Whether you know it or not, artificial intelligence (AI) is probably already a part of your life. Familiar applications like Apple’s Siri, Google Maps, and SalesForce’s Einstein are applying AI in ways that dramatically improve user experience and value through better acquisition, interpretation and usefulness of vast amounts of data.
The last time a “research curiosity” produced such a massively meaningful business transformation was the commercialization of the internet. The internet spawned some of the fastest and most revolutionary changes in the history of the world. Society has benefited from solutions like Google’s search engine, YouTube, Skype, Google Maps, Facebook, Amazon and more … helping people be connected, better informed and more productive.
New technologies are transforming the world at a rapid pace. Sensors, high-performance computers, data storage, the internet, smartphones and social media have established the foundations of the digital world. New areas like cloud computing, big data, block-chain, internet of things (IoT), augmented reality, robotics, machine learning and AI are increasingly having an impact on industries, businesses, lifestyles and society.
Startup companies in AI and machine learning are attracting significant venture funding, while more established businesses already have products and services that leverage these technologies, such as self-driving cars from Tesla, diagnosis assistants for doctors from IBM Watson, and chat-bots like Siri and Alexa.
Artificial intelligence sits at the top of the digital technology stack. Consider a Tesla self-driving car that captures data about the car and its environment in real time: speed, direction, tire condition, proximity to other cars, etc. The sensors are part of an IoT network that overlays external information on road conditions, weather, construction sites and traffic — storing all this Big Data in the Cloud. Information is processed in real time by AI algorithms that are constantly refined through machine learning. AI determines at every moment what needs to be done: speed-up, brake, turn, etc. Machine learning allows AI algorithms to improve over time, continually making its use safer, more efficient and more capable.
AI is transforming everything
All aspects of business can benefit by exploiting AI. A doctor will improve diagnoses and treatments by utilizing a “Medical AI” agent. Lawyers will benefit from a “Legal AI” agent’s research on thousands of similar cases by developing an improved strategy in less time. An insurance company will assess the validity of a claim more efficiently with an “Insurance AI” agent that evaluates the claim based on experience “learned” by analyzing thousands of prior claims. Sales staff will close more proposals with “Sales AI” agents that help analyze customer history and preferences, competitor dynamics, and market conditions.
AI will not be a stand-alone tool, but integrated into all processes, improving the intelligence, predictability, reliability, usability and personalization of various solutions. An AI-enhanced Google map of the future, for example, will likely guide you to your destination with more background information about you, your car, your habits, your preferences, road conditions, weather, etc., than today. It will make users feel that it understands them, their situation
and their environment perfectly.
Expanded integration of AI is inevitable and will increasingly be a requirement for future competitiveness. Understanding, developing and implementing a robust value proposition and business model based on wholly new technologies takes time and requires a commitment from senior management. Companies that took advantage of digital technologies — like Sony — have thrived, while those that did not — like Kodak — have suffered. Creating or enhancing products and services that can benefit from the enormous potential of
AI should start now.
David Gates is president of Gates and Company, an investment banking and management consulting firm in Wilmington and Munich, Germany that helps companies with market analysis, strategy development, M&A support, capital formation and AI initiatives.