Out with the Old and In with the New

Happy New Year, everyone! My final article of 2017 was a general overview of the AI World conference. For my first post of 2018, I wanted to dig a little deeper into the developments in AI technology. Artificial intelligence will be something to keep an eye on as the technology continues to mature well into the next decade and beyond.

Although artificial intelligence is in its infancy, it’s already in the process of transformation.  AI implementations are shifting from a general-purpose AI type of platform to a narrowly focused one. General-purpose, jack-of-all-trades AI is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for the companies developing it. However, its complexity and high costs are holding back interest in systems like IBM Watson and its peers in this space. There is more of an interest in something with immediate gratification—narrowly focused AI is less complex and cheaper to set up, and with that comes better return on investment.

What type of platforms are selling right now? You’ve probably interacted with them in one way or another: chat bots. Chat bots are widely used in customer-facing websites, mobile apps, customer support, and assisted selling, and they have also made their way into internal company IT support.

Speaking of corporate IT support, the next platform that’ll be selling strongly is IT service automation (ITSM). Companies are looking to automate as much of their second-day operations as possible: things like password resets, patching, and any of countless repeatable tasks.

Marketing automation is another big-ticket item, which helps with email campaigns as well as with targeted web advertisements. Data mining is performed by the companies offering targeted web advertisements, and these companies have gotten to the point where they know more about you than you do. That is just plain scary, and this is just the beginning.

Robotics process automation (RPA) is another big-ticket item that companies are looking at. Just as in IT, other corporate departments are looking to automate as many as possible of the most common repetitive business processes—things like data entry and standardized customer interactions—utilizing bots whenever possible.

That is what is selling. What areas are buying? It might surprise you to learn that around forty percent of the total spent in the AI space comes from the retail and ecommerce segments. Making up the other sixty percent is the financial services area, with things like compliance automation, fraud detection, trade automation, insurance, and loan approval. If you’ve ever had a fraud alert while shopping that locked or suspended your card until you confirmed the charge, you’ve hit that sort of automation. Oh yes, the fun side of the automation. Healthcare is utilizing automation to perform claims processing and insurance processing as well as medical diagnoses, utilizing medical history and genomic analysis. How long will it be before AI performs all the patient diagnostics work while the doctors are just there to approve or disapprove the AI diagnoses?

Agriculture is another segment looking to automation, for satellite-guided tractors, multispectral imaging analysis and data aggregation for precision seeding and soil nutrients. Finishing out the list are manufacturing, logistics, and aviation for things like supply chain automation, predictive maintenance, warehouse automation, and the self-driving trucks and platoons for deliveries.

Although AI is still in its infancy, but there are areas that have moved from science fiction to the technology of the day. Technology is improving at a rapid rate. What was once clearly a computerized telephone support call that used to leave you wishing for a real person is getting to the point where you might not be sure whether it’s a real person on the other end of the line. I believe that artificial intelligence is the way of the future. As such, it is something we should keep an eye on as we move out from the old and into the new.

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