Every once in a while, a piece of technology comes along that makes a lasting impact on every aspect of how we live our lives. In the 1800s, it was the railways and electricity, in the 20th century, it was the transistor that led us to mobile phones and computers entering the mainstream and revolutionising how we work and interact with other people. Today, it is artificial intelligence (AI) that is fundamentally changing how we see and interact with the world around us.
As with every new technological development, there are those who are sceptical and frightened about the effect that AI will have, especially when it comes to the workplace and the perceived threat to jobs. However, AI has an immense potential to bring real benefits to productivity and overall human efficiency. Rather than being scared of this new technology, we should be engaging with the conversations surrounding it and asking how we can harness AI and what we want our future workplaces to look and feel like with this technology integrated.
At its core, artificial intelligence is based on systems that learn and evolve over time. Mirroring the human brain and the neural system that enables us to recognise patterns and make connections over time, AI software learns and adapts based on the experiences it is exposed too. Thanks to significant advances in processing capabilities, that are faster and more distributed than ever seen before, as well as huge amounts of storage we now have in the cloud and across our interconnected world, today’s AI algorithms are incredibly sophisticated.
AI is in the workplace already
While there’s a lot of hype about how AI will disrupt the traditional office, and working environment for the worse, the technology has actually been driving innovation and efficiency improvements in many industries for a number of years already. Thought you might not be acutely aware of it, AI has been here for a while. The real benefit brought to us by AI is the increased efficiency for businesses through automating tasks that are currently done manually or semi-manually – the ones that take up significant resource in terms of both time and money.
From scheduling meetings, to booking flights, taxis or even your favourite restaurant, AI-enabled tools and assistants are already widely used by those in business and consumers alike. One of the earliest examples of AI assistants that has truly improved efficiency in the world of business is x.ai. Created to bring together the cutting-edge of artificial intelligence with human empathy, x.ai’s personal assistants, Amy or Adam, automatically schedule meetings – cutting out the hours of going back and forth it takes to arrange and re-arrange catch-ups. The success of x.ai came from the algorithm’s ability to learn it’s users’ preferences over time, from specific meeting rooms, favourite café meeting spots, Restaurant venues to preferred times of the day and even tone of emails. Further, with the software embedding seamlessly into users’ emails x.ai has become an invisible but heavily relied upon tool for its users.
Another area where AI is already being harnessed by companies is in network monitoring. With every company, regardless of size or industry, a target for cyberattack, business leaders are beginning to take more action to ensure that important internal company information as well as private client data stored on in-house networks are secure. Further, with the new GDPR regulation coming into force in the UK in May next year, the stakes of not having secure systems are higher than ever before.
Unfortunately for business leaders, monitoring networks for unusual activity and cyberattack 24/7 every day of the year is much easier said than done. In an effort to combat this challenge, many are turning to AI systems that can monitor network traffic in greater detail than humans alone can. Crucially, these systems also learn and adapt over time to recognise activity that is suspicious and predict activity that could lead to a cyberattack, and sharing similar experiences with other peer cyber soldiers, flags potential threats before an attack happens. It’s undeniable that AI-based systems are and will continue to be at the front of the battle charge when it comes to preventing and protecting against cyberattacks.
AI and the workplace of the future
While AI is already being harnessed by some businesses today, the next five to ten years will see a significant rise in AI adoption in the workplace. Professions that are still heavily reliant on paper copies and long procedures will see real improvement in terms of both cost and time efficiency. In the insurance industry for example, the time it takes to create cases for and against paying out money for claims and process these cases will be more than halved by integrating AI into the systems. Harnessing AI software means that over time the actions of the human insurers will be analysed, so that ultimately the AI will be able to process the cases itself in much faster speeds. This will free up huge amounts of time for insurers so they can drive their efforts into the more complex parts of cases that require human intuition and creativity.
This improved efficiency will be seen across all industries such as law, financial services and conveyancing. As the most trusted broker industry in the world, the finance industry in particular will see huge benefits from harnessing AI. Finance is infamous for being plagued by inefficiencies and is frequently exposed to fraud and cybercrime. Integrating AI into what are often very old legacy systems will help companies ensure they are regulation compliant, protected from fraud while also being innovative in the transactions that are approved.
Those companies who embrace AI whole heartedly will be able to ensure that human judgement remains at the core of all business outputs. As AI improves productivity, saving time and money for all employees, this will alleviate time spent on administrative tasks and create time for more cognitive and creative actions to be completed. In short, AI will do the heavy lifting, and humans will be required to ensure standards are continuously met, the right ethical decisions are made for the circumstance, and to explore new business initiatives.
It’s not too far to say that AI will revolutionise the workplace, as well as the rest of our daily lives. The companies who will stay at the front of the pack in terms of competitiveness and attracting the top talent are those who start harnessing the benefits of AI now. Get started now by commissioning a few people in your organisation to play with emerging AI frameworks such as TensorFlow, Torch, Neon or Caffe and prototype a learning system for handling some niche area in your business.
Artificial intelligence is the chance for companies to increase business efficiency by reducing the time and cost spent on manual administrative tasks. Those who fail to understand the benefits of AI will ultimately lose out to competitors.
Chris Martin, CTO at Powwownow
Image Credit: Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock