AI: Keeping the focus on the human being

AI: Keeping the focus on the human being

Research group around Prof. Alexander Mädche coordinates the joint project MeKIDI for the digitalization of processes in the energy industry

Valuable support or job killer? Artificial intelligence (AI) promises higher efficiency in business processes, but it also changes the environment of employees. The new joint project MeKIDI, coordinated by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), is investigating how AI technologies can be profitably used for digitization in the energy industry and how the human being remains the focus of attention. The aim is to create a good balance between technical possibilities, corporate goals, and the interests of the individual.

Energy system transformation, declining revenues, increasing competitive pressure: the energy industry is facing major challenges. Companies in the industry work in a complex process and system landscape. They still process many tasks manually. In the course of the digitalization of business processes, however, many companies are increasingly using artificial intelligence (AI) technologies for these tasks. Projects that, for example, use chat bots to record meter readings and process these inputs automatically via Robotic Process Automation (RPA) have already shown promising results. At the same time, the use of AI technologies is changing the organisation and above all the working environment of employees.

"Valuable support or job killer - the evaluation of AI technologies in the working world often falls on one of these two extremes. On the other hand, we want to enable a differentiated view", explains Professor Alexander Mädche, head of the research group Information Systems & Service Design and Dean of Studies for Business Informatics. The research group coordinates the joint project "Human-centric AI-based digitization in the energy industry", in short MeKIDI. In this project, scientists first investigate the actual effects of AI technologies on employees. Based on this, they develop methods for the use of AI technologies in process digitisation, with the focus on people. "We follow a socio-technical paradigm in order to create a good balance between technical possibilities, organisation, corporate goals and the interests of the individual," says Mädche.

Actors jointly shaping the digital working world

MeKIDI develops design principles according to which energy suppliers and their service providers can use AI technologies to improve business processes, reduce costs and simplify routine tasks, but at the same time to meet the interests of the employees and the common good. The project also deals with the practical implementation of human-centric AI-based process digitization approaches: In three complementary "experimental rooms", the project partners are investigating, for example, the automation of processes using robots (Robotic Process Automation), the cooperation between humans and chatbots, and the use of AI-based competence assistants that use virtual reality technologies. In MeKIDI, all actors, such as decision-makers, employees as well as social and operational partners, are continuously involved in the design of the digital working world.

MeKIDI started in October 2020 and is planned for two years. Besides the coordinating KIT, partners are hsag Heidelberger Services AG, Soluvia Energy Services GmbH, Stadtwerke Bretten GmbH, and World of VR GmbH. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) supports the project in the initiative "New Quality of Work" (INQA) in the new focus AI of "Learning and Experimental Spaces" with more than 730 000 Euros.

Further information:

Research Group Information Systems & Service Design:
"Learning and experiment rooms" of the BMAS:
New Quality of Work Initiative (INQA): https: //