For decades, our only meaningful interaction with artificial intelligence (AI) has been restricted to the realm of science-fiction – in novels, movies, and television series.
What was once playful fantasy now represents a genuine and discernible direction change, though; in 2020 alone, for instance, AI research has made breakthroughs across various frontiers, not least of which are the revolutionary changes in customer service delivery.
However, while debates on the ethical and moral ramifications of this emerging technology rage on in other sectors, the use of artificial intelligence in business is generally seen as positive.
Take automation, for instance. Many people are worried that machines will eventually replace their jobs, but at a practical level, AI in business is about improving processes and enabling enterprises to learn more and achieve more. This means that, rather than putting people out of work, your employees simply have to adapt to new ways of doing things that benefit the product and – by definition – the company itself.
To illustrate this, we have compiled five current uses of AI in business that demonstrate the positive impact it could have on your organisation, regardless of the industry that you are operating in.
The hospitality industry is a complex network of overlapping sectors and business models. For instance, there are airlines and other long-distance travel operators attempting to work in direct conjunction with hotels, restaurants, resorts, entertainment providers, and shopping outlets, and that’s even without taking into account indirect connections, such as local transport providers and guides.
As a consumer, getting maximum value from each of these parties can be a tough ask. Indeed, even finding the right option in the chain at the ideal time can be quite frustrating – or, at least, it used to be.
These days, everything is available at the press of a button on an app on a mobile device. The role of the travel agent has mostly been made redundant by these disruptors, with now-established business unicorns such as Trivago, Airbnb, and Skyscanner taking the product directly to the consumer.
And how is this possible? Artificial intelligence, of course. The entire travel and tourism industry has been transformed by the use of AI, for everything from planning itineraries, to finding the cheapest deals at the best times, to optimised customer service and support in the form of chatbots.
One of the biggest benefactors of AI deployments in business is the retail industry – especially within the realm of eCommerce. Here again, the transformative effect of AI is focused squarely on delivering a better shopping experience to the consumer.
For example, every time you log in to an online store, such as Amazon, eBay, or Newegg, the platform offers purchasing suggestions in the form of products you may be interested in. Indeed, at times, it can feel as though the platform knows your preferences better than you.
Thanks to the power of AI, this may very well be the case. Sophisticated algorithms keep track of all the purchases made by each user, and then create new suggestions based on this data, meaning you are far more likely to be interested in the proposed new product. Since millions of customers make purchases on sites such as Amazon, it would be impossible for humans to keep track of all this data.
Thanks to increasingly complex machine learning techniques, analysis of this data is only going to get smarter, too. The longer AI gets to study a consumer’s shopping habits, the more accurate an understanding it is going to have of that customer’s preferences. As a business owner, this is invaluable, especially when you consider that personalisation is a key consumer requirement in today’s market.
Healthcare is a critical area for AI research since its uses can be far wider-reaching than for just business purposes. Smarter, more advanced AI has already started altering how the industry works, including changes in diagnosis, treatments, health management and pharma research.
Within a hospital, for instance, doctors and nurses can optimise how they treat their patients thanks to Virtual Assistants that use AI to streamline workflows. Recent advancements in diagnostic research also show that AI can detect serious illnesses like cancer more accurately and much earlier than humans, reducing mortality rates and treatment costs.
In the field of pharma research, AI’s ability to crunch data has proven vital in recent years, too. Companies such as AstraZeneca, Bayer, and GSK are using in-house AI teams and partnering with AI-based startups to get the most out of their drug research programmes.
There are also examples of these organisations using AI to analyse the molecular structures of chemicals, decode the protein strands of vital organ systems, and look for weaknesses in the DNA of harmful bugs; there is no end to the possibilities of AI in pharma research.
Given the increased concerns over environmental damage and global warming, the energy sector’s complicity in greenhouse gas generation is now under intense scrutiny. Therefore, the industry is turning to AI and other technologies to ensure more efficient forms of energy generation and the use of cleaner energy technologies.
Indeed, companies such as British Petroleum are using AI to better manage their finite gas and oil reserves across the globe. Combining smart sensors and AI along their supply chain, they are also reducing safety hazards and aiming to improve productivity and performance. AI is also being used by energy companies and smart cities across the world to predict peak power consumption levels, and manage power systems more efficiently.
Even outside of the energy industry, AI and the Internet of Things are helping businesses to cut down on their energy consumption and minimising their carbon footprint.
Banking and Finance
Perhaps the most significant impact of AI research, however, is being felt in the world of financial services. This is not surprising, given the importance of data and number crunching in this sector; there are many things humans can do better than AI (for now), but mathematical calculations and data analysis do not figure among them.
Studies estimate that AI development could redefine hundreds of thousands of low level, administrative jobs in the banking sector in the next decade alone. We are already seeing the early signs of this at international banks – several have introduced automated chatbots at select branches to interact with customers, for instance.
Loan processing and risk assessment is another critical aspect of finance; inaccurate estimates can result in massive losses to the business through the issuing of bad loans, for example. AI has already proven itself to be more effective than humans when assessing the risk level in a loan application, using many different data points.
Automation is also proving to be much more efficient in the recovery process of loans and debt in the banking and credit card industry. Instead of using call centre staff to reach customers, companies are instead utilising artificial intelligence to send automated alerts. This is also good news for customers, who prefer messages and chats to potentially irritating calls from other people.
Of course, we are just scratching the surface here of what artificial intelligence can achieve for humans in the coming decades. While the impact of AI on business and humanity has the potential to be positive, it is up to you as a business owner to identify where your processes and methods can be improved upon and optimised.
As these examples show, AI has the ability to be a real game-changer for organisations, so ensure you stay up-to-date with the latest developments in your industry for an idea of how you can leverage this fast-moving and fascinating technology.
How is AI impacting upon your business? Let us know your experiences and your thoughts in the comment section below!