The Broad Implications of Narrow AI: A Business Perspective
AI will continue to transform companies and the consumer experience at a rapid pace, putting greater distance between early adopters and those who hope to become “fast followers.”
Hollywood loves a good AI apocalypse; and judging by revenues from the Terminator and Matrix franchises, moviegoers can’t resist the fear and fascination of artificial intelligence taking over their world. Many of today’s business leaders are feeling that same mix of fascination and fear. AI has leapt from the big screen to the boardroom, and it is transforming companies and customer expectations like never before.
Getting Real About Artificial Intelligence
The good news is that while rogue robots might sell movie tickets, a domesticated breed of AI is what’s shaping today’s business world: Narrow AI, which is limited to performing specific tasks as directed by humans, such as recognizing a face, steering a car, or tracking purchase decisions. General AI captures imaginations, but Narrow AI is capturing something more profitable: our data. And it’s using it to track and learn the daily ebb and ﬂow of consumers’ lives and companies’ most complex challenges.
Business leaders are ramping up AI capabilities to help their businesses run smarter and deliver the personalized experiences customers crave. The number of enterprises implementing AI grew 270 percent in 2013-2017, and then tripled in 2018 alone. The majority of organizations across all industries say that AI will change their business models within the next five years. With Narrow AI slated to deliver nearly $3 trillion in business value by 2021, sitting on the sidelines might be the biggest danger of all. A thoughtful AI strategy is fast becoming a requirement in today’s hyper-connected world.
Reimagining Work in the Age of AI
Every business leader is facing pressure to be more agile, efficient, and innovative – a tough trifecta to hit amidst talent shortages and trade wars. AI creates tremendous opportunity for companies to transform their approach to processes, people, and products, streamlining systems while opening doors to new revenue streams. Three out of four executives say they plan to use AI to automate tasks in the next three years, primarily targeting repetitive actions where tech clearly outperforms humans. But massive unemployment isn’t the most likely result. The majority of business leaders expect AI to deliver net job gains, and they’re equipping knowledge workers with AI-fueled tools to enhance human productivity and creative problem-solving.
Examples already abound of how AI enables a more powerful partnership between humans and technology. Airplane mechanics wear smart goggles that diagnose mechanical failures and provide step-by-step repair instructions; supply chain managers use AI algorithms to predict and prevent costly inventory gaps; utility workers send smart drones to safely inspect remote power lines. The desire to enhance rather than replace human workers reflects the distinct advantages each has – and it’s likely we’ll be working alongside AI for the foreseeable future.
AI creates tremendous opportunity for companies to transform their approach to processes, people, and products, streamlining systems while opening doors to new revenue streams.
Transforming the Customer Experience
While in-person service remains key for some purchases, it takes AI to deliver hyper-personalization at scale. Considering that companies analyze less than 1 percent of the digital data they capture, AI presents nearly unlimited potential for R&D and product teams to extract meaning from an avalanche of consumer- and device-generated data. With a data-based, human-driven strategy in place, AI can then help create seamless 1:1 customer experiences through the powers of knowledge, voice, and vision.
- Knowledge is power. At the heart of Narrow AI lies machine learning (ML)—the algorithms that enable computers to instantly analyze enormous swaths of data, identify hidden patterns, predict future outcomes, create responsive dialogs, and “learn” to improve their accuracy over time. Most organizations are just starting to scratch the surface of ML’s abilities. These powerful algorithms can track user behaviors, drive engagement, and serve up personalized content throughout the customer life cycle, from prospecting to securing repeat business and everywhere in between.
- Voice is taking over. Thanks to AI developments in natural language processing, the user experience is moving from the screen to the speaker: experts predict that next year, half of all computing in developed nations will be performed with voice.The $600 billion voice market is also reshaping consumer behavior and presenting retailers with a powerful opportunity to drive loyalty to their brand and drop dollars to their bottom line. Virtual assistants and chatbots are fast becoming the front lines of customer service, racking up cost savings while satisfying customers who no longer care whether their questions are answered by a human or a bot.
- Seeing is believing. AI-powered computer vision does more than see objects: it recognizes and extracts meaning from them. We’re already using it to unlock screens and tag friends online, but business applications are ramping up fast. Autonomous vehicles rely on AI vision to detect movement around them, while the new field of “affective AI” is learning to read nonverbal nuances – prompting sleepy truck drivers to pull over, and analyzing remote focus groups’ reactions to a new ad campaign.
The Way Forward
AI will continue to transform companies and the consumer experience at a rapid pace, putting greater distance between early adopters and those who hope to become “fast followers.” While the breadth of potential applications can seem overwhelming, exploring the potential for AI in your organization doesn’t need to be frightening or complicated. The first step is to apply human intelligence and evaluate your readiness to make the changes required for an ethical, sustainable launch.
Vectorform can help. We’ve pulled together a handbook that serves as an AI primer and a provocation for change. Our framework will help you assess how ready your organization is to integrate with AI, and guide you through questions that will lay the foundation for your future success. Download the handbook here, or reach out to me on LinkedIn or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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