From answering consumer questions to propelling self-driving cars, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is fast becoming an integral part of everyday life. And AI in business is no exception.
Many AI capabilities are being used to improve how businesses run. Private industry has invested in AI for some time, and now the government has joined the conversation. The White House recently held an Artificial Intelligence Summit to look at how AI will change the future of employment and, ultimately, the economy.
'Living in an AI World'
"From Siri to Alexa to Watson, we're living in an AI world, and the technology also affects business," says Peter George, CEO of empow, a global cybersecurity firm.
"AI understands concepts and context," George continues. "From the weather to the shop floor to robotic surgery, AI's massive processing power is far faster than the human brain in computational ability and is progressing in conventionally 'human' areas like strategic thinking and inference."
—Ellie Mirman, CMO, Crayon
AI is no longer the future—it's here now, according to Mike Walsh, director of product marketing for Lever, which creates recruiting software.
"AI in business has become an integral, results-driven technology used in every industry and function, from manufacturing to marketing," he says. "With HR and talent acquisition, for example, AI is becoming entrenched in how companies find, manage and evaluate candidates."
Where You'll Find AI in Business
AI fulfills a wide range of functions in the business world, notes Andrea Simon, a corporate anthropologist, who is CEO of Simon Associates Management Consultants and author of On the Brink: A Fresh Lens to Take Your Business to New Heights.
"AI is proving to be as transformative of our society as the invention of the printing press, the development of the steam engine, the introduction of machines to make clothing, the discovery of jet propulsion and the internet," says Simon.
"AI is making headway in a wide variety of areas, including energy and the financial services sectors," she adds.
At the moment, AI in business is having its biggest impact on data-intensive industries, because the technology allows people to make more informed decisions, believes Joshua Gans, a professor at the University of Toronto and author of Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence.
"Informed decision making is why companies like Google, Facebook and Microsoft are AI powered," continues Gans. "Other data-driven businesses like credit card companies and banks are in a similar position. AI is performing tasks such as enabling credit card companies to detect fraudulent transactions and block them without experiencing false positives that result in legitimate customers trying to use cards that don't work."
Benefits of AI in Business
David Thomas, CEO of Evident, an identity assurance platform for businesses, believes that AI in business will continue to offer many benefits.
"AI can help with everything from improving behavioral targeting to inventory management," he says. "We're starting to see features based on AI that eliminate repetitive or mindless tasks. This means we can expect productivity gains and much more effective competition at companies that embrace AI."
AI in business is also important in the fight against cybersecurity threats, notes George.
"Those who work in security operation centers have a host of functions to perform when there's a security breach. They must determine intent, identify the intruder, gauge the impact and neutralize the attack before real impact occurs," he says.
"Considering there are millions of such events a day," George continues, "it's an impossible mission without the help of AI, no matter how many experts you throw at the problem."
"Credit card fraud is a huge problem for us," says Nate Lehoux, co-founder of PROVEIT, a trivia app where players compete in contests.
"We use AI to monitor and flag behaviors associated with fraud, and the platform continually self-adjusts as it assimilates and learns from the data our system feeds it," he says. "It's tremendously helpful as an early-warning system."
Using AI for Marketing
There's also great potential for marketing with AI.
"As a web marketer for 21 years, I've been blown away by the explosive application of AI online," says Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Web Marketing Inc. "AI can easily be seen when shopping on Amazon, which creates a profile of what you like and shows new or related items you may desire. Chatbots are also already showing up on sites, and they'll inevitably become nearly indistinguishable from humans in the future."
Andy Bernhart's company FirstDentist provides web design and marketing for dentists. He notes that chatbots are making a significant, immediate impact on sales and customer service.
"Chatbots can answer questions, provide sales suggestions and offer customer support," Bernhart says. "I expect to see a lot more websites and social properties with AI-powered chatbots in 2018.
"We're also seeing AI-powered content creation tools that can perform tasks like turning blog posts into short videos and social media posts," he continues. "The products aren't advanced AI, but it's exciting to see where these technologies can go to make marketing and business tasks easier."
AI Won't Replace Humans
Despite the concerns about this occurring, machines can't completely replace humans.
"AI doesn't possess human judgment," says Gans. "Even in applications like self-driving cars, humans need to program how cars will respond if, for instance, a pedestrian is crossing the street nearby."
Dunn notes that the jobs lost by AI will be replaced.
"AI will supplant some positions, but new jobs will be created using the data AI provides," he says. "In a future where AI is ubiquitous, the unparalleled 'human touch' will also come full circle and end up being sought after. This will result in new positions and business opportunities for less computationally capable humans."
"There's a lot of fear of AI in business taking jobs, but let's look at Facebook as an example," adds Ben Plomion, CMO of GumGum, an artificial intelligence company. "Brand safety is a big concern for many companies like Facebook. Monitoring social media sites for altered photos or incorrect news takes a powerful combination of people and machine, which is a common recipe of AI."
AI is to meant to complement and enhance humans, adds Ellie Mirman, CMO of Crayon, a competitive intelligence company that provides marketers with insight.
"AI offers the opportunity for businesses to automate routine tasks so that humans can better use their time, providing higher value contributions."
At the end of the day, robots and computers aren't humans, notes Clare Cooper, executive director and head of Glocomms, a recruitment firm specializing in connective technology.
"Robots can't shake your hand or look you in the eye or feel emotions such as empathy and sympathy," she says. "That's always going to be something you can only get from a real person."
Read more articles on industry trends.