This post was originally published as an article on Future of Everything.
There continue to be all kinds of stories about the promise of artificial intelligence (AI) in the media, many of which discuss the idea that robots are going to take over the world and put everyone out of a job. While AI is is something we must monitor and control as its capabilities continue to expand, there are tangible applications of this powerful technology happening today. So what are some realistic opportunities for AI in the near future, as opposed to all the sci-fi hype we typically hear about?
The first thing to understand is that AI is already all around us, whether people realize it or not. In homes across the world we see products like the Amazon Echo — which is the best-selling smart speaker in the world — and Google Home, along with smart TVs and other everyday products that use AI technologies to function. The omnipresence of these technologies brings tremendous opportunities for most industries due to the variety of uses they have.
In terms of which industry can benefit most from AI technologies, it’s hard to narrow it to just one. Any industry with sufficient digital content, repetitive or mundane tasks, labor-intensive tasks or time-pressured tasks can leverage AI to become information-driven. Financial services, legal, healthcare and manufacturing are a few examples of industries where AI is starting to power information-driven organizations. So what does it means to become information-driven?
Imagine your organization with a system that combs through all of the content no matter where it is stored and provides information and insights on demand showing what is relevant given a query or a question. Imagine that system respecting the access control in place for the various documents and content items. Imagine that system continually working in the background to understand the meaning of the content, assimilating new content as it comes online and making connections across all information along topical lines.
Let’s use an example to illustrate the impact of such a system. Take sales and marketing, for example, groups that are ripe for becoming information-driven using AI technologies. Customer information, ranging from transaction history to user experience to likes/dislikes and more, often lives in various repositories across a company’s IT infrastructure. Combing through all this information can be imperative to a company’s success in sales and marketing, but it can also be very labor-intensive and time consuming. Implementing an AI-driven solution like the one described above can help a company scan, decipher and combine all this data into meaningful, actionable information. By automating these repetitive tasks, employees’ time can be redirected toward higher value activities.
Beyond industries, we can also look at which applications and scenarios can benefit most from AI. There are huge opportunities in the development and integration of business processes and technologies. AI technologies are often able to contextualize why problems in these areas exist and help determine how they can be prevented to mitigate any damage. For example, using AI for predictive maintenance solves several key challenges for large industrial operations like energy exploration. In this type of scenario, equipment value can be maximized by analyzing performance data for things like drills and pipelines to spot weaknesses before they become failures and determine the most efficient and safe usage of underperforming parts.
Enterprise software will likely see the most transformation via AI in the near future.
Between search capabilities, passwords and security/access rules, SaaS and the growing popularity of cloud, there are ample opportunities for AI in this space. Take for instance an AI-driven application that canvasses and makes sense of millions of records and documents including employee profiles, research documents, collaboration spaces and more to suggest people with relevant expertise based on their experience. Imagine the application’s ability to include restricted content in the computation underlying the application without revealing the restricted content to unauthorized users. This gives customers the best of both worlds, i.e. the ability to leverage high-value sensitive information to connect experts across the organization while at the same time enforcing access controls and protecting restricted content. This is but one example of leveraging AI to power the information-driven organization by connecting people with expertise quickly and accurately, even at the scale of very large, globally distributed organizations.
As you may or may not have noticed in your own personal life, AI is already a major presence in the technology world — both on the company and end-user sides of things. However, contrary to what you have probably heard in the media, the way the average consumer thinks of AI is not typically how it’s actually being used. We won’t be experiencing a real-life “Westworld,” “I, Robot” or “Ex Machina” any time soon. So instead we should focus on the important and incredible things that AI can be — and is — realistically doing for businesses and individuals today.