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Artificial Intelligence Is Not (Only) About Robots

on December 13, 2016

When we say “artificial intelligence,” what do you see in your mind’s eye? If visions of robots are dancing in your head, you’re not alone. Science fiction would have us believe artificial intelligence (AI) is all about robots improving themselves and eventually becoming sentient. In reality, the face of AI, or “machine learning” as it is also called, is different.

Machine learning is one of the biggest tenets of AI. Companies like IBM are programming machines that learn as we use them. Using algorithms, these machines can learn from and make predictions on data – and in turn better meet our needs.

Sound interesting? AI won’t replace all your employees, but it can be a big benefit to your business – and give you a competitive edge. Let’s dive a little deeper and explore how you can use AI to improve your daily business operations.

Learn About Customer Behavior

Machine learning is excellent at “sentiment analysis.” It sorts through public opinion and those insights can drive marketing strategies.

For example, say a holiday blockbuster is set to hit theaters. In advance of the movie’s release, a studio puts out a trailer. Using machine-learning technology and sentiment analysis, a studio can sort through the social chatter, see what’s resonating with their audience, and adjust (and even edit) the film based on real-time feedback.

You probably experience AI all the time without even thinking about it. Do you use Siri, Cortana, or Google Now? Do you have an Amazon Alexa? That is AI at work. Over time, these AI “assistants” learn your preferences and behaviors. They serve you better, with more accurate results or responses delivered quicker and with more efficiency.

Machine learning and AI allow smarter decisions based on customer behavior and data analysis. Whether you realize it or not, AI will soon power not only your business but your personal life as well.

Find Products

All businesses need smart search results. Employing machine learning helps pull up results that customers need when browsing for products.

There’s one entity that’s always been on the forefront of machine learning, and you’ve probably heard of it. Google uses RankBrain (its nickname for the machine learning system) to not only create a fast list of results but also to effectively filter the search results in response to ambiguous queries.

EBay is also a great illustration of big data and machine learning at work. The company uses machine-learning solutions to address personalization by sorting through key metrics like behavioral activity, badges, word clouds, and previous purchases. Based on this data, eBay offers recommendations for similar products.

Create Business Value

Machine learning drives business on several levels, such as improved data entry and analysis, predictive maintenance, and eradicating spam email.

First, machine learning increases efficiency by improving data entry and analysis. Feed an algorithm lots of data – both good and bad examples – and it will draw connections and patterns. Machine learning hasn’t been perfected just yet – the algorithms tend to work well 80 percent of the time – and the human element can’t be removed from the equation. But the system can still save (and earn) your business money.

Second, machine learning increases predictive maintenance, which can reduce costly unplanned problems and ensure operational continuity. Predictive maintenance is a defect inspection strategy that applies data, context, and analytics (in the form of machine learning algorithms) to improve quality of service. Machine learning can help predict service outages and balance maintenance services.

Microsoft Azure Machine Learning is a great example of predictive maintenance. ThyssenKrupp, the elevator manufacturer, gathers data from its elevator sensors and systems, and feeds that data to Azure. The system analyzes the data and provides ThyssenKrupp with insight into elevator operations and maintenance. This helps the company guarantee a higher uptime percentage on its elevators – by determining when a repair is needed before the elevator stops working. In turn, the company has increased its elevator uptime, and it has a more efficient (and reliable) product than its competitors.

Third, machine learning can eradicate spam email. By following user behavior and utilizing sophisticated analytics, it can identify spam and filter it out. Thus, your inbox only has the emails you want to read.

Gmail is a great example of machine learning and filtering spam email. Several years ago, Gmail users would click on “Report Spam” and “Not Spam” to gather statistics on which senders were spammers (and which ones were non-spammers) to provide better service on individual and community-wide levels. Now, Gmail uses machine learning algorithms to perform this task. The email provider has even gone a step further this year by introducing “Smart Reply” through which Google’s AI offers three suggested responses. This is an amazing leap from machine learning to machine intelligence.

AI is about so much more than the robots of The Jetsons lore. Each day, businesses across the company put it to work and create business value. From monitoring customer behavior to providing seamless quality service, machine learning has a variety of positive applications. It won’t be long until small and medium-sized businesses use similar techniques to drive business value.

Photo Credit: jhuniorig Flickr via Compfight cc