Think Xerox and what comes to mind? Photocopying and imaging solutions for businesses? But today, only 40 per cent of Xerox's revenues come from document imaging hardware. The company is now in healthcare, transportation and education services and also trying out outcome-based revenue models. Dr Manish Gupta, Director, Xerox Research Centre, India, and Vice President, Xerox Corporation, shares with Business Today's Chitra Narayanan how the company is transforming itself. Excerpts:
Q. Like IBM and others, Xerox's business model also seems to be changing. Can you share how?
A. Xerox is in the middle of transforming itself into a services company. Today, the document imaging and hardware part of the business is only about 40 per cent of Xerox's revenues. Healthcare accounts for $2 billion of business in the US alone. In the US, Xerox helps in the administration of the medicare programme in 37 out of the 50 states. Transportation is another large vertical. Xerox is today the No.1 provider of transportation services to governments around the world. We provide parking solutions and toll management solutions to cities around the world. And many of these are outcome-based revenue approach. There are certain cities where Xerox is actually paying the city a fee to install the parking solution. Here, the parking revenue comes to Xerox, and the company pays a fee to the city.
Then there are other cities where we provide transportation solutions where our share of revenue is based on certain metrics like bus utilisation and so on. The higher the bus utilisation, the higher our services. So if you improve those metrics, we get a higher share of revenue.
Q. What is the role of the Research Centre in India? How big is your team?
A. In India, the Xerox Research Centre has close to 70 researchers. We are working in areas that are of business interest to Xerox. Things like healthcare, transportation, and education. We also have an additional special focus on problems in an emerging markets context. We are the first centre for Xerox in an emerging market.
So, in healthcare, in fact, we recently hired a doctor with experience in developing healthcare technologies to lead this global initiative on consumer centric healthcare. Increasingly, we are seeing healthcare development action moving from a hospital-centric approach to one closer to the consumer. It's happening through the use of mobiles. When you go into a future era, mobile phones will come equipped with various kinds of sensors where you begin to get a wealth of data on body vitals. Take the smartwatches – the one that Apple has announced – all these have capability of generating data ranging from temperature to other stuff that can help the individual become more proactive. These are not medical grade devices, but over a period of time, they will get better. I am talking directionally.
Q. Can you share examples of the solutions you are developing using mobiles?
A. An example of one of our projects is how do we do non-contact, non invasive imaging of body vitals? Our researchers have developed technologies that – through video cameras – can sense the state of body vitals, including respiration rate and heart rate, helping in detection and diagnosis of certain diseases. For instance, cardiac arrhythmia can be detected through simple analysis of video signals out of a web camera.
We are taking that one step further and looking at developing a thermal camera to do screening for breast cancer for women. Our goal is to establish thermography as superior to mammography. Thermography is scanning through a thermal camera, which is able to take temperatures and analyse those temperatures. When there is malignant tumour, for instance, there is growth of blood vessels to feed the tumour. It shows up in the form of a thermal signature in those parts affected by the tumour. A thermal camera can detect this thermal signature.
Our researchers are also working on a number of wellness apps that will encourage you to adopt a healthier life and through social media nudge you into good behaviour. This is all part of our shift-left approach.
Q. What do you exactly mean by shift left?
A. By shifting to the left, we mean taking care of problems at an earlier stage, than letting them turn serious. For instance, we are working on an analytics project to predict which patients admitted in a hospital will turn serious and require to be admitted to the ICU. The current state-of-the-art approach follows something called MUSE – modified early warning scores – to do that.
As per this, you take stats of the body vitals, blood pressure and so on, and when you see deviations from normal, you assign scores. When these scores add up to a high number, you say this patient is at a risk of turning serious. But the problem with this approach is it is very inaccurate. There are too many false positives leading to what we call "alarm fatigue". So much so that the nurse or doctor ignores the alarm since there are too many false alarms. Our business units posed us this challenge: can you make this prediction more precise? Our researchers now analyse the patient data, and a host of other data to help predict which patients will turn serious.
Q. What are the other transformational works that are happening?
A. Xerox also has a large customer care business, where it has recently announced the use of a virtual assistant. We feel that customer care will be transformed over the next decade in a very major disruptive manner analogous to what happened to the car industry. Today, on the car manufacture floor, you barely see humans, only robots. Today what happens in a call centre is still through humans assisted by technology. But there will be a transformation. Technology will do most of the work, assisted by humans. A first step towards this Xerox has taken is to launch a virtual assistant, which, at least in a limited domain, takes over the function of a human.
Q. Is this in India?
A. No, it is in countries where Xerox has customer centres. But in India we are supporting the research for this transformational journey. Right now, of course, the virtual assistant still is working on limited capabilities and still seeks out the human for help. But where we are taking it is to make it very personalised. If it is chatting with a customer, the virtual assistant will personalise it to the persona of the caller, and also the mood. Suppose you are in an irritated mood, the assistant knows it will have to be sensitive in how to respond to the problem you just shared. So, what we are doing at research centres is: we are developing these technologies together with our business unit partners in a manner that will transform these businesses.