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Drones can make audits more effective



Drones can be used effectively by CFOs to make audits more efficient. Combined with advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence and data analytics, it could be used for a variety of things, Deloitte CEO Cathy Engelbert told delegates at the Financial Executives International Current Financial Reporting Issues conference in New York on Monday.

Speaking about drones, Engelbert said it “could be used for a variety of things as you look at the industrial internet of big things”. Engelbert said drones could be used to take inventory, using imaging technology to look at storage tanks and silos.

“What are the stories behind the numbers that analytics and data can provide us? Think about drones,” she said. “This might sound a little sci-fi to you, but drones could go do physical inventory observations. Maybe you wouldn’t have to send people out to look at that kind of thing. Take it one step further. We could use imaging technology to look at things like storage tanks and grain silos”

“I always say there’s nothing artificial about artificial intelligence. It’s augmenting human intelligence and driving robotics process automation or other types of things that will be an important part of our future. I believe it’s not replacing any of us, but it will help us use our higher-order thinking as our brains learn to think more exponentially rather than linearly, which is what we were taught.”

She noted that CFOs already use data analytics to provide guidance to investors on future financial positions, but she also sees limitations with such technology She recommended that university business schools and CPA programs work to develop more talent in the data analytics area.

“The first thing I’ll tell the dean of a business school is bring analytics into the business school, or make it a requirement in that extra 30 hours for those that are going for their CPA,” she said.

She also expects that technology will change the accounting and auditing profession more in the next five or six years than it has in the last 30 years.

However, she pointed to the continuing need for professional judgment by auditors. “I still believe the professional judgment and expertise that you all do in your daily lives, and as a longtime auditor I did, is not replaceable necessarily by machines,” said Engelbert.

“I like to say I’ve never met a machine with courage and empathy, and that can read body language and adjust what they say. It’s really important that while we’re going to digest larger and larger volumes of data and information, the key part is to use artificial intelligence to augment what the human does.”