Does Artificial Intelligence Have a Place in Your Business?

In the movie “Her”, Scarlett Johannsen is the voice of Samantha, an operating system with artificial intelligence that develops a bond – and ultimately falls in love – with its owner.

Spike Jonze, the director of the movie and the writer of the script, came up with the idea in the early 2000s, long before Apple users started talking to Siri on their smart phones. Today, iPhone owners use Siri for everything from finding store locations to creating grocery lists. But it wasn’t so long ago that the phrase “artificial intelligence” (AI) immediately conjured visions of giant killer robots taking over the world.

For some people, AI still sounds like some futuristic idea, but in many ways it’s already found a place in our homes and our businesses. Just like with email and the Internet (who would have imagined having the world at your fingertips 30 years ago?) small businesses are increasingly embracing AI as a way to be operate more efficiently and compete with other businesses.

If you’re not familiar with AI, the technology can seem daunting. But here are just a few ways you can enjoy the benefits of this technology:

  • Let AI take over your paperwork. Give your humans more time to do the real work by automating the paper work. Use AI to prepare invoices, process claims, update customer records and even organize and score resumes.
  • Improve your customer service. AI can help you connect with customer in new and better ways. AI chatbots can be customized to answer questions, interact with customers and process payments. AI can even measure your customers’ opinions and responding to them accordingly.
  • Turn AI into your personal assistant. Apples’ Siri and Amazon’s Alexa are more widely known examples, but AI technology exists that can arrange meetings, send dictated emails and plan your travel. AI probably can’t pick up your dry cleaning (yet) but it can take over many of your administrative tasks.

If AI can save you from the more tedious jobs in the workplace, machine learning is an innovation that can takes technology even further. Data expert Bernard Marr explains machine learning to like this:

“Very basically, a machine learning algorithm is given a “teaching set” of data, then asked to use that data to answer a question. For example, you might provide a computer a teaching set of photographs, some of which say, ‘this is a cat’ and some of which say, ‘this is not a cat.” Then you could show the computer a series of new photos and it would begin to identify which photos were of cats.”

Essentially, machine learning continues to add to its teaching set and increasingly becomes smarter, and over time becomes better and better at its tasks.

Like the Internet and the smartphone, usage of machine learning is growing from being only for “early user adopters”. The technology is moving beyond the IT industry and is becoming more common across sectors. PayPal, for example, uses machine learning to detect possible instances of fraud. When the technology finds a red flag, a real person comes in to investigate. And some prestigious trading companies use machine learning to predict the stock markets and execute trades at high speeds and at high volume.

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