Growing up, artificial intelligence (AI) was always something of a scary term. Anyone who has seen 2001 A Space Odyssey probably wouldn’t be naturally inclined to using AI. But aside from the Hollywood depiction of AI terminating the world and going on a global rampage, the applications of AI have been coming on leaps and bounds in recent years.
With the capacity of the cloud and the exponential increase in the computing power of mobile devices, AI is becoming increasingly popular with businesses looking to grow their business and offer even more amazing customer service, all while reducing costs.
With devices like the iPad Air available, it would be crazy for businesses not to consider the benefits AI can bring. We have never walked around with more powerful devices than we do right now. The average smartphone unlocks a world of information, support and resources within the palm of our hand.
So far, we have been very good at using this technology to support our workers as we can see from the proliferation of work apps that are available. Many staff will now use a smartphone or device as part of their everyday equipment, which on its own is something few of us would have predicted just a decade ago. And because this technology is so new, we have really only just scratched the surface of what these mobile powerhouses can deliver.
So, what will we use them for in the future? Instead of only using these devices actively, what if they provided proactive assistance and react, in some ways, autonomously? What if they could run jobs separate to those we directly instruct them to do? What if they could solve problems whilst we concentrate on other things—more important things? This is where AI is becoming far more sophisticated.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, we are not talking about AI taking over the boardroom, digital personalities responding to our emails, or self-aware robots fixing TVs. We are quite a way off from that. The Blue Brain project believes we are a hundred years away from AI replicating the functions of a human brain, so do not fret for your job just yet. What we are in a position to do is harness the massive computing power of our smart devices and allow AI to work harmoniously alongside them to carry out everyday functions.
The old saying is there is no substitute for experience, yet we all inevitably forget things or have yet to learn them. We have all needed to look up a location on a map, or left the house without our keys or work passes.
Where current AI technology can help us is by being predictive, basing decisions on historical evidence. By feeding in all this data, or experience, AI can be as predictive as any one of us, and in some cases more aware, and by doing so, help in making the right decision every time.
For example, if you are an engineer and you have to carry out ten jobs the next day, ten jobs you have done countless times before, you still need to prepare for the next day by lining up supplies, planning routes and working out break times. How much simpler would it be for that engineer to have a digital assistant that did all that for them? And without instruction, simply through their smart device?
All those monotonous and time consuming tasks erased with the swipe of a finger. Everything is automated so the engineer does not need to waste time in the preparation stage, or lookup driving directions – the system will know where the next job is and proactively provide turn by turn direction. This enables the engineer to concentrate on the more important task, and also have more time to focus on the customer. Just think how much more productive they would be without needing to worry about all those little details.
It’s hardly the apocalyptic vision of the future AI was supposed to bring! In reality, the only thing in danger is mobile workers being without a good recommendation for nearby lunch locations. This may seem small, but it is significant, activities like this where current AI is delivering huge advantages to businesses. By using it as a resource to take some of the burdensome administrative tasks away from staff, it gives them more ‘brain time’ to focus on the job at hand.
Planning is one of the most important things a business can do. It’s up there with the staff you employ in terms of importance. By adding a little AI to your business, you can significantly improve the planning side of your company, and help reduce the burden on your staff to do things they simply shouldn’t have to spend time doing. It really doesn’t take a genius or a self-aware supercomputer to work out that sounds like a good idea.