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
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:
• visual perception
• 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.
Artificial intelligence in business
Artificial intelligence (AI) is steadily passing into everyday business use. From workflow management to trend predictions, AI has many different uses in business. It also provides new business opportunities.
Application of artificial intelligence in business
You can use AI technologies to:
- Improve customer services – eg use virtual assistant programs to provide real-time support to users (for example, with billing and other tasks).
- Automate workloads – eg collect and analyse data from smart sensors, or use machine learning (ML) algorithms to categorise work, automatically route service requests, etc.
- Optimise logistics – eg use AI-powered image recognition tools to monitor and optimise your infrastructure, plan transport routes, etc.
- Increase manufacturing output and efficiency – eg automate production line by integrating industrial robots into your workflow and teaching them to perform labour-intensive or mundane tasks.
- Prevent outages – eg use anomaly detection techniques to identify patterns that are likely to disrupt your business, such as an IT outage. Specific AI software may also help you to detect and deter security intrusions.
- Predict performance – eg use AI applications to determine when you might reach performance goals, such as response time to help desk calls.
- Predict behaviour – eg use ML algorithms to analyse patterns of online behaviour to, for example, serve tailored product offers, detect credit card fraud or target appropriate adverts.
- Manage and analyse your data – eg AI can help you interpret and mine your data more efficiently than ever before and provide meaningful insight into your assets, your brand, staff or customers.
- Improve your marketing and advertising – for example, effectively track user behaviour and automate many routine marketing tasks.
Depending on the type of AI technology (ie applied or generalised), smart programs can perform:
- specific individual tasks, such as medical diagnosis, electronic trading, robot control, etc
- complex, cognitive tasks based on their understanding of how certain things (eg a language or a behaviour) work
Risks and limitations of artificial intelligence in business
Artificial intelligence (AI) involves giving machines and programs the ability to think like a human. Businesses are increasingly looking for ways to put this technology to work to improve their productivity, profitability and business results.
However, while there are many business benefits of artificial intelligence, there are also certain barriers and disadvantages to keep in mind.
Limitations of artificial intelligence
One of the main limitation of AI is the cost. Creation of smart technologies can be expensive, due to their complex nature and the need for repair and ongoing maintenance.
Software programs need regular upgrading to adapt to the changing business environment and, in case of breakdown, present a risk of losing code or important data. Restoring this is often time-consuming and costly.
Other AI limitations relate to:
• implementation times, which are often lengthy
• integration challenges and lack of understanding of the state-of-the-art systems
• usability and interoperability with other systems and platforms
If you’re deciding whether to take on AI-driven technology, you should also consider:
• customer privacy
• potential lack of transparency
• technological complexity
• loss of control over your business decisions and strategy
AI and ethical concerns
With the rapid development of AI, a number of ethical issues have cropped up. These include:
• the potential of automation technology to give rise to job losses
• the need to redeploy or retrain employees to keep them in jobs
• fair distribution of wealth created by machines
• the effect of machine interaction on human behaviour and attention
• the need to eliminate bias in AI that is created by humans
• the security of AI systems (eg autonomous weapons) that can potentially cause damage
• the need to mitigate against unintended consequences, as smart machines are thought to learn and develop independently
While these risks can’t be ignored, it is worth keeping in mind that advances in AI can – for the most part – create better business and better lives for everyone. If implemented responsibly, artificial intelligence has immense and beneficial potential.
There is a public fear around the world that we humans have advanced technology so much that it will surpass our capabilities and control. That is, technology will overtake us with the power of artificial intelligence (AI). This fear is considered unfounded by
Regardless, AI is in fact changing our lives in different ways each year. We want to look at some of the roles it’s playing in
It’s a curious thought to see what AI can accomplish and what it will leave humans with. Luckily, the human spirit is innovative, and we will hopefully find new ways to use our talents, skills, and intellect where technology takes over. What are your thoughts on AI in business? Let us know in the comments below!