You most likely interact with artificial intelligence (AI) daily and are unaware of it.
Many people still associate AI with science-fiction dystopias, but that image is fading as AI advances and becomes more common in our daily lives. Artificial intelligence is now a household term – and, in some cases, a household presence (hello, Alexa!).
While mainstream society’s acceptance of AI is a new phenomenon, the concept is not. Although the modern field of AI was established in 1956, it took decades of effort to make significant progress toward developing an AI system and making it a technological reality.
Artificial intelligence has numerous applications in business. In fact, most of us have daily interactions with AI in some form or another. Artificial intelligence is already disrupting virtually every business process in every industry, from the mundane to the breathtaking. As AI technologies proliferate, they are becoming increasingly important for maintaining a competitive edge.
What is artificial intelligence?
Before delving into how AI technologies are affecting the business world, it is necessary to define the term. The term “artificial intelligence” refers to any type of computer software that performs human-like activities such as learning, planning, and problem-solving. Calling specific applications “artificial intelligence” is akin to referring to a car as a “vehicle” – it’s technically correct, but it doesn’t cover any of the details. We must delve deeper to determine which type of AI is prevalent in business.
Machine learning is one of the most common types of AI currently being developed for business purposes. Machine learning is primarily used to quickly process large amounts of data. These artificial intelligences are algorithms that appear to “learn” over time.
More data should improve the modeling of a machine-learning algorithm. Machine learning can help humans understand vast amounts of data that are increasingly being captured by connected devices and the Internet of Things.
For example, if you manage a manufacturing plant, your machinery is most likely network connected. Connected devices continuously send data about functionality, production, and other topics to a central location. Unfortunately, there is far too much data for a human to sift through, and even if they could, they would most likely miss most of the patterns.
Machine learning can analyze data in real time, identifying patterns and anomalies. A machine-learning algorithm can detect when a machine in a manufacturing plant is operating at a reduced capacity and notify decision-makers that it is time to dispatch a preventive maintenance team.
However, machine learning is a broad category. Deep learning has emerged because of the development of artificial neural networks, which are an interconnected web of artificial intelligence “nodes.”
Deep learning is a more specialized version of machine learning that uses neural networks to perform nonlinear reasoning. Deep learning is required for more advanced functions such as fraud detection. It can accomplish this by simultaneously analyzing a wide range of factors.
For self-driving cars, for example, several factors must be identified, analyzed, and responded to at the same time. Deep learning algorithms are used to assist self-driving cars in contextualizing information picked up by their sensors, such as the distance to other objects, speed of movement, and a prediction of where they will be in 5-10 seconds. All of this data is calculated at once to assist a self-driving car in making decisions such as when to change lanes.
Deep learning holds a lot of promise in business and will most likely be used more frequently. Deep learning models continue to improve their performance as more data is received, whereas older machine-learning algorithms tend to plateau in their capability after a certain amount of data has been captured. Deep learning models are now far more scalable and detailed; you could even say they are more independent.
Today’s AI and business
Artificial intelligence is generally regarded as a supplement to, rather than a replacement for, human intelligence and ingenuity. Although AI is currently incapable of performing commonsense tasks in the real world, it is capable of processing and analyzing massive amounts of data much faster than the human brain. The artificial intelligence software can then present the human user with synthesized courses of action. As a result, we can use AI to help game out the potential outcomes of each action and streamline the decision-making process.
“Artificial intelligence is the software’s second coming,” said Amir Husain, founder and CEO of machine-learning firm SparkCognition. “It’s a type of software that makes decisions on its own and can act in situations that the programmers did not anticipate.” In comparison to traditional software, artificial intelligence has a greater range of decision-making ability.”
These characteristics make AI extremely valuable in a variety of industries, whether it’s simply assisting visitors and employees in efficiently navigating a corporate campus or performing a task as complex as monitoring a wind turbine to predict when it will require repairs.
AI’s Most Common Applications
Machine learning, cybersecurity, customer relationship management, internet searches, and personal assistants are some of the most common applications of AI.
Machine learning is frequently used in systems that collect massive amounts of data. Smart energy management systems, for example, collect data from sensors attached to various assets. The massive amounts of data are then contextualized by machine-learning algorithms and delivered to your company’s decision-makers for them to better understand energy consumption and maintenance requirements.
According to Husain, artificial intelligence is an indispensable ally when it comes to detecting flaws in computer network defenses. AI systems, believe it or not, can detect a cyberattack as well as other cyberthreats by monitoring patterns in data input. When it detects a threat, it can search your data for the source and help prevent future threats. That extra set of eyes, as diligent and consistent as AI, will be invaluable in preserving your infrastructure.
“Because of the scale and increasing complexity of these problems, you really can’t have enough cybersecurity experts to look at them,” Husain added. “Artificial intelligence is also playing a growing role here.”
Customer service management
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are also changing because of artificial intelligence. Salesforce and Zoho, for example, rely heavily on human intervention to stay current and accurate. When AI is applied to these platforms, a standard CRM system transforms into a self-updating, auto-correcting system that manages your relationships for you.
The financial sector is a great example of how AI can help with customer relationships. Dr. Hossein Rahnama, founder, and CEO of AI concierge company Flybits and visiting professor at MIT, collaborated with TD Bank to integrate AI into regular banking operations.
“Using this technology, if you have a bank mortgage that is up for renewal in 90 days or less… If you pass by a branch, you will receive a personalized message inviting you to visit the branch and renew your purchase,” Rahnama explained. “If you spend more than 10 minutes looking at a property for sale, it will send you a possible mortgage offer.”
Internet and data research
Artificial intelligence analyzes massive amounts of data to identify patterns in people’s search behaviors and provide them with more relevant information about their situation. Users will have a more customizable experience as they use their devices more and as AI technology advances. This is great news for small businesses because it will make it easier to target a very specific audience.
“We’re not expecting the user to be constantly on a search box, Googling what they need,” Rahnama added. “The paradigm for how the right information reaches the right user at the right time is shifting.”
Personal digital assistants
Artificial intelligence isn’t just for providing a more personalized experience for your customers. It can also change how your company operates on the inside. AI bots can be used as personal assistants to help manage your emails, calendar, and even provide recommendations for process streamlining.
These AI assistants can also be programmed to answer questions from customers who call or chat online. These are all small tasks that make a big difference by giving you more time to focus on implementing business-growth strategies.
The Future of Artificial Intelligence
What applications might artificial intelligence have in the future? It’s difficult to predict how technology will evolve, but most experts believe that “commonsense” tasks will become even easier for computers to process. As a result, robots will become extremely useful in daily life.
“AI is starting to make the previously unthinkable possible, such as driverless cars,” said Russell Glenister, CEO, and founder of Curation Zone. “Access to training data and fast GPUs, both of which are key enablers, are required for driverless cars to become a reality.” A massive amount of accurate data is required to train driverless cars, and speed is critical to the training process. Processors were too slow five years ago, but the introduction of GPUs made it all possible.”
Glenister went on to say that graphic processing units (GPUs) will only get faster, improving the applications of artificial intelligence software in general.
“Fast processes and lots of clean data are critical to AI’s success,” he said.
Dr. Nathan Wilson, co-founder, and CTO of Nara Logics, believes AI is on the verge of revolutionizing everyday activities such as dining. Wilson predicted that a restaurant could use AI to determine which music to play based on the interests of the guests in attendance. Artificial intelligence could even change the appearance of the wallpaper based on what the technology predicts the crowd’s aesthetic preferences will be.
If that’s not far enough, Rahnama predicts that AI will liberate digital technology from the two-dimensional, screen-imprisoned form to which people have grown accustomed. Instead, he believes that the primary user interface will be the physical environment in which an individual lives.
“To play a game, interact with a webpage, or read an e-book, we’ve always relied on a two-dimensional display,” Rahnama explained. “What’s going to happen now with artificial intelligence and a combination of [the Internet of Things] is that the environment will be the main interface, not the display.” People will create experiences around them, whether in connected buildings or connected boardrooms. These will be 3D experiences that you can feel.”
AI is the Future
Whether rosy or rocky, the future is rapidly approaching, and artificial intelligence will undoubtedly play a role. As this technology advances, the world will witness new startups, numerous business applications and consumer uses, job displacement and the creation of entirely new ones. Artificial intelligence, like the Internet of Things, has the potential to drastically alter the economy, but its full impact is unknown.