As a trend, AI is one of the hottest topics in business IT. For many executives and leaders, it might sound like a technology that is still on the horizon. But AI is already here in many business products, delivering results, driving insights and analytics across many verticals. This article highlights how it has an impact today and will dominate all business IT very soon.
The use of AI is growing fast and is a key feature in many business and consumer applications. From smart chatbots, the email spam filters and virus scanners we all rely upon, recommendation engines, and smart assistants like Siri and Alexa, AI plays a vital role.
Artificial intelligence works in several ways. Classical AI works by examining historical data and predicting outcomes based on the results. Early AIs were good at chess because of the limited set of rules and huge amounts of game data available. IT research firm Gartner already has a good view of how AI impacts most industries.
But businesses have huge numbers of variables, so modern AIs mostly learn as they go. They use machine and deep learning to monitor big data sets from customer service chats, production sensors or global sales figures to identify issues or opportunities.
Many enterprise and business applications or services already feature AI, using it for discovery, analytics and insights, supporting businesses in their digital transformation efforts. Any company can adopt AI today, as part of a SaaS or cloud service, and benefit from it quickly if used in the right way.
Enterprises are hiring AI experts and data scientists to manage their booming projects, but most smaller firms will adopt an AI service as just another part of a productivity package and can still generate sizable results and ROI from general or market-specific tools.
Every industry already uses AI to some degree, from the critical or mundane to the highest levels of research.
Lauded examples include health systems that use AI to inspect x-rays, computerized tomography (CT) scans and other imagery for cancer or hard-to-detect illnesses. These can scan high numbers of images at speed with massive accuracy, saving valuable specialist time. Growing numbers of health services rely on AI to enable professionals to spend that time with patients and delivering services. A McKinsey report suggests 15% of healthcare hours can be automated with AI playing a key role.
In the insurance industry, AI is used to support risk prediction efforts, mapping everything from weather and flood patterns, driver behavior and construction or market trends. All of these impact insurance quotes, improving the customer experience. AI also works on the rapid resolution of claims, checking customer images for damage and speeding up payouts, while reducing human interaction and delays. Challenger brands like Lemonade use AI to compete with established vendors, highlighting how AI can be a valuable differentiator.
In banking, risk is a key challenge facing the industry, with AI used to grade risk for investments and scanning real-time activity for potential fraud. AI is used to manage regulatory compliance, processing contracts and large volumes of data at speed. And, when it comes to taxation, “AI allows accountants to invert the usual 80% gathering data, 20% analyzing it ratio, creating a massive gain in value,” according to Ernst & Young.
Much of AI’s effort is focused on all-digital services, such as banking and insurance, and as firms transform into digital businesses. Yet, there is plenty AI has to offer in the manufacturing and more traditional industries. Manufacturers and suppliers use AI to check and improve on material and product quality, along with production efficiency. AI is also used to manage factory equipment, providing predictive maintenance and reducing downtime, as part of Industry 4.0 initiatives.
Even in the typical office, AI can be used to spot errors in common business data, it can improve or restore images for art workers, and even write content for busy executives that lack the time to draft their own work. Tools like writing assistant Jasper, the increasing smartness of Siri or Alexa, and a coming wave of productivity apps will help make us all work more efficiently, able to perform higher-value tasks while taking over more of those people dislike.
For cutting-edge uses of AI, take a look at the aviation industry. Jet engines are monitored live in flight for the tiniest variation in normal performance to notify the pilot, airline and engine maker to deliver improved maintenance, streamlined operations while saving valuable fuel. On the ground, intelligent borescopes can improve the speed of complex inspections, putting planes back in the air faster.
At the airport, AI helps speed passengers through the concourses to the gates, through better building layout, design and faster check-in services. It is deployed on the apron to speed up aircraft turnaround times and in many other ways that are invisible to passengers. But millions of journeys every day are made slightly faster or smoother by AI technology and that trend will only grow as AI appears in more applications.
AI is already a major feature of many software applications, it is also used in the hardware of self-driving cars, drones and robotic systems. Most features for business are currently optional extras, allowing companies to develop their AI-based skills at their own pace, but soon they will be on by default in most services, and any early-mover competitive advantage will vanish.
Firms have already gone from seeing no return on AI investment a couple of years ago to seeing sizable returns now, and investment is growing. So, the time to take advantage of AI in a meaningful way is shrinking fast before it becomes table stakes for all businesses and markets.
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