Beyond the hype: The reality of what AI means for business

Group of people in a line at an ATM waiting to make a cash withdrawal

The adoption and application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to accelerate at an exponential rate in modern businesses. As referenced in the 2017 Tech Trend Report, AI is nearing completion of the next layer in technological advancement, integrated into everything individuals and organizations do.

This trajectory is predicted to drive cumulative worldwide spending of $40.6 billion on AI projects by 2024 – according to Raconteur. This is expected to create mass opportunity for the pioneering businesses currently investing in AI development.

Moving beyond the hype in existing media coverage, this post will uncover the reality behind what AI means for businesses today, in the near future, and beyond 2017. This includes a closer look at companies currently using AI for real-world applications that are transforming how they do business.

1. Financial Services Will Lead The Charge
As the age of technological disruption roles on, banks continue as the pioneer adopters of AI. IBM Chief Executive Officer, Ginni Rometty, hails banks as a guiding light, saying, “Financial services, I believe, can and will lead the world into this era.”

In the last 5 years, financial institutions have turned to AI as a platform for maintaining a competitive edge. Banks such as  Banco Bradesco are using AI now as a way to augment existing services.

Banco Bradesco 

Bradesco is one of the biggest banking and financial services companies in Brazil. Looking at Banco Bradesco, their foray into AI started in 2014, partnering with IBM on a project to begin teaching the Watson cognitive computing platform Portuguese. Completed last year, this is the fourth language taught to Watson – which can now process and respond to conversations in English, Spanish, Japanese and of course Portuguese.

Following Watson’s fluency in Portuguese, Banco Bradesco is now piloting the natural language process capabilities of Watson to deliver quicker, more accurate answers to customers who contact its call centers.

2. The Reinvention of Everything
AI provides the capability for everything invented in the past 150 years to be reinvented in the next 15. Across the automotive, healthcare and hospitality sectors there are already examples of where existing products and interactions are revolutionized.

Medtronic

SugarIQ2-712
Medtronic launched Sugar.IQ with Watson, a first-of-its-kind app, reimagining the treatment of diabetes. Using continuous glucose monitoring and insulin information combined with the cognitive computing power of IBM Watson the app reveals hidden patterns in data. This real-time insight is relayed to sufferers, helping them to vastly improve their management of the condition.

Sugar.IQ was created to answer the key questions diabetes sufferers have concerning their current health status, whilst offering up insights and actions that will help them better manage their condition. The Watson powered tool discovers glucose level influencing behaviors and can then send appropriate alerts to users.

A built in Glycemic Assist feature also allows users to ask about certain foods and how these affect their personal glucose levels. With the system then offering meal-related insights so the user can better manage their diabetes.

BMW

At the start of 2017, BMW signed on to develop in-car AI and IoT services using IBM Watson. The initiative seeks to process in car data alongside artificially intelligent assistant systems to help vehicles run more efficiently and provide a personalized driving experience unrivaled in existing vehicles.

The new project involves four BMW i8 hybrid sports cars, now housed within IBM’s Munich IoT HQ. IBM BlueMix will act as the platform for Watson’s machine learning, while IoT for Automotive will connect the vehicles. Watson continually learns from the driver’s needs, habits and driving preferences, understanding and then adapting the driving experience to better suit the driver and passengers.

Drivers will be able to talk to their i8, asking how it’s performing and the i8 will reply. Having learned the i8 owner’s manual, Watson utilizes its natural language capabilities to understand the driver’s queries and provide the answers in a conversational style. This can include anything from standard checks of recommended tyre pressures to finding the handle to pop the hood.

H&R Block


Even tax preparation is being reinvented with H&R Block training Watson on the language of taxes. The company has combined the expertise of its tax professionals with the power of Watson to roll out a new cognitive experience across its retail locations.

The platform understands context, interprets intent and draws connections between a clients’ statements and relevant areas of their return. H&R Block tax professionals then build on this information to identify additional guidance on possible tax implications to maximize the clients refunds, or reduce their tax liabilities.

Using a dedicated client companion screen, the client will follow the tax professional bringing to life key focus areas for deductions, offering a more interactive and transparent interaction.

3. Empowering the Workforce with AI and Data
Recent decades have seen the automation of occupations including switchboard operators, filing clerks, travel agents, and assembly line workers. But advancements in AI are more about empowering people to do their jobs better with “augmented Intelligence.” The next generation of workforce in more advanced job roles, will benefit greatly from having insights and advanced analytics at their fingertips.

Experts at the Pew Research Center anticipate that advances in robotics and AI will create more jobs than it displaces over the next decade. With the study demonstrating the fact that historically technological advance has created more jobs than it destroyed. IBM’s Rometty shares this outlook, arguing that while some professions will become obsolete, in the long run AI will create jobs.

Looking forward, 2017 is set to be a huge year for the advancement of AI.  Businesses currently investing in AI and advanced search and analytics are in the process of building our future, creating their own pathways to business success, and gaining a competitive edge in their markets. Learn more about how Watson’s cognitive APIs can help your business and sign up for a free trial online.

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