Article

Pragya Sugandha
Pragya Sugandha 3 April 2017

Artificial Intelligence (AI) – Is It Part Of Your Business Strategy Yet?

Gartner predicts Artificial Intelligence (AI) will become “the next battleground through 2020,” and the major players in the IT industry have already armored themselves with their arms and ammunitions. IBM’s Watson, Microsoft’s Oxford, Googles Deepmind are the major names that come to our mind when we think about AI.

However, what’s interesting is that as the AI technology matures, many niche players are also venturing into this field, offering business specific and focused solutions around AI.  For e.g., Salesforce.com Inc. recently introduced its own Einstein platform to underpin its services.

Drawing parallel with another great invention, the ‘Wheel’ invented 3000 years ago, formed the underlying model of our present existence. It transformed the way we humans led our life. Today, the wheel is omnipresent, ranging from heavy machinery, to home appliances, business hardware to simplistic tools like a paper cutter, and it has become impossible for us to imagine our being without it. If not for the invention of the wheel, the progress of humanity and the growth of industrial revolution would have been at a much slower pace and probably delayed.

‘Invention of the Wheel’ transformed life 3000 Years ago. Is AI set to do the same in this century?

Artificial Intelligence or more commonly known as AI is not a catch phrase from science fictions anymore. We as a generation have witnessed its evolution from concept, to hypothesis and practical application.

The concept of AI dates back to the 1990’s when neural networks formed the central focus on AI, but today AI is a broader phenomenon and multi layered. With the maturity of technologies like Machine Learning, Cognitive Computation and Deep learning, AI is now gaining wider acceptance in the industry.

While incumbents have debatable opinions on the impact of AI, no one is questioning the fact that it is going to revamp the way we function our businesses. Many have warned against the outcome of AI including Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak who warned that artificial intelligence can potentially be more dangerous than nuclear war and with its ability to reiterate learning, it can outperform humans and take over the world. While it does seem a threatening proposition, it is also farfetched. Looking back, when the wheel was discovered and the era of industrial revolution dawned upon us, it was criticized more than applauded. However, today we would all agree that that it has accelerated our growth towards a much progressive society by creating newer opportunities.

AI is already making positive headways in the business processes and industries.

With its ability of cognitive computation and deep learning, it is enabling process automation, improved customer care and efficient service delivery.

Per the 2017 Gartner predictions for AI, by 2020, 20% of companies will dedicate workers to monitor and guide neural networks. What is interesting though is that Gartner also predicts that by 2019, startups will overtake Amazon, Google, IBM and Microsoft in driving the AI economy with disruptive business solutions.

The key industries getting transformed by AI are:

Banking and financial service: With the customer interface and engagement holding the key for the successful banking operations, AI plays an important role in streamlining backend operations and taking the customer engagement to the next level in the frontend arena. The dynamics of AI and big data put together had opened new avenues for better customer service and operational efficiency. Many banks have already on-boarded the journey of AI. For instance, Santander and HSBC, for example, are the first UK banks to launch voice-banking technology. In Sweden, Swedbank’s Nina Web assistant achieved an average of 30,000 conversations per month and first-contact resolution of 78% in its first three months.

Retail: Another customer focused industry, retail is a domain where AI can play a major role. Although the impact of AI in retail is subtle and less visible, it is nevertheless significant and is making a noteworthy impact in transforming brand customer relationship and backend operations. AI can driver various verticals in Retail, from customer recommendations, pricing and merchandising assimilation, customer relationship management, workforce optimization or marketing efficiency. For instance, Kit, a virtual assistant for Shopify stores, can perform a number different tasks from SEO to email marketing. Kit is the brand interface which can interact with customers via text message or Facebook Messenger, and handles much of your marketing.

Transportation: Self-driving cars have made heads turn. With technology moguls like Google, Tesla, and Uber entering the market, the transportation industry is going to witness a complete makeover. We can expect personal self-driving cars to be hitting the markets by 2018. While it does cast a doubt in terms of the future of the transportation worker, it will definitely lead to cost optimization and operational efficiency. Morgan Stanley predicts that driverless cars will save the U.S. $1.3 trillion a year by 2035 to 2050, for a global annual saving of $5.6 trillion.

AI is all set to bring revolutionary changes in the way we operate.  The man and machine interaction is bound to be diversified with intelligent automation, process augmentation and innovation. With the underlying cognitive aptitude, self-leaning and deep learning, AI will not only transform key businesses and industry but also create an impact in niche industries like performance arts and genetic studies. With the availability of technologies like cloud and virtual infrastructure, AI will now be accessible by the presently remote locations. This would accelerate the growth further and will witness new and niche players entering the market. The businesses who realize it earlier and leverage the benefits will get an upper edge.

The rate at which the technology is growing is faster than ever before and industries need to catch up to these technologies or be left behind. If you still think AI is a futuristic work, think again.

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