Is the business world ready for artificial intelligence?

Machine Based Learning (MBL) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) were at the forefront of headlines during 2016, and are bound to dominate the news in the coming year, especially with record sales of Amazon’s Echo, and publicity around the next generation of personal digital assistants (PDA’s) like Mark Zuckerberg’s Jarvis. But is there a place for these in the business world?

Many say they already have the potential to change the way we work, and even replace some jobs, but still in its infancy, is this technology too immature to really add value in the near future?

In its most simple form, MBL will allow software to better predict what you meant to type from just a few words or characters, using what you (and thousands of others) have typed before, as seen with Google’s ‘Did you mean ….?’ search algorithm. At the other end of the scale is the full-blown AI personal assistant that will have an intelligent conversation with you, learn what’s important to you, and help out with the more laborious tasks on your to do list.

Research by business intelligence company Artesian Solutions, suggests that most people view PDA’s with scepticism. Largely conceived through a poor experience with first generation intelligent user interfaces such as Siri, most don’t trust the technology or find it plain irritating.

But regardless of current views, machine learning and AI will progress rapidly in the coming months and years, and there will soon be a number of business use cases that will benefit us all. For one, it will have the profound ability to redefine what is meant by the term ‘expert’. Traditionally defined as ‘a person who is very knowledgeable about or skilful in a particular area’, these people have consumed a lot of information on a particular subject, but in doing so, have had to scan a lot of irrelevant material. A human doesn’t have time to sift through the millions of articles posted worldwide every day, but software can. It’s possible, even with today’s technology, to scan and digest millions of facts from around the world, and pull out the most relevant insights to expedite the learning process.

MBL and AI have the potential to take things a stage further, finding and suggesting new information that you didn’t know existed, or had even considered searching for. Imagine a new world of business where you’re working alongside hyper-experts! Rather than being a far-flung vision of the future, these solutions are merely months away. So what can we expect in 2017?

It’s important to separate the user interface from the solution that sits behind it. Whether you want to interact via typing, a pointing device, touch screen, or voice activation, user interfaces will become more flexible and convenient, working the way you prefer and delivering information how, when, and where you want it.

There will be a variety of solutions that sit behind these interfaces and this year, we’ll see a leap forward in terms of extracting value from big data thanks to MBL. Systems will understand what’s important in your ecosystem, be it companies that are growing, eminent professionals, mergers and acquisitions, a particular compliance issue, or a specific event, and deliver the most relevant insights. You’ll decide whether you want to find information yourself or receive proactive alerts, and be able to select the volume, relevance, and timeliness of your results. MBL has the potential to save you hours of research and is particularly suited to taking on the more monotonous activity in your schedule, freeing you to concentrate on other, more valuable tasks.

In 2018, we should keep an open mind on early adoption and new ways of working.