Artificial intelligence is everywhere. From the personal assistant on your smartphone to complex algorithm-beating mobile games, you can’t escape the inexorable rise of AI. Identify realistic and actionable opportunities for using it for business, however, can be a challenge for CIOs and line-of-business leaders.
AI is still in its infancy as a technology, but there’s little doubt that it’s going to transform our business processes in the coming years. The difficulty for executives is to figure out a short-, mid- and long-term strategy for using AI in business.
In its latest Artificial Intelligence Technologies And Solutions report, Forrester identified and analyzed the prospects of AI technologies. The report revealed that although AI for business is still immature, using AI to solve specific tasks — known as “narrow AI” — will bring the biggest benefits, particularly for businesses that deal with large amounts of data. However, 42 percent of respondents to the report believe there is no defined business case for AI investment. Despite the nascent nature of the technology, there are many areas in business where an AI application can have a significant impact.
To help identify opportunities for using artificial intelligence in business, here are five questions CIOs should ask:
1. Can applications help me better understand my customers?
If you need better insights into your customers, AI analysis tools have the ability to mine customer information to understand and interpret objects within images and video. By applying this technology to, for example, a customer’s social media feed, CIOs can quickly build a more fully rounded picture of the customer, and adapt their message accordingly. In the retail world, businesses can use AI analysis tools to gain new insights into in-store customer behavior. While there are pre-trained solutions available, to get the best from this type of application, specific training is required, and customer privacy should be a top priority.
2. Do I need vertical solutions?
By creating a specific use case, businesses can leverage pre-trained vertical solutions, which are off-the-shelf AI solutions and the most optimal available on the market. An example of this is IBM’s Watson for Oncology platform, which works in three ways: by analyzing the meaning and context of a patient’s medical records; identifying potential treatment plans using patient records and external data; and providing links to supporting evidence for each treatment option. Pre-trained vertical solutions such as this may be the most polished type of artificial intelligence applications on the market, but they’re still limited to a few narrow use cases in even fewer industries.
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3. How can I empower a highly mobile workforce?
For many businesses and their employees, a lot of their time is taken up by carrying out repetitive, time-consuming tasks, from basic processes like responding to emails, to more complex tasks like coordinating projects and scheduling meetings. Today, people often carry out these tasks on their smartphones, while on the move or commuting to and from work. AI-powered virtual assistants can help reduce the time it takes to complete these jobs significantly. Responding to a user’s voice, these virtual assistants can easily complete repetitive business tasks and respond to complex queries and commands in a fraction of the time it normally takes, freeing up employees to do more value-added work.
4. Can personalized consumer experiences help boost my sales?
Using a mix of image and video analysis, behavior-based personalization and even conversational interactions, intelligent recommendation solutions can help customers find exactly what they’re looking for. By providing what essentially is a personal shopper for every customer, retailers can increase sales without alienating consumers. One company using this today is The North Face, which has deployed a solution on its website to help guide customers to the right products with a series of questions in English. The solution uses natural language processing ability to help shoppers find a product that meets their specific needs. According to Baseline, The North Face has reported a positive consumer reaction to the product, with customers spending an average of 2 minutes using the tool — more than 75 percent say they’d use it again.
5. Could my business benefit from facial recognition technology?
For retailers, facial recognition systems can be used to identify returning customers, while other industries can use such a system to boost security, ensuring that only the people allowed in a particular area gain access. The technology is still in its early stages, but for businesses deploying it, the biggest pitfall may be the lack of regulation and best practices in place today, which could leave them liable in the future.
As we have seen, using artificial intelligence in business is still very much in its infancy as a technology. But, in the not too distant future, AI will become mainstream, and all companies will need to utilize it to remain competitive, reduce labor costs, increase the ability to know their customers’ preferences and tastes, and mine critical information from the mountains of data they’re already collecting today.
The data analysis capabilities of artificial intelligence solutions are also making waves in the healthcare industry.