Artificial intelligence in business

Artificial intelligence (AI) is not new. It has been around for decades. However, due to greater processing speeds and access to vast amounts of rich data, AI is beginning to take root in our everyday lives.

From natural language generation and voice or image recognition to predictive analytics, machine learning and driverless cars, AI systems have applications in many areas. These technologies are critical to bringing about innovation, providing new business opportunities and reshaping the way companies operate.

What is artificial intelligence (AI)?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science. Its main goal is to create smart machines that can learn on their own and are capable of thinking like humans.

Definition of artificial intelligence
The term ‘artificial intelligence’ commonly applies to devices or applications capable of carrying out specific tasks in human ways, by mimicking cognitive functions such as:
• learning
• reasoning
• problem-solving
• visual perception
• language-understanding
• Different types of artificial intelligence
• There are two main types of AI:

Applied AI – is more common and includes systems designed to intelligently carry out a single task, eg move a driverless vehicle, or trade stocks and shares. This category is also known as ‘weak’ or ‘narrow’ AI.

Generalised AI – is less common and includes systems or devices that can theoretically handle any task, as they carry enough intelligence to find solutions to unfamiliar problems. Generalised AI is also known as ‘strong’ AI. Examples of true strong AI don’t currently exist, as these technologies are still in very early stages of development.
Most modern AI applications are enabled through a discipline known as ‘machine learning’.

What is machine learning?
Machine learning (ML) is a core part of AI. It is based around the idea that machines can detect patterns in data and adjust their program actions according to these patterns. For example, ML applications can:
• read a text and decide if the author is making a complaint or a purchase order
• listen to a piece of music and find other tunes to match the mood
• recognise images and classify them according to the elements they contain
• translate large volumes of text in real time
• accurately recognise faces, speech and objects

In the most basic terms, ML enables computers to learn without being explicitly programmed.

How are AI and machine learning used in business?
Over the years, AI research has enabled many technological advances, including:
• virtual agents and chatbots
• suggestive web searches
• targeted advertising
• pattern recognition
• predictive analytics
• voice and speech recognition
• face recognition
• machine translation
• autonomous driving
• automatic scheduling

Many of these are now commonplace and provide solutions to a great number of business challenges and complex, real-world problems.

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