Think Smart


Put AI to Work

According to Gartner, 8.4 billion devices are connecting our world. By 2020 that number will be over 20 billion. Smart cities, connected health, smart wearables . . . the possibilities are limited only by our imagination. The term Internet of Things was coined back in 1999, but its democratisation and ease of adoption are more recent. Any business can - and should - explore putting these smart devices to work.

For example, a leading online education company increased their sales team’s effectiveness by 54%. Their chat room logs were treated as a set of labeled training data — exactly what a supervised learning system needs. Interactions leading to a sale were marked successes while the rest were marked failures. Using this data, they were able to predict responses to common inquiries and applied this information to train their salespeople. This lead to increased effectiveness and they were able to serve twice as many customers in the same amount of time.

These results would not be possible by replacing their salespeople with automated chatbots. The need today is of a hybrid “human plus machine” approach, where creative ideas are supplemented with an understanding of available data coupled with artificial intelligence. This will be the key to unlock competitive advantage and giving customers a better experience. While AI has generated concerns over job displacement, economic instability, and skills shortages, it is important to note that machine learning systems hardly ever replace the entire job, process, or business model. They are often interventions that increase the value of human work. As a matter of fact, companies that attempt to automate everything, including their customer service, are losing out to those that recognize that focusing on technology alone won’t work.

The idea is simple — take data, add AI to it, and use that knowledge to augment the human potential. With effective AI, you can outlearn everyone else. In the age where all companies - and people - fear disruption, the way to fight, survive, and thrive is through knowledge. Digital transformation is no longer an innovation but a must-have - AI has opened an unlimited learning potential for us, and to be leaders of today and tomorrow, companies must go on the offense. They need to leverage digital platforms, embed learning in every process, and empower their employees with all forms of digital intelligence. All this knowledge working together will lead to exponential learning, and eventually disruption.

The speed at which AI, and our knowledge of it, is advancing is incredible. A study by the Stanford computer scientist James Landay and colleagues found that speech recognition is now about three times as fast, on average, as typing on a cell phone. The error rate, once 8.5%, has dropped to 4.9%. What’s striking is that this substantial improvement has come just since the summer of 2016. This, coupled with the enormous rate at which businesses are transforming, requires us to make incisive decisions at the drop of a hat. To solve this problem, IBM has developed digital platforms that help transform complex data into meaningful information which bring about better and educated choices. We at IBM believe in rising to the challenge and fostering a culture where new possibilities are explored.

Here is where we put smart to work, the collaboration of human and machine to achieve enhanced results. Empowering people with the knowledge required to be the disruptors of tomorrow.

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