Discussions about artificial intelligence (AI) sometimes raise specters of “I, Robot” or images of IBM’s supercomputer, Watson. And while both of these images do relate to artificial intelligence, neither illustrates the full potential of AI in the business world.
Fortunately, global consulting firm Accenture has substantial research that offers insight into the realm of possible business implications of AI adoption. The firm predicts that artificial intelligence “could double annual economic growth rates in 2035 by changing the nature of work and creating a new relationship between man and machine.” Further, AI could bring as much as a 40% increase in labor productivity, boosting overall efficiency.
On the surface, those numbers seem like cause to celebrate. However, they leave lingering questions about how, exactly, AI can help businesses of all sizes achieve such lofty goals.
Artificial Intelligence: What It Is and How It Works in the Business Sector
The internet swarms with definitions for artificial intelligence—some so technical that they require a dictionary to understand. In layman’s terms, artificial intelligence is just what it sounds like: a field devoted to developing “smart” computer systems that can learn, solve problems, perform routine tasks, and integrate and analyze data.
As high tech as AI sounds, plenty of devices already use some degree of artificial intelligence. Home assistants that can keep track of habits and preferences are a key example, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg; more advanced applications in business industries are already on the rise.
According to research firm Deloitte, AI in the commercial realm shouldn’t be viewed as just one static field. The firm’s research categorizes artificial intelligence applications into three general groups:
1. Product Applications—Product applications enhance overall product value for consumers.
2. Process Applications—Process applications streamline operations and improve efficiency.
3. Insight Applications—Insight applications gather and process data for reporting and learning purposes.
Many of those applications already play a part in everyday functions across numerous business industries. Recommendation engines, for example, are product applications that see regular use on Netflix and Amazon—they’re the programs that suggest other shows or products based on what a user has already viewed. Retail and customer service centers often use AI in processes like voice response phone systems. The third application—which is presently primed for a lot of additional growth—already plays an important role in many businesses via business intelligence tools and other data collection programs.
Artificial Intelligence in the Office and Beyond
It turns out that businesses of all sizes have been using artificial intelligence without necessarily knowing it. According to analysis firm Narrative Science’s 2016 report, only 38% of business executives surveyed acknowledged that they use AI tech in their offices.
However, a staggering 88% of the group that claimed to have no artificially intelligent workplace tech said they do use predictive analytics, voice recognition, or automated reports and communications—technologies that rely on artificial intelligence. A full 58% of survey respondents use predictive analytics to mine and analyze data, and around 25% use automated voice or written response systems to reduce churn and grow customer satisfaction.
But AI isn’t limited to offices alone. In fact, because of AI’s growing relevance in analytics and automation, it affects a swath of industries. A few sectors—healthcare, transportation, and manufacturing, to name a few—are seeing surprisingly fast growth in AI application.
These industries, and others that are starting to grasp the trend, are quickly learning how to harness AI’s power to automate routine processes, deliver better service to customers and patients, and find ways to increase organization efficiency.
The Growth of AI: From Startup to Enterprise
Large businesses aren’t the only ones taking note of AI. Artificial intelligence startups abound, and many of them receive support from enterprise-level companies. Ride-sharing company Uber, for example, recently committed to purchase Geometric Intelligence, a fifteen-man startup developing new tech with potential for self-driving applications. Uber has the funding, while Geometric Intelligence supplies a lot of research and development.
Aaron Pressman, senior writer at Fortune, gives some insight into this trend of startup-enterprise collaboration. He reports that “startups focused on artificial intelligence and machine learning will be top acquisition targets in 2017 as chip manufacturers, software firms, and the automobile industry increasingly seek to add those features to their products.” Uber’s sizable investment into AI seems to be strong evidence of Pressman’s claim.
Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Your Business
Several analysts, Chris Neiger of The Motley Fool among them, predict accelerated growth for AI beginning in 2017. Neiger says the year is a turning point and could potentially result in a market valuation of $37.8 billion in less than ten years.
Many companies are seeking entry points into the AI market because of a desire to innovate, to stay ahead of the competition, or to avoid the perils of a saturated market. If you count your company among them, keep three tips in mind.
1. Watch the Market. Monitor stocks, startups, global trends, and your own competition to decide when and where to invest in AI. The market moves fast, so look for solutions that are relatively future-proof.
2. Align Investments. Avoid investing in an AI solution just because it looks particularly flashy or trendy. Investments should improve some facet of your business or relate, in some way, to an overarching mission or goal.
3. Build Business Infrastructure. AI is nothing if not connected. As such, business owners looking to invest in AI in the coming years should shore up their connectivity and invest in reliable business internet products to support whatever smart growth may come.
These three tips will keep you and your company abreast of trends and market demands, ensuring you’re prepared to make smart, scaled investments.
Artificial intelligence already claims a foothold in the business world. But the tech is constantly growing and changing, encouraging organizations to adapt with it. Prepare now by exploring how AI could benefit your company and by making investments in relevant AI technologies and applications.