By Stephen Garside on 9/14/2017
In the last 12-18 months there has been a lot of hype around the rise of AI (Artificial Intelligence) in business, and its potential impact on the customer service sector. Some articles suggest that in as little as 5 years time, 70-80% of customer service roles could be replaced by AI driven bots - sobering statistics!
These articles stimulated my interest in all things AI, prompting me to build a business app for Google Home and also to begin my journey to learn about, and then write my own Neural Network , all with a view to boosting my knowledge of machine learning and its uses for business.
Part of this learning journey involved looking at AI development environments such as Microsoft Azure Machine Learning, and this has really opened my eyes to the possibilities, and also got me thinking about how this type of AI technology will shape the future business world. Internet services such as Azure Machine Learning really open up the power of AI to business without having to fully understand the mathematical complexities of things like neural networks. These internet services allow you to build and train 'Knowledge models' for use in your business logic, opening up a world of opportunity and new business potential.
For now I think we are just at phase 1 - AI is gradually being accepted into our lives via assistants like Siri, Cortana and the Google Assistant on our mobile phones, tablets and watches. Businesses are introducing us to AI via website / social media chatbots and through home assistant devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home. AI and machine learning is being used in business systems and websites for logic decisions such as 'should we grant a loan to this person', or 'is this person in this area a good insurance risk'.
Phase 2 will see business gradually replacing customer facing roles with AI driven bots, and the delegation of more and more decisions to machine learned AI models - all overseen by humans. AI based CRM systems will drive bots that intimately understand customers as individuals and how best to nurture the relationship for the good of the business. The bots you interact with will understand the tone you as an individual respond to, maybe throwing in a few jokes if they think that is something you enjoy. They will also understand the objectives of the business and become excellent sales people, spotting and exploiting the buying signals that us humans can easily miss.
So what is the end game for AI - where will it take business in the future? Its not an entirely wacky idea to think that many businesses will be entirely driven by AI. There will be complete 'AI Business Providers', each competing to have the most competitive AI commerce engine.
You might one day be able to buy a hosted AI business that uses bots for the sales functions, negotiating prices, dealing with customer enquiries and taking orders. These orders will be electronically processed, generating production / purchase orders for goods from suppliers (much the same way large ERP systems do today, but using machine learning to constantly refine processes and business logic). Once goods become available, they will be routed and delivered using autonomous delivery methods (trucks / drones etc). The business will be overseen by an 'AI Manager' that has been trained to drive efficiency and spot opportunities and threats for the given business model.
The technology to do a lot of what is outlined in this article is available to businesses today, but it will take time to develop the knowledge frameworks and build the level of integration required between operations (i.e. sales, production, logistics). There is also the cultural aspect of people enjoying talking to other people - the wheels of commerce! However, this will change as the younger 'AI-tolerant' generation will not be phased by talking to a machine, in some instances it might be preferred.
If you are a business entrepreneur, expect to be visiting BuyYourAIBusiness.com in the not too distant future!