AI for Business: How AI Will Change Everything
AI will transform business as we know it, opening new doors to levels of productivity, efficiency, and safety beyond anything we measly mortals are capable of on our own.
It can even help solve centuries of discrimination in business, education, and banking.
It’s so common in business today that chances are you’ve been affected by AI recently and didn’t even know it.
But will it mean the end of human labour? How do we prevent it from intruding on our personal lives?
And is this the beginning of mankind’s slow descent into servitude for our robot overlords?
In this article, we’ll cover the must-know facts of AI, as well as how it’s transforming business for the better (Or worse?).
The Future of AI and the Business World
You’re sitting in a cafe sipping your morning coffee when the music changes from drab “morning jazz” to one of those throwback jams everyone in your high school class obsessed over (Did you really dress like that?).
Now get this…
It’s not because someone made a request. Nope, there was no barista involved at all.
Actually, a computer judged the relative ages of the people currently in the cafe and deduced that songs from the corresponding high-school era would be their favorite songs to jam out to in the morning.
Now imagine a business world where the same “smart” computer programs judge relative speeds and distances of moving objects and adjust accordingly (Self-driving cars).
Or a world where every device in a factory is connected to a program that tracks every single bit of data in an effort to identify malfunctions BEFORE they happen (Robotic processes automation).
Or where a machine mines millions of purchases to determine which items a customer is most likely to buy (Amazon’s Recommendation engine).
See? AI is all around us, and it’s only getting smarter.
Before we get into AI for business and its most common uses, let’s cover some of the basics.
Artificial Intelligence: What is AI and How Does it Work?
The definition of artificial intelligence is:
The development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence. For example, vision, speech, decision-making, and translation between languages.
In simpler terms, this means the development of computers to perform humanlike behaviors, mostly reasoning, learning, and planning.
If it helps, think of it as humans trying to simulate human intelligence in machines (#TheEndIsNear).
The Different Types of AI
AI is broadly divided into the following fields:
- Speech recognition: Developing computers capable of recognizing and translating human speech into text.
- Natural Language Processing (NLP): Programming computers to recognize and process vast swaths of human language data.
- Computer Vision: Training computers to understand the visual world. For example, being able to locate and identify objects like a human brain.
- Robotics: This is the discipline concerned with creating our future robot overlords. In other words, it’s the development of machines that physically mimic humans.
- Machine learning: The discipline of creating machines that learn and improve through “experience”.
How Does AI Work?
Answering this question requires a bachelor’s degree and a graduate degree in robotics or mechanical engineering.
So unless you have about 7 years and roughly $300,000, we can’t get to the bottom of that answer for you.
What we can do is give you a quick synopsis:
AI works by combining vast swaths of data with Star Trek-level algorithms. This allows the program to analyze and subsequently recognize patterns or learn from the data.
For example, a language processing program can analyze tens of millions of pieces of human language and learn which words are synonyms for each other, then suggest you replace a word like good with a better option like perfect. Behold, you now have Grammarly.
Several technologies support the different disciplines of AI you now know:
- Graphical Processing Units (For heavy computing power)
- The Internet of Things (For collecting massive amounts of data)
- Advanced algorithms (For data analyzation, predicting, and understanding)
- Application Programming Interfaces (For adding AI to existing devices. EX: Adding facial recognition to home security systems)
STOP – Let’s Get Back to AI and Business
AI – specifically machine learning – is revolutionizing business and life as we know it. Instead of focusing on the different types of AI, it’s best we focus on what AI can do for businesses.
In general, it serves 3 main functions:
Robotic Processes Automation (RPA)
RPA is the most common form of artificial intelligence.
This is where a computer program automates digital and physical tasks normally done by humans. Most of these tasks are mundane administrative minutiae that take up way too much human time, freeing people smarter than us to focus on areas they’re needed more. For example, strategizing and decision making.
Common types of RPA for business include:
- Call Centers: Transferring data from one system to another. For example, updating customer phone and address information.
- Insurance: Processing simple insurance claims.
- Travel and Logistics: Ticket booking and passenger detail accounting.
- Healthcare: Patient registration.
Cognitive insight is the second most common type of AI.
This is where computer programs analyze vast swaths of data, interpret their meaning, and often package it for human evaluation. It’s like analytics – if analytics were on HGH.
Cognitive insight is driven by machine learning. Remember, this is where computer algorithms constantly learn from new data and improve at what they do, leading to the end of mankind’s freedom and dooming us to a future predicted in the Terminator.
Applications of cognitive insight for business include:
- eCommerce: Analyzing purchases to determine what a customer is most likely to want to buy (Amazon Recommendation Engine).
- Insurance: Rapidly analyzing data to detect fraud in real time.
- Auto Industry: Analyzing warranty and repair data to identify possible flaws in car models.
- Healthcare: Analyzing health data to make personalized recommendations in real time.
This is the most public-facing form of AI for business. And the one that you’re most likely most familiar with.
This is basically any time AI is used to engage directly with a customer or employee.
Every time you ask Siri to find you a nearby restaurant or tell Google Home to turn your temperature well below freezing on a hot day, you’re dealing with cognitive engagement. Chatbot, home assistant, data-tracking devices in cars, company avatars answering questions 24/7_the list goes on and on.
Common Examples of Artificial Intelligence in Business (And Everyday Life)
OK, we know that was a lot to take in, so let’s cover some practical examples of AI in business that you’re already familiar with.
Gmail’s Spam Filter
Every time you click the “Mark as Spam” button, you’re helping Google’s AI better understand what is spam and what is wanted mail.
Google takes that data and analyzes it so the algorithm can more easily recognize spam in the future and send it directly to your spam filter.
This almost goes without saying. Siri, Cortana, Google Home_they all use natural language processing (Plus a lot more) to identify what you’re saying and carry out commands.
Without NLP, they wouldn’t be able to understand a word you’re saying. You’d have to adjust your own thermostat. AKA, life would be horrible.
Amazon’s Recommendation Engine
You know all those irresistible “commonly bought with” recommendations on every Amazon listing?
This is the result of AI analyzing treasure troves of purchasing data and learning from customer behaviors to predict which items you’d like to buy. By the way, it works. Amazon’s Recommendation Engine accounts for 35% of the company’s revenue.
Facebook analyzes thousands of pieces of information about your behavior and uses AI to predict the content most likely to get you engaged and keep you on Facebook longer (Which equals you viewing more ads and giving more of your information to Mark Zuckerburg).
Behold, the Facebook Newsfeed.
You know those innocent circular vacuums that clean up your mess and annoy your dog?
Well, they’re basically the final step before self-driving cars. Smart appliances like a Roomba use computer vision to scan the room and plot out its cleaning course, making sure to only come close to your dog’s feet rather than right under it. Any time you see it about to bump into a chair and suddenly change course, you’ve just witnessed AI in action!
Railroad Predictive Maintenance
Before AI, the best humans could do was give a rough estimate on when tracks, cars, and other railway machinery might break down based on past experience.
Now, AI and the internet of things can predict failures well in advance and dispatch preventative maintenance teams BEFORE issues begin to arise. This improves safety and efficiency in railroads (Apparently not on Metro North though!).
Financial Services (EX: Home Loans)
In theory, AI can analyze infinite amounts of home loans data and create predictive models, even to the point of offering different financial or lending services in real-time (EX: You receiving a reverse mortgage offer when you come within 1 mile of a bank).
One fascinating development is AI’s ability to reduce lending inefficiencies and even overcome human biases. For example, an algorithm that predicts a person or couple’s ability to repay a mortgage won’t see color, hear an accent, or make any judgements based on gender (Men typically get approved for loans more than women). It’s only cold, hard data.
AI for PDF
One cool thing about AI is how it can become applicable, or soon will be, to nearly all areas of our lives. Seriously. All areas, including how you’ll manage and prepare your documents, well, in the future.
For example, did you know that Microsoft PowerPoint now suggests layouts with images, essentially an auto-suggest of the best theme for your content layout? It even helps you practice your presentation by pointing out the use of filler words or repeating yourself too much.
Still think this AI document manager is lightyears away? Think again.
Meet your new Presenter Coach, an entirely AI experienced proof-reader and professional listening device.
In the not-too-distant future, you can expect AI to be involved with more than just PPT files. Soon, the future of document formatting, and the future of all apps really—including PDFs, will be entirely AI.
As the young Marty McFly would say: “Far out, doc!”
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How can AI be used for business?
A: AI can be used for business for everything from predictive modeling to improving customer service and recommending products or services. Anywhere vast amounts of data and predictions could help a business, AI will be there.
Q: What are the 3 types of AI?
A: The three types of AI are narrow or weak AI, general or strong AI, and artificial superintelligence.
Q: Is Siri an AI?
A: Yes, Siri is an example of an AI that uses natural language processing to understand human language.
Q: How can AI benefit a business?
A: AI can benefit businesses via process automation, predictive modeling, data analysis, and increasing profitability through better decision making.
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