We’re probably not aware of the moment when artificial intelligence sneaked into our lives and became a part of our everyday existence.
Was it the first movie recommendation we got from Netflix? Or the item we’ve purchased using Amazon’s suggestions?
AI is now all around us, and it’s holding tremendous potential, with new application possibilities being discovered every day.
We’ve gathered six very practical examples of AI, to show just how widespread this technology is today, and how prevalent it is yet to become.
The use of AI in healthcare is already bringing many benefits – at the beginning of the year, we’ve witnessed AI outperforming six radiologists in reading mammograms and identifying breast cancer more accurately and quickly. A computer algorithm can now analyze images in just a few seconds, significantly improving the speed of diagnosis.
The first AI-designed drug molecule, by Excienta, is currently being tested on humans. While it usually takes three to four years for traditional research to reach this stage, it just took 12 months for the algorithm to make it possible.
As for the current COVID-19 crisis, the Chinese technology giant Alibaba has recently developed an algorithm that can detect coronavirus in seconds, with 96% accuracy. The algorithm that analyzes CT images of patients’ chests is used by more than 100 healthcare facilities to distinguish the disease from other viral pneumonia cases.
2. Virtual Personal Assistants
Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and Google Assistant are just some of the most notable examples of artificial intelligence we’re all familiar with.
We interact with our PAs regularly – ask them for directions, information about the weather and the news. They allow us to finish various tasks easily, without having to use our hands – we can stream podcasts, play music, make to-do lists, set alarms, schedule our meetings, or order pizza.
These voice assistants use machine learning technology and natural language processing so that they can get smarter and more capable of understanding voice queries. In other words, with the help of AI and its subsets, voice assistants learn from your previous searches and preferences and use all the information they collect to offer you better search results and service.
3. Customer Service
Even if you’re still not interacting with your devices using your voice assistant, you’ve surely communicated with AI at least once, most probably in the form of a chatbot.
There is hardly any good online store that doesn’t offer at least some kind of AI-powered customer support.
The most common are conversational chatbots that are now able to answer 80% of most common customers’ queries in an accurate and timely manner, without any need for additional human intervention.
With data AI chatbots gather on the customers, they are now able to facilitate human-like interaction and personalize it more than their human counterparts.
Conversational AI algorithms can now give offers and recommendations that are more likely to fit customers’ needs and interests, boosting both their satisfaction and retailers’ revenue.
The banking and finance sector has recognized the possible advantages of AI early on and is now successfully implementing the technology for various purposes.
The finance industry relies heavily on large amounts of data and accurate real-time information. With the use of AI, it’s now much easier to detect frauds, money-laundering, or any other suspicious behavior. Some of the financial advisors’ tasks can now be automated too, as AI-powered advisors can quickly scan the market data, and predict the best portfolio or stock.
One of the best examples of how useful AI in the banking industry can be, is Erica, an AI employee of the National Bank of America. This digital financial assistant has already served over 7 million customers and handled over 50 million queries. Apart from managing many other different tasks, Erica helps customers with their transactions and budgeting, tracks their spending habits, monitors duplicate charges, and gives useful advice.
5. Smart Vehicles and Delivery
Cars and drones are also shifting towards the use of AI. Even though artificial intelligence is widely used in car manufacturing, its use in the automotive industry is most commonly related to the use of self-driving vehicles, that are leveraging machine learning and vision to find their way through the traffic safely.
Autox is, for example, currently testing their autonomous grocery delivery within San Jose. Their vehicles use AI software, real-time cameras, and sensors to navigate within a geofenced zone, with plans for gradual expansion.
Amazon and Walmart are already investing large amounts of money into drone delivery programs. Amazon’s goal for its Prime Air service is to create fully electric drones that can deliver packages lighter than 5 pounds, to their customers located within 15 miles, in less than 30 minutes.
6. Smart Homes
One of the finest examples is Nest, the thermostat algorithm, which uses an intelligent machine learning process to learn about your behavior and the temperatures you like. It then anticipates and adjusts your home or your office to your temperature needs, at the same time saving significant energy resources.
Google acquired Nest back in 2014 for $3.2 billion and now aims to create a smart and helpful home. The tech giant is trying to connect devices such as thermostats, cameras, alarm systems, doorbells, and locks under the same roof, offering an easy to use smart home solution.
However, for this to work seamlessly, technological advancement in the field of IoT and 5G needs to be utilized. Near-zero latency is what allows for smart homes to be remotely controlled.
As you can see, AI is impacting and improving every aspect of our lives and our society. It will revolutionize the way we do different things, from driving our cars to receiving medical treatment. Although this technology is still in its infancy, it has already managed to disrupt the above-mentioned areas and offer us a sneak peek into the future.
COMPETING IN A DIGITAL WORLD – SMES FIND THEIR FEET
– Stefano, Product Manager
Digital transformation is different for small and medium-sized companies. Or is it? In this article, we take a look at the current state of digital in SMEs and look ahead to see what is in store.
“Changes in business operations, and in the way customers are served, driven by digital technologies.”
That is a compact definition of digital transformation. And the digital technologies in question? They range from IoT (internet of things, or connected devices like smart sensors), to Robotic Process Automation and AI, to cloud computing.
SME rate of digitisation
Whether your business employs ten people or 10,000, the ingredients for digital transformation are the same. So how are small and medium-sized companies faring? Are they even interested in digitisation? Research1 says they are, and UK SMEs are doing better than many of their European counterparts, with high scores for adoption rates of cloud computing, Big Data and AI. To put this statement into perspective, 58% of companies have adopted cloud computing, but only 27% use some sort of AI-based technology.
Still, only 40% of SMEs report that digitisation is a top priority. An important fact, as the European SME survey 20191 shows a correlation between prioritising digitisation and investment. Those companies that say getting digital is a top priority invest more than companies that give digitisation a lower priority. The companies that prioritise digital also expected to export more than companies who see digitisation as less critical.
Naturally, as SMEs are a very heterogeneous group, there are differences in the area of digitisation as well. Some sectors are further along than others. Roughly speaking, finance & accounting firms, manufacturing companies, and the logistics sector are a step or two ahead of firms in the construction business and the legal profession2.
The big gain
So, what is it that drives digital transformation? What do SMEs stand to gain?
The short answer is a competitive edge, or even just remaining competitive (enough). Digital transformation is not an option; it is a must. The 24/7 economy demands fast service and quick supplies, and that goes for B2B markets just as much as for B2C. Digitisation enables companies to satisfy such demands.
The predictive capability of AI can reduce downtimes, for example – it will know in advance when machinery is likely to break down and can schedule preventive maintenance accordingly. Another example is increased productivity through the use of RPA or software robots. With RPA, a company can automate routine jobs like checking invoices relatively quickly and cheaply, freeing up human capital for other tasks.
The digital future
To look ahead, we also need to take a look at some constraints SMEs face with regards to digital transformation. The main issues UK firms face in this respect are around cybersecurity and the lack of skilled workers. In other countries around Europe, insufficient IT infrastructures also ranks high on the list of concerns.
Dealing with cybersecurity risks and especially ransomware attacks, is a significant worry for companies, as they are costly, difficult to prevent and have the potential to damage their reputation. Financial constraints are also a leading problem firms face when trying to skill up. Salaries for highly skilled IT talent have risen to a level that is prohibitive for many. At the same time, it is also hard for SMEs to attract and retain people, as candidates consider them as less attractive in terms of opportunities for growth.
According to Hays2, most employers say the lack of skills of existing staff prevents them from taking full advantage of the opportunities digital technologies provide. They are turning to solutions to train their employees and outsourcing work.
Nonetheless, digital transformation also provides plenty of opportunities. Look at fintech. Not what you were expecting, perhaps, but the rise of fintech has undoubtedly been advantageous for SMEs. Where SMEs have traditionally been caught in the middle between large corporations and consumers, as far as banking services were concerned, fintech is now providing smaller companies with choices that were not available before. A survey by EY3 shows that, in the UK, 18% of SMEs have adopted fintech services. These services include banking, payments and financing.
SMEs have taken essential steps, but they have some way to go as well. What lies ahead seemed brighter in January 2020 than it is now, just a few months later. Still valid for any company setting out on the digital transformation path, though, is that investing in people – skills, communication and culture – is crucial. Although the survey done by Hays found that many employees feel that ‘going digital’ is not a bad thing, the human factor does seem to be a stumbling block for many SME’s. One possible solution is for organisations to cooperate in creating training programmes and offer employees a challenging, cross-company career path.
1 KFW Going digital – the challenges facing European SMEs | European SME survey 2019
2 Hayes What workers want
3 EY Fintech is a world of choice for small and medium-sized enterprises
AI: CUSTOMER FACING EMPLOYEES’ BEST FRIEND IN THE FINANCIAL SERVICES INDUSTRY
By Ryan Lester, Senior Director, Customer Experience Technologies at LogMeIn
We’ve all heard the old saying “money talks.” Well when it comes to customer loyalty and retention, good customer experience talks much louder, with 30% of customers leaving a brand and never returning due to a bad experience.
The truth is, there are a lot of companies with similar products and services, but that doesn’t mean that differentiation is impossible. So, what’s the solution? For financial services, large and small, customer experience is becoming the key competitive differentiator and the best way to deliver an impactful experience is to empower customer-facing employees to do their best work. Artificial intelligence (AI) is enabling these employees to create remarkably better customer experiences, resulting in customer loyalty, advocacy, and overall growth.
For financial institutions that have been considering new strategies for improving the quality and efficiency of their customer experience, here are a few ways AI can enable them to deliver the “human factor” that good customer experience demands whilst ensuring customer facing employees can provide a more positive experience for customers.
Increase employee productivity
How much of employees’ time is spent searching for answers to questions? Do they ever have to put customers on hold or even step away to get additional help? AI helps provide front-line employees real-time guidance so they can spend less time looking for information and more time solving problems. An AI-powered chatbot, for example, can be listening in the background of a conversation helping point employees to the right data, solutions, and processes to resolve customer issues faster than ever before.
Deliver a consistent customer experience
When banking customers engage with their financial institutions, they measure the speed and accuracy of the service through two criteria. First, how quickly can the system access their account and deliver the correct information? Is it faster than a human could type it in and share it? And second, if they eventually do need to be connected to a live customer support agent, is their information captured and passed along accurately? AI technology takes those general queries off the customer support team’s plate, providing a quick, accurate, and effective response. If a query needs a more in-depth response, AI can hand it off to support staff to address.
Not only this but leveraging a centralised, AI-powered knowledge solution ensures every employee has access to the same, updated information, so no matter who the customer speaks to, they can be assured that employee responses are both consistent and accurate across the board.
Accelerating employee training and onboarding
Like any industry, employee turnover is inevitable and can be costly. But, not training new employees correctly or in a timely manner could be much more costly. When it comes to financial services there is a lot to learn, whether it is something simple like the process for checking an account balance to all the nuances associated with mortgage loans. AI can support on-the-job training by helping new employees answer questions confidently, correctly, and much quicker than they could before.
Improving employee satisfaction
Today’s banking customer has all kinds of new ideas about their banking experience. “The Amazon Effect” has successfully raised consumer expectations to the extent that a consistent, personal, and relevant experience is the new normal. As a customer, how many times have you been told “I’m sorry, I don’t know the answer?” Customers want solutions to their problems and employees want to be able to deliver those solutions as efficiently and effectively as possible. AI assisting in the background helps minimise those negative moments – making employees job easier, less stressful, and overall more enjoyable.
Identify knowledge gaps
Do you know all the questions employees are getting asked? Do you know what’s easily answered and what’s not? Real-time insights allow knowledge managers to keep up to date on frequently asked questions and gaps in current resources. This allows them to strategically improve or add content where needed.
Augmenting customer service
Whether talking with an AI chatbot or a personable customer service team member, the modern banking customer has high expectations for convenience, speed, and security. Which means that the technology you choose to deploy and how you deploy it is now just as important as who you hire and how you train them.
Today’s AI solutions won’t replace customer service agents or get in the way of the human factors that drive the customer experience. On the contrary, they augment it, allowing the business to do more without adding human resources. The higher the quality of a AI chatbot solution, the better it will be at taking the routine requests off the plate of customer service agents—giving them more time to provide a personalized and positive experience for customers.
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