An analysis of how big companies are using artificial intelligence to their advantage
Nearly half of CIOs have plans to implement some kind of artificial or augmented intelligence into their organizations. But excitement over the possibilities of AI isn’t always easy to translate into action, especially if you’re running a small to medium-sized business. Here’s a look at the possibilities of AI for any business — and some examples of early adopters who are paving the way.
Companies Putting AI to Work
Smaller businesses may take a bit longer than large organizations to jump into the AI pool, but as AI tools become more readily available, it’s going to get easier. Here are some highlights from companies that are using AI to transform the way we do business.
Over the past five years, the search engine giant has doubled down on AI deployment—using it to help streamline everything from answering low-level customer service inquiries to slashing energy usage. At its data centers, machine learning helped Google reduce the energy used for air conditioning by 40%, and overall energy usage went down by 15 percent.
Carnival Cruise Line
Talk about full-service — Carnival Cruise Line is harnessing AI applications to make the guest experience even more personal and luxurious. Currently available on Caribbean Princess cruises, a smart wearable called the OceanMedallion uses AI to act as a private concierge. It can order you a drink, track your kids, and even open doors for you as you approach.
When you combine cars and robots, it brings “Transformers” to mind, but Mercedes is using “co-bots” to augment workers’ productivity and safety (without any risk of intergalactic war). These collaborative robots work alongside human workers, giving Mercedes-Benz the benefit of robotic efficiency without sacrificing the complex human skills needed to keep up with the company’s ever-changing array of customizations and perks.
What Can AI Do for My Business?
It’s fun to see how huge companies are implementing AI to make business smarter, more personalized, and more efficient—but is AI a realistic possibility for every business? Deploying AI can revolutionize everything from daily productivity to energy consumption—no matter how big or small your operation is. Here’s a look at some of the ways AI can make a big difference.
- Streamline processes. Human resources is one place where a lot of companies start out with AI. Machine learning and AI algorithms can take on the most boring, repetitive tasks (like weeding out unqualified candidates) and free up the experts for higher-level work, like interviewing candidates.
- Improve efficiency. Help desks are using AI to answer common questions, triage problems, and create a more efficient queue. The result is happier clients and an IT department that doesn’t feel buried under a never-ending rush of urgent needs.
- Manage costs. Artificial intelligence can help your bottom line by improving energy consumption and mitigating loss. A simple security system with embedded smart technology (like a smart thermostat) can help protect your business and cut down on utility bills.
- Enhance the customer experience. One of the biggest ways AI is invading business is through machine learning that adapts to customer habits and preferences. All those suggestions that show up in your Netflix queue are courtesy of AI, and those tools are becoming more available to all businesses.
The Smart Way to Implement AI
It’s obvious that AI is the future, but you don’t have to be the last business on the block to adopt smart technologies. The key is to start AI integration in a manageable way that makes sense for your business, your customers, and your employees.
- Start small. Look at challenges that your employees or customers are facing and see if an AI solution could make the difference. Start with one area you want to impact and give it a test run. This gives you time to learn from the process and lets your employees acclimate to the change. Once you’re all comfortable with a smart tech solution, look for the next challenge to address.
- Align expectations. It’s easy to look at AI as a fairy godmother, but like any technology, there are learning curves and bugs to work out. Don’t expect machine learning or an algorithm to be a cure-all. Build in time to learn, adapt, and calibrate as needed. Keep note of milestones during your test run and conduct a thorough postmortem to take advantage of what you’ve learned.
- Address anxieties. When employees hear words like machine learning and artificial intelligence they tend to get nervous. Know that staff may be afraid of being replaced by the machines and be prepared for push-back. Reassure your team by laying out the why behind your decision and clearly outline the goals and expectations. And don’t forget to remind them that the value they bring to the table can’t be replicated.
What This Means to Your Business
If your company is missing out on the benefits of smart technologies, it’s time to start thinking about when and how you can take advantage of the AI revolution. Look for solutions that match the scale of your business and its needs, and get ready to dive in. Imagine how much you could grow if your employees were freed up from menial tasks and able to apply their skills and energy to coming up with the next big idea.
Written by: Rebecca Edwards, BOSS Contributor