Artificial intelligence is no longer just the domain of Science Fiction novels and scientific research papers. Today, there are numerous applications of artificial intelligence in both the business and consumer spaces.
While voice assistants such as Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana dominate the consumer AI market, in the business world, AI has applications across a range of technologies including machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing, cognitive computing and many, many more.
Current states of AI
The current state of AI is a far cry from what you see in a Hollywood movie. Commonly called ‘Strong AI’, this type of AI works more like a brain, with its own consciousness and agency. On the other hand, ‘Weak AI’ works is the type of applied artificial intelligence that is being developed and implemented in business today. This AI works on a backbone of pattern matching, whereby it learns by input from humans and repetitive try-fail cycles to understand how to perform its tasks. Most weak AI is heavily task specific with no ability to think outside its task parameters – meaning that while IBM’s Watson may be able to win Jeopardy with its knowledge of trivia, the average six year old could beat it at chess.
What industries are applying artificial intelligence?
AI has disrupted a lot of industries, particularly in the cases of automating business analytics and intelligence. While in others, machine learning and computer vision is contributing to smart technology such as self-driving cars. Below are examples of disruption across a variety of sectors:
Banking and Finance
With online transactions growing more every year, AI is being deployed to combat identity theft and fraud loss, as well as analysing patterns to spot suspicious behaviour. AI is also being used to invest with machine learning robo-advisers picking stocks and shares, as well as smart saving AI that analyses individual bank accounts and save based on the user’s financial situation.
In healthcare, AI can provide tremendous assistance in analysing complex medical issues, scans, screening and data. AI is being used as a clinical decision support to build a personalised treatment plan for every patient, but it can also be used to provide real-time medical advice to patients.
Artificial intelligence has disrupted the education field, as it is able to personalise learning by tailoring educational plans to the needs of each student. AI helps analyse and collect performance and learning data for each student, as well as their educators.
Focusing on optimising and automation, AI in manufacturing is being used with a vigorous planning and testing focus. The industrial application of AI is helping to drive down production costs by streamlining repetitive tasks, as well as helping teams to make better informed decisions at each stage of the production process.
But if artificial intelligence is now dominating many business sectors, what are its pros and cons?
Pros of AI
Eradicate Human Error
AI helps eradicate human error as more decisions are taken by machine based on machine learning from previous records and data. For example, human error was named as one of the main causes of unplanned downtime in manufacturing, at 23% compared to 9% in other sectors. AI can take over tasks where human error occurs and perform that task without failure.
In an era where data has become one of the most valuable tools in the world, AI helps to process data quickly and accurately for real time results. A sales team, for example, can use AI to inform their lead generation systems. Using previous customer data, AI can analyse a lead and ensure that the right sales person receives the lead.
Increasing automation has always been a feature of business since the industrial revolution. After all, it means greater productivity and efficiency, which in turn reduces overheads for the business. The most visible example of this is through the use of chatbots, which are removing the basic level of customer and technical support costs. Although they can’t deal with the higher level queries, they can answer the typical questions that customers contact a company about.
One of the main disadvantages of AI is the cost incurred to repair, maintenance and upgrading. As programs are developed, they need to be updated and the machines they run on need to be serviced and prepped for the new program. In addition to these costs, the costs of repair in case of a complete breakdown can very costly, not to mention the time lost in repairing and then restoring them to the standard required.
Losing the human touch
Although computers can store enormous amounts of data and perform repetitive tasks without mistakes almost indefinitely, they do not truly grow through experience and are not able to do something other than they are programmed for. Humans can solve an issue through lateral thinking, whereas AI will simply fall into a loop or stop altogether if it cannot resolve a problem.
Because AI is software, they are vulnerable to attack just like any other computer program. Cybercriminals will come up with creative ways to fool AI systems and access sensitive data, particularly as AI systems become more powerful and widespread. This can lead to disruption or complete shutdown for any business.
The double-edged sword of AI
With AI applications still in their infancy, there are many benefits and dangers that have yet to be understood. However, the upside of AI outweighs the possible disadvantages, and any business will only improve by leveraging its applications.