable data-driven decisions.

“My career started with a double degree in science and arts, majoring in mathematics. I then moved to Germany to pursue postgraduate studies in mathematical economics and game theory,” says Evan.

“After my PhD, I worked for six years at Fraunhofer-Chalmers Centre for Industrial Mathematics in Sweden, where we built software that is now globally used in almost every automotive company. I worked on the robotics side in path planning for robotics and assembly lines. The primary goal was to help them make their procedures more efficient.”

After moving back to Australia in 2015, Evan continued to share his expertise in data analytics, including releasing a best-selling book, Innovative Tools.

Now settled in Brisbane, Evan is Head of Data Analytics with Biarri, and most recently has joined the team at ARM Hub as a Digital Advisor, providing expert advice to the manufacturing industry and inspiring the next generation of data and AI experts.

“My relationship with ARM Hub started through an associate of mine, Jackie Taranto, who recommended that I should connect with Cori Stewart [CEO of ARM Hub],” says Evan.

“I was really inspired by ARM Hub’s vision; a lot of people aren’t aware of the incredible robotics capabilities that exist in South East Queensland, and ARM Hub is making it a reality.”

In recent times, Brisbane has become a frontrunner in the robotics and data world, with a skill set that can rival the world’s top research hubs.

 

“In Brisbane, we have one of highest densities in the world of people with robotics capabilities, I’ve heard it is even higher than Silicon Valley,” says Evan.

“If you are an organisation and you need a robotics skillset, Brisbane is an incredible place to be.”

 

 

AI and Robotics – How the two work together

Robotics and AI can go hand in hand; however, many businesses and individuals can get the technologies confused.

“Robotics isn’t AI, and AI isn’t Robotics. For me, the line drawn is between physical automation (robotics) and digital automation (AI),” says Evan.

Due to robotics being visible for the human eye, in exaggerated examples, the understanding and acceptance of physical automation far outweighs AI. To deliver a more inclusive environment for the sectors to be accepted in a collaborative capacity, it is essential that people develop a better understanding of the industry at large.

“Robotics requires a lot of different things to work, whereas AI might play a role in just the computer vision part; planning the activity such as motion planning,” says Evan.

“A lot of the history behind AI has had a major effect on the current disconnect, as AI wasn’t often used in past processes such as computer vision. For example, through the early 2000s some algorithms for computer vision would do things like converting images to greyscale and then segmenting them to figure out what was going on.

“Everyday people often don’t come in contact with those older parts of robotics and AI, and don’t understand the fundamentals behind them.”

To help bridge the gap in understanding, Evan works directly with companies to utilise their data to provide real-world applications using integrated AI features.

“I have been involved in a lot of projects including automating price recommendations in retail, pricing of goods based on consumer trends,” says Evan

“I have also worked in improving decision making, and discovering the best-case allocation of resources, particularly in the health sector.”

 

The Benefits of Data Analytics and AI

The benefits provided to businesses through the use of AI and data analytics is monumental, however, a business needs to be aware of their goals and needs before embarking on a journey into data analytics.

“The benefits of integrating AI and data analytics into your business begins with a discussion around the business capabilities, and what the primary goal is,” says Evan.

“What often wins a business over are the intangible benefits that arise from this. For example, when setting up staff rosters for a large company, consideration still needs to be made for an individual’s needs, leave requests and so on. This can be a time-consuming process. By using existing rostering data and the implementation of AI, you can streamline this process, saving time and creating the best balance of staff and company needs.

“When used well, AI provides the fairest possible opportunity for everyone.”

 

The Digital Disconnect

Data has existed for as long as records of human existence. Every artefact holds a story and a snapshot in time, providing evidential data that allows for our history to inform our present and future. The growth of software in recent decades has led to data and information being more effectively and efficiently recorded. The current adoption of AI into business processes has led to an opportunity for people to maximise the data available to them. However, this cannot be achieved without understanding AI and its purpose in your business.

“At its core, AI is a multitude of things; it is different from what we were looking at say 20 years ago in software systems that built-in hard-coded rules created by people,” says Evan.

“Software has been around for a long time and can exist independent of data. AI systems can perform poorly if given out-of-sample data that they haven’t been trained on. If there is a problem with the data itself, it needs to be fixed before it enters the system.

“If the paradigm shift to AI is data, then the company needs to begin with that. They need to start with good quality data. You need to treat data as an asset.

“Good data doesn’t magically happen; it takes good processes and good management.”

To capture and use the best data available, all levels of the business will need to understand and accept its importance, starting with the board and C-suite. 

“Education and understanding of the value of data is essential for the growth of AI in business,” says Evan

“Data should be just as much on the agenda for board meetings as wage theft or HR compliance. It should be part of the discussion at the top level of business. We need to top-down educate its importance.”

Evan suggests that onboarding and education, in terms of AI implementation and data capture, must begin with the executive team. Setting up best practices for the rest of the business, combined with further education of teams at each level of the business will increase uptake and improve the data captured.

“There are a lot of people who are needed to be involved in making AI and data an essential part of the business: the executive team, management team and frontline team,” says Evan.

“You need all to be sold on the idea and support at all levels. Each level has different priorities or needs and communicating the importance across each level can be difficult. To be able to succinctly describe and explain that can be challenging. ”

 

ARM Hub Advisory

Evan has joined the ARM Hub team to provide his expertise in data analytics. He hopes to provide the in-house technical staff with additional industry knowledge to provide effective and efficient data decisions in the future. To find out more about Evan’s involvement here: Meet Our Experts in Advanced Manufacturing | ARM Hub