Is UK enterprise ready for Artificial Intelligence?

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) is fast moving beyond the realms of science fiction and entering the workplace, and this will have implications for the corporate IT infrastructure of the future. Facebook’s announcement that it will enable businesses to deliver automated customer support, online shopping guidance, content and interactive experiences to its users through ChatBots is just the beginning.

Whilst some Bots, like the Microsoft’s recent Tay experiment, aren’t foolproof yet, Messenger Bots represent the new and acceptable face of Artificial Intelligence. ChatBots use deep learning and neural networks to allow them to learn from data sets in the same way a human brain does. Whilst still in development phase, they are fast becoming increasingly popular with developers and platforms. It won't be long until this kind of AI is enterprise ready and we'll be engaging with ChatBots via online shopping assistants, customer service desks and help desks without even realising it on a regular basis – all within the next five years.

The use cases for this kind of intelligence don't end here though, the same technologies can be used to streamline business-critical processes in the enterprise. Machine-learning pattern recognition is already an established factor in payment services and fraud detection practices and work is now underway to develop new algorithms that identify threats missed by traditional human brains and security mechanisms. From sequences to discover the abnormal behaviours that indicate compromised software, to AI techniques that analyse user behaviours in order to deflect unauthorised data or system access.

Given the growing complexity of today’s enterprise IT environment resulting from the spread of mobile, virtual and cloud technologies and the fast-paced growth of the IoT (Internet of Things), the idea of utilising artificially intelligent systems should perhaps come as no surprise.

The next big thing – AI and security

I believe that aside from customer service style ChatBots, the next big application for Artificial Intelligence in the enterprise will be for securing the organisation and its data against cyber attack. The technology behind them is already being used to fight cyber threats by governments. And the premise is that the application of machine learning offers the ideal response to the challenges involved in handling cyber threats – the speed of attack and the amount of data that has to be analysed in order to respond in real-time. The technology behind them is already being used to fight cyber threats by governments.

Security experts believe that mitigating such attacks will be dependent on automated machines that can detect an offence early and run the necessary counter measures. These self-learning solutions will utilise current knowledge to assume infinite attack scenarios and constantly evolve their detection and response capabilities.

In other words, the application of AI will enable the enterprise to dynamically respond to cyber threats by implementing learning capability in software. Say hello to the ‘intelligent network’. AI is set to make its mark on enterprise security systems. And that means that IT professionals need to start preparing for the dawn of a new age of security techniques and approaches.

AI and the enterprise network

Whilst machine learning is initially set to give new meaning to customer service, online shopping assistants and help desks, it will also have an impact on those who manage and run enterprise networks. IT teams need to begin to prepare to welcome the revolution of the ‘robots or intelligent machines’. Just like when automated solutions first made an appearance at a decade ago, this new generation of cognitive machines will relieve IT professionals of hugely onerous tasks like penetration testing.

In the future, intelligent networks will be able to constantly scan all data and every aspect of the business infrastructure. There will be no need for IT to search through log files. Instead, IT teams will be engaged in monitoring and managing security scripts in much the same way as they oversee today’s automated solutions. In theory, life for the IT manager should become much more about ensuring the enterprise infrastructure is designed to be secure by default – rather than engaged in the reactive ‘patch and pray’ behaviours of today.

But there will be an impact on the policies and procedures that IT managers employ. For example, decisions will need to be taken about how much autonomy will be handed over to AI systems and questions like 'who will police the self-managing network?' will need to be considered. And, because data protection regulations don’t stay static, organisations will need to ensure these self-learning systems keep pace with changing regulatory requirements.

There is no doubt that the benefits of intelligent network monitoring will go a long way to easing the workload of today’s already overloaded IT teams. But there will be important questions that will need to be resolved - what will the network infrastructure of the future look like and how will it be managed? Indeed, will it be self-managed? And what, if any, limitations will be placed on how AI is employed within the enterprise?

As network managers grow more confident with AI techniques, they will become more willing to tackle more complex applications. As we enter the IoT era, embracing AI will involve an interesting learning curve. IT organisations will need to be prepared to resolve these challenges in order to reap the considerable benefits AI has to offer.

So, as developers prepare to grapple with building Bots and working with Facebook’s Bot-building partners, IT professionals should be asking themselves: ‘what difference could AI make to me?

Facebook has just initiated the future of AI for business. The question is, are IT departments ready for it?

Michael Hack, Senior Vice President of EMEA Operations, Ipswitch