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Feb 10, 2022

The role of AI in business

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Find out how artificial intelligence can transform your business in 2022. Save time, drive results, and focus on what’s most important with the power of AI.

Artificial intelligence, or AI for short, has become an integral part of our lives whether we’ve noticed it or not. Some of its earliest applications (remember Clippy the paperclip?) might have fallen to the wayside, but the use of software to replicate human intelligence has been proven to make the complex simple, and the mundane disappear.

Whether in work or everyday life, effective AI promises the ability to focus on the things that matter most, period. Success can look like anything from a Spotify recommendation that becomes your new favorite album, to an otherwise unseen efficiency that saves thousands in revenue. Perhaps the most tangible change when it comes to business is an improved workflow, but there are so many ways it can lift your bottom line.

From Siri to now: The last 10 years

If the last decade has proven anything, it’s that AI is here to stay. In October 2011, Apple’s virtual assistant introduced millions of Americans to the potential of software’s integration into our lives. But even before then, the first generation of true smartphones in 2007 made it possible for such technologies to exist because they demanded one thing: information.

In the years since, the increasing speed of the networks we use and the advances in the technology we operate has propelled the potential of AI both further and faster than most people can keep up with. Think about the computers and phones you were using just five years ago, and then another five prior, and you can begin to understand the speed at which technology as a whole has been normalized, accepted, and encouraged by society.

Virtual assistants like Alexa or driverless Teslas are just two applications of AI that were otherworldly if you’d describe them 10 years ago, but now they’re household names. And although both operate using artificial intelligence, they use it in slightly different ways. 

Both examples are key because they seem similar at first but are ultimately different, one draws from machine learning while the other is deep learning. So before we get into business applications, it’s worth separating and understanding these two terms.

Machine learning and deep learning

Not all AI is equal, but the keyword here is ‘learning’. AI software relies on data to interpret so it can make informed decisions, and most AI applications fall under either of these two algorithms (methods of thinking).

1. Machine learning

Machine learning relies on data that is input, usually by the human user. Using Alexa (or any voice assistant) as an example, the data is input in the form of a question, and the software interprets that command to provide you an answer.

Every time your voice is understood (or misunderstood), the machine uses that interaction to inform its next one, continually learning and remembering over time. This is how your voice assistant recognizes your voice, or how Uber Eats seems to know what you’re in the mood for.

2. Deep learning

Deep learning, on the other hand, can be considered a more complex version of machine learning. In the case of the driverless Tesla, the sensors on the vehicle are constantly processing what’s happening around the car, the navigation software is programming the fastest route to your destination, and the AI is combining all that data to control the vehicle in a way that transports you there safely.

Whether it’s machine or deep learning, it’s important to remember that every interaction is used to inform the next one. It’s one way these technologies are key to the success of your business in 2022, and it can be as simple as a few simple changes.

AI tools that your business can adopt

It doesn’t take a fleet of Teslas to introduce AI to your company. In fact, some of the most powerful additions are the ones that manage the simplest of tasks. Here are just a handful of real examples:

The list goes on, but what’s clear is that these tools create efficiencies, largely by supporting staff so they can focus on more pressing matters.

Adopting these kinds of AI can come from you, your IT support technicians, specialist consultants, or in the case of things like spam filters, they can come standard – as is the case with a number of email clients.

Some companies and organizations work with developers to create or tailor specific AI applications for their businesses. Here’s a few notable examples.

How other businesses adopt AI

Netflix

Ever wondered how that show you were recommended got there? With millions of active users and thousands of options on-demand, Netflix has endless data on its users’ watch habits, and through machine learning they’re able to ‘predict’ what you might be interested in. Their AI does this by looking at what people watch and then comparing it with the habits of other users. 

The thought is that if your habits align with a large group of users who are watching similar shows and movies, then there’s a high chance you’ll like it as well. That algorithm alone is responsible for $1 billion in revenue each year.

TD Bank

In a recent article published on Business News Daily, Dr. Hossein Rahnama, founder and CEO of artificial intelligence concierge company Flybits and visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, revealed how this Canadian bank uses AI to inform customers that their loan is up for renewal.

“...if you have a mortgage with the bank and it's up for renewal in 90 days or less … if you're walking by a branch, you get a personalized message inviting you to go to the branch and renew [the] purchase," he says.

Snapchat

It’s not always plain sailing though, as was the case with Snapchat’s face filters and a number of companies’ facial recognition software. Using AI to detect a user's face and then apply a filter, it was discovered that the AI couldn’t accurately detect darker skin tones. 

In fact, in 2019 it was reported that US government tests found top-performing facial recognition systems were misidentifying African Americans at rates five to 10 times higher than they did for caucasians (WIRED). And while the software isn’t purposely racist, this bias demonstrates the importance of designing these tools with all users in mind – not just those who create and test it.

What does this mean for the future of business?

Where AI was initially seen by some as the end of low-income workers, what’s becoming more accepted is that the use of smart technology will support, rather than replace, the workforce. An example of this is SEM Rush, a company that specializes in digital marketing software. They believe “the increase in AI usage across businesses will create $2.9 trillion of business value and 6.2 billion hours of worker productivity” (source).

Where these extra hours are best spent is yet to be determined. But the hope is that by adopting these tools to make work simpler and more meaningful, the economy can grow stronger, and wealthier.

Increased efficiency

When time is money, wasted time becomes lost revenue.

There are plenty of ways time can be lost, but a common example is when you’re combing through documents to find specific facts and figures. Where a post-it and a highlighter used to be the norm, the power of search within digital documents becomes invaluable.

It’s one thing we focus on at Lumin, because not being able to find something is even more frustrating when you know it’s in there. Rather than having to scroll through every page, our smart search uses an AI algorithm to help find what you’re looking for, especially if you can’t remember it word for word. 

Having built in anti-fraud and document security (yes, even security is powered by AI), Lumin can also add a layer of protection, and limit access to groups and individuals, without the need for custom security applications.

Increased revenue

With employees being able to access and interpret what they need efficiently, the result is that they inevitably save time – which saves you money. 

And, we’re not saying that it’s time to throw out the Xerox and the Cisco just yet, but by adopting digital technologies, such as Lumin, you can also decrease your reliance on physical things like paper and printer costs. 

How your business can implement AI

It’s only natural to want to grow your company, but with automation and AI the question becomes, “how?”

LinkedIn has done a great job of identifying the skills and qualifications to look for in an AI specialist, but if you’re a smaller company of around 50-100 employees then maybe a full-time AI systems engineer isn’t what you need.

A great place to start could be simply asking your employees what takes up the most time of their day? The follow up question to that then becomes, what would you do if that wasn’t an issue?

Automated email marketing 

These could be as simple as email marketing software such as HubSpot or Mailchimp, which let you communicate en masse with customers and subsets of customers automatically. 

Both online tools have functionality for sending pre-written communications based on particular interactions. So, whether it’s an email sign up on your website, a returned product, or anything you can track and attribute to an email, these tools also give you the ability to understand who your most engaged customers are, and what makes them engaged in the first place.

Grammar correction

Grammarly is another unique AI tool that analyzes text just about wherever you type. It takes the input of thousands of users and it's able to ascertain tone and intent, not just spelling mistakes.

Visualizing data 

At a higher level, governments and organizations use AI to understand huge subsets of data. Whether that’s taking traffic cam footage and raw data on road use to determine which parts of a city might become more trafficked as the population grows, or modeling the spread of Covid-19 to help reduce the number of fatalities and hospitalizations, the applications are only limited by your ambition and desire to work smarter.

Final thoughts

If one thing is clear, it’s that AI isn’t going away any time soon. In fact, it could be instrumental in the development of the economy for decades to come.

It’s not impossible or grossly inaccessible to make automation a part of your business' DNA, and you might be surprised to learn you’re already using it in your daily life. There are plenty of options available, and dedicated specialists who are ready to help.

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