AI belongs in science fiction, along with flying cars, jetpacks, and space tourism, right? That’s what I always thought growing up. AI to me was always hand-in-hand with a Jetsons-style future.
Now I’m here, the future isn’t quite so much the science fiction utopia I was imagining (unfortunately there’s no flying cars or trips to Pluto). However, we’re getting there because AI is starting to be as common as talking about the weather.
According to Gartner, AI is becoming a more interesting topic of conversation for organisations, with an increase of 200% from 2015 to 2016.
Perhaps you’ve only heard it negatively talked about, how it’s going to take over our jobs and our lives, and soon we’ll all be sitting around twiddling our thumbs while computers do everything for us. Maybe AI will be twiddling our thumbs for us and we’ll just be sitting there.
Let’s clear up some misconceptions first– AI isn’t going to take over the workforce. AI can certainly help us automate some of the mundane, manual tasks that we currently invest our time and energy in on a day to day basis, but that doesn’t mean that we’ll be taken out of the equation. The important reality is AI will be used to augment humans, allowing us to work smarter and build a better future, rather than take over our future.
It’s been forecasted that by 2037, AI will have created 7.2 million jobs in healthcare, science and education in the UK. 
Here are some examples of how you can use AI to work smarter and strengthen your digital business, no matter what industry you work in:
- In healthcare, you can use AI to provide more accurate diagnoses, leveraging machine learning to actively predict and find both tumours and healthy tissues in 3D radiological images, for example. This can have an incredible impact on patient care, taking the time and cost out of the treatment planning process, so you can deliver a cost-effective, personalised treatment plan to each and every patient.
- Innovative financial institutions are using AI to rethink their internal processes, so they can turn customer challenges into opportunities. You can also discover new revenue and pricing models by uncovering patterns in client and firm data.
- In retail it can help predict trends, keep control of stock, and improve the customer experience. You could consider creating a chatbot too which enables your customers and store colleagues to find products, check stock and discover important product information.
- In manufacturing it can be used to streamline supply chains and keep machines working, detecting defects before they happen. You can also leverage machine learning to improve your sales processes, meaning your salespeople can make the right offer, to the right person, at the right time.
As you can see, AI is no longer a novelty and organisations are looking for ways to use AI to solve real business challenges, improve their productivity and drive innovation.
However, it’s important not to force AI into your business for the sake of it. You should first look at the value it can bring to your business, depending on your needs.
1. Use AI to reduce costs and outperform competitors
Seadrill operates globally as an oil and gas deep-water driller. They are focussed on revolutionising their fleet of rigs, producing powerful insights into operations and delivering significant business advantages.
Each rig generates huge volumes of data and analysing this to predict failures and optimise performance is a game changer. Seadrill can see exactly which resources are going into their inventory for planned and corrective maintenance, giving them the ability to analyse their spending and reduce costs.
“We use Power BI and Microsoft’s Data Warehouse technologies to bring together safety, operations and financial data from various systems and turn these into actionable insight. Being able to make the right decisions is truly a competitive edge,” states Kaveh Pourteymour, Vice President & CIO at Seadrill. “We are using Azure Machine Learning for our automated inventory optimisation. This is a capability that’s now gone live on six of our rigs, allowing us to reduce our costs by managing our stock more effectively.”
They use Microsoft Azure’s inbuilt features and algorithms to help analyse data in real time. This allows them to easily show customers that their rig is outperforming competitors and remain at the forefront of the industry.
2. Use AI to solve challenges
The best AI projects allow for solutions that would be impossible to conceive because they leverage human insights at a volume that humans could never achieve.
It could be using AI to sift through your organisation’s files and data, showing you what you need when you need it. For example, intelligent search on Office 365 uses AI and machine learning to help your people discover new and relevant information and people, based on what they work on across SharePoint, OneDrive, Exchange, and more.
As an energy services company, Wood wanted to improve the accuracy of calibration of its Virtual Metering System (VMS), a solution for metering the flow rate of multiphase oil and gas wells. Its goal was to make the solution’s results more closely match physical metering devices.
“Wood monitors thousands of wells globally with our digital platform,” explains Prabu Parthasarathy, Vice President of Intelligent Operations. “A single percentage point error in calculating the flow rate can translate into thousands of dollars a day depending on volume and commodity prices. Errors accumulated over the course of a year can add up to millions.”
“The big win for us is that we can now scale up quickly and do calibration work in 80 percent less time—hundreds of wells in the same time to calibrate tens of wells previously,” noting that this will generate significant savings. Parthasarathy concludes, “Wood wants to utilise our talented people more effectively, to reduce implementation time and ultimately save our customers money. When a solution helps us maximise our employees’ and customers’ potential, that’s how we know we’ve chosen the right one.”
3. Use AI to build trust
Of the most used AI technologies today, perhaps the most widely known is virtual assistants or chatbots.
Meet Cami, Dixon Carphone’s helpful chatbot. Cami is a slightly nerdy, helpful chatbot on Facebook Messenger and Curry’s retail website. She helps customers by answering queries, and can even read pictures of product’s in-store to check stock status. As such, even employees are using it to monitor stock and answer questions on training materials.
“The biggest thing Cami will do is to help strengthen our relationship with customers,” says Antonia Colin-Jones, Strategic Partnership Program Manager. “We’ll also improve our in-store operations by supporting our store colleagues to do their jobs more efficiently.”
Cami will help support customer’s journeys from online to in-person. When a customer uses their online wishlist, Cami will save the search criteria they used. Store colleagues can pull up that information in the store, see what the customer was looking for, and then direct them to that product or to other products they might like equally or even better.
“We’ll get better analytics, so we’ll understand our customers better,” says Colin-Jones. “With Power BI and Application Insights, we’ll be able to see if customers are asking the same questions again and again, and that will help us improve our communications and messaging. We can then adjust Cami’s responses to build on her knowledge to improve customers’ experience with her. Seeing what questions customers are asking will also inform our future decision making about what functionality we might want to add to Cami. It’s been fascinating to learn what bots can do, and I’m excited to see how we can use this technology to transform our business.”
AI is set to be part of the fourth industrial revolution and organisations are looking to use it to help them better understand the needs of customers, their employees, and develop new products, services, and business models that are future-resilient.
So, while we’re all busy implementing AI to make ourselves more productive and innovative, I’m patiently holding out hope for my flying car to take me to Mars for a spa holiday. I may be waiting a few more years, but if AI is already here, it shouldn’t be much longer, should it?
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