30 July 2018

AI and blockchain: two drivers already transforming Canada’s business agenda

Smart Canadian business leaders recognize that innovation will keep their companies ahead of the competition. An understanding of digital technology, when applied to real-world business challenges, is therefore critical to maintaining that edge: from identifying evolving operational needs, to effective international expansion.

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Artificial intelligence – breaking new ground right now

At the heart of the recent digital revolution is artificial intelligence. Some of its most promising uses for business revolve around a machine’s ability to make data-led decisions – for example to assist with customer segmentation or identify customer trends.

Investment in AI is increasing and Canada is at the forefront of these developments. Danielle Goldfarb, a senior fellow at the Conference Board of Canada, and Candice Faktor, who runs Faktory Ventures, point out that Canada has a strategic advantage with the world’s third-largest AI talent pool1.

Robotic process automation (RPA) is just one example whereby digital employees are already being put to work on behalf of Canadian businesses. They follow and learn increasingly complex processes at speed –while also knowing when to pause and alert human colleagues to any issues and inaccuracies.

Accuracy and efficiency are key factors in AI’s rapid evolution. Automotive companies are actively bringing advanced driver-assist technology to market in their vehicles, enhancing road safety and minimizing fuel consumption. Agricultural producers are installing robotic workers to plant, spray and harvest at the optimum points of the year to ensure maximum crop health and yield.

AI is also having a dramatic impact on the way that the financial services sector operates, incuding the products and services that they offer to support Canadian businesses. “Programmes that can make sense of huge quantities of information – ‘big data’ – help us develop a better understanding of trends such as trade flows,2” explains Andy Maguire, Group Chief Operating Officer, HSBC.

All such developments point to one imperative for businesses. If you’re looking to maintain a competitive market position, now is the time to adopt scalable AI technologies that focus on your highest-value opportunities for sustainable growth.

Blockchain is here and it’s working

If AI wasn’t enough, blockchain is also front of mind among businesses looking to future-proof their growth. Too often viewed as something happening ‘elsewhere’, blockchain actually presents industry with the opportunity to shape itself. The root technology is here now, to be adopted by companies in building their own solutions – whether around supply chain management models, treasury and payroll, or even intellectual property rights management.

HSBC has recently played a role in processing the first fully digitized letter of credit using blockchain, allowing the shipment of soybeans from Argentina to Malaysia for a large client. This is significant as it marks a new era in documentary trade that is killing off cumbersome paperwork in favour of speedier, more decentralized transactions that suit the nature of trade as it is likely to be for the next decade.


Companies with an eye on improving their international presence will increasingly be able to make use of digital trade and finance options through blockchain-enabled technology, as HSBC and the wider banking sector work together to create global standards.

Though primarily associated with the financial industry, blockchain technology is also revolutionizing the operational infrastructure of companies working in transport, energy and almost any activity requiring intelligent solutions to their processes.

The rise of renewable energy, for example, has created opportunities for suppliers to form microgrids – models that allow local businesses and residences to sign up and operate using distributed ledger technology.

CBinsights3 outlines up to 42 industry sectors ideally suited to the implementation of blockchain technology, ranging from law enforcement to education and advanced cybersecurity systems.

An understanding of these latest trends, and a willingness to embrace them, is vital for Canadian businesses to be able to compete. It’s something to be exploited as a way of expanding your business overseas, cutting costs and freeing your staff from repetitive tasks. This allows them to focus on the higher-value roles that secure the company’s future over the long term.

To find out more about the different ways that HSBC is bringing smart digital technologies to businesses like yours, visit our Innovations page

1 Canadian Business

2 HSBC News and Insights

3 CB Insights

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