Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly making its way out of research laboratories and into the world of business. Industry leaders across hundreds of niches are harnessing its potential — from call centers deploying chatbots to enhance customer interactions, to banks analyzing innumerable data points within seconds to detect fraudulent activities.
While leading companies are leveraging this technology to make more informed business decisions through data and better predictions of customer behavior, customers are increasingly becoming accustomed to the use of AI as well. According to a recent survey, 51% of customers say their expectations of companies are now being influenced by AI.
With the future of AI set to change the rules of business, here’s what organizations need to know about preparing themselves for its impact to better reap its benefits.
How are businesses utilizing AI at present?
Time and again, various prominent industry players have exhibited a growing eagerness to capitalize on the opportunities AI presents in their relevant niches.
"Artificial intelligence is kind of the second coming of software," said Amir Hussain, founder and CEO of the highly proclaimed machine learning (ML) company, SparkCognition. "It's a form of software that makes decisions on its own, that's able to act even in situations not foreseen by the programmers. Artificial intelligence has a wider latitude of decision-making ability as opposed to traditional software."
These are some of the many traits that make AI a highly valuable asset throughout various industries, whether it's performing a task as complex as monitoring a wind turbine to predict when it will need repairs, or something as simple as helping visitors and staff make their way around a corporate campus.
AI is also showing a lot of potential in the healthcare industry, especially because it engages patients like no other technology does. It is often used in healthcare systems that capture vast amounts of data. For example, smart devices collect data from sensors affixed to patients being remotely monitored. This data is then contextualized by machine learning algorithms and delivered to physicians or nurse practitioners to track the patient’s vitals and make further decisions accordingly.
Artificial intelligence is even a crucial ally when it comes to looking for loopholes in computer network defenses.
"You really can't have enough cybersecurity experts to look at these problems, because of their scale and increasing complexity, artificial intelligence is playing an increasingly important role here as well," said Hussain.
AI is also transforming the customer relationship management (CRM) landscape. Software systems usually require heavy human intervention to stay precise and up-to-date. But when you integrate artificial intelligence with these platforms, a normal CRM system transforms into an auto-correcting, self-updating system that keeps businesses on top of their relationship management game.
"The impact of artificial intelligence on business has already begun, and will continue to grow. Case in point, there are already multiple companies in the market offering AI powered chatbots. Using an attorney website as the example, these chatbot features can help answer the most commonly asked questions, and help turn a website visitor into a warm lead/potential client," said Xavier Morales, Esq.
AI has touched every industry in some way or the other and its effects have been far-reaching.
AI-related business trends to watch out for
The dependence of AI on specialized processors to furnish optimal results has facilitated the rise of AI-enabled chips. Even the fastest central processing units (CPUs) might not improve the speed of training an AI model.
To speed up the execution of AI-enabled apps, chip manufacturers such as AMD, Intel, NVIDIA, and Qualcomm will be shipping specialized chips.
These chips will be optimized for scenarios like vision, computer natural language processing, and speech recognition, among others. For delivering intelligence, applications from the healthcare and automobile industries will rely on these chips in the near future.
A trend that is soon going to turn ML-based solutions upside down is AutoML.
Automation in machine learning will basically empower business analysts and developers to evolve machine learning models that could address complex situations without going through the typical process of training the ML models.
A huge amount of log data that is generated by state-of-the-art applications and infrastructure is captured for indexing, searching and analytics. These colossal data sets obtained can be accumulated and correlated to find patterns and insights.
2020 could see more examples of the convergence of AI with Blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT).
In fact, self-driving cars can’t really be a practical possibility without IoT working closely with AI. The programs used in decision-making are powered by AI models and the sensors used by cars to collect real-time data are enabled by IoT. Lastly, deep learning AI algorithms make decisions using this congregated data.
The demand for AI jobs with knowledge of deep learning is growing at a rapid pace.
Deep learning is a type of machine learning that develops algorithms known as artificial neural networks that work by modeling the structure and function of the human brain. It is set to become the most significant AI skill in the next few years.
How should businesses prepare for an AI-powered future?
Currently, it is a little difficult to comprehend how the technology will develop, but most experts see those "regular" tasks becoming even more easier for computers to process. This simply means that advanced applications of AI such as robots will become extremely useful in completing daily tasks, which in turn will ease out scalability in business.
"AI is starting to make what was once considered impossible possible, like driverless cars," said Russell Glenister, CEO and founder of Curation Zone. "Driverless cars are only a reality because of access to training data and fast GPUs (graphics processing units), which are both key enablers. To train driverless cars, an enormous amount of accurate data is required, and speed is key to undertake the training. Five years ago, the processors were too slow, but the introduction of GPUs made it all possible."
Glenister said GPUs are only going to get faster, improving the applications of artificial intelligence software across the board.
"Fast processes and lots of clean data are key to the success of AI," he said.
Other analysts, like co-founder and CTO of Nara Logics, Dr. Nathan Wilson, said they see artificial intelligence on the cusp of revolutionizing familiar activities, such as dining. Wilson predicted that AI could be used by a restaurant, for example, to decide which music to play based on the interests of the guests in attendance. Similarly, AI could even alter the appearance of the wallpaper based on what the technology anticipates the aesthetic preferences of the crowd might be.
If that isn't far-out enough for you, Rahnama predicted that artificial intelligence will take digital technology out of the screen-imprisoned, two-dimensional form to which people have grown accustomed. Instead, the primary user interface will become the physical environment surrounding an individual.
"We've always relied on a two-dimensional display to play a game or interact with a web page or read an ebook," Rahnama said. "What's going to happen now with artificial intelligence and a combination of [the internet of things] is that the display won't be the main interface – the environment will be. You'll see people designing experiences around them, whether it's in connected buildings or connected boardrooms. These will be 3D experiences you can actually feel."
All in all, the advances happening in AI are already beginning to make their impact felt in ways that will shortly help businesses, and the society at large, get to grips with a wider set of more general issues. Such advances will also make it possible to automate more compound physical tasks that require both agility and adaptability.
While AI technology may not completely mature in the next five to 10 years, it is certainly on its way to bringing about changes of a far greater magnitude than we can think of right now.
Rahul Varshneya is the founder and president of Digital Health Consulting firm Arkenea and has written extensively about the confluence of healthcare, startup economy, and technology. He is a columnist with Forbes, Inc, and Entrepreneur, and co-founder of Benchpoint. Also, he has been featured as a technology thought leader in numerous media channels such as Bloomberg TV, Forbes, HuffPost, Inc, among others.