March 5/12, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 19
By Lisbeth Calandrino
Mention the term “artificial intelligence” (more commonly referred to as AI) and most people think of science-fiction movies. But the reality is this emerging technology stands to reinvent business as we know it today.
So, what is AI exactly? In essence, AI entails software, machines, etc., designed and programmed in such a manner they think like humans—all while learning in the process. Truth be told, we have only just begun to see how AI is already improving our lives. Some examples include: Apple’s Siri, Google’s self-driving cars and Facebook’s image recognition software, to name a few. Personally, I don’t know how these things happen; I just know they enhance my experiences and interactions with the world.
In that same vein, more businesses and brands are expected to use AI to customize the user experience by analyzing data, consumer-buying trends and browsing history. In the world of tomorrow, you won’t have to ask for the customer’s name, email and contact information; it will all be available through AI.
But the biggest impact of AI, industry experts say, will involve social media. We will continue to see a rise in real-time personalized content targeting with the aim of creating increased sales opportunities, mainly because AI can make use of effective behavioral targeting methodologies. There are other benefits for business as well. For instance, the capabilities of AI-powered fraud detection tools are available to help companies protect against fraud schemes. Speech and face recognition as well as chip readers are also common AI technologies that provide consumer protections. Interestingly, some people hesitate to embrace AI. Skeptics often ask, ‘Will they outthink us?’ or ‘Aren’t we smart enough?’ In truth, AI tries to understand our patterns of behavior and how we think. From that we can build “smarter systems” and better understand how to expand and understand our concept of intelligence.
AI has actually been around for some time. In 1950, English mathematician Alan Turing published a paper titled “Computing Machinery and Intelligence,” which opened the doors to the field that would be called AI. (Siri, for instance, is an intelligent personal assistant included in Apple’s iOS, watch, Mac and TV operating systems.)
I started thinking seriously about AI while listening to an interview with Eric Yuan, the CEO of Zoom on Masters of Scale, a podcast program hosted by Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn. This is my favorite podcast because the interviews are with the new business leaders in our country.
There are many video conferencing and webinar platforms out there, but Zoom is beta testing AI technology designed to help businesses by testing matching voices to facial recognition. How it works: Once you match a voice to a face, you will be able to know who is talking and who is listening. Yuan calls this an engagement score. The meeting, which will be recorded and transcribed, reveals helpful information about the participants. For instance, if the transcripts show you’re talking 80% of the time and only listening 20% of the time, what are you learning? Probably not much. Imagine if your managers have this information and can explain what it means to employees; this feedback can be used to help employees improve their listening behavior.
Retail businesses could use AI to determine if a customer is willing to purchase the product, seeking support or switching to another provider even before she actually approaches the store. AI might also collect essential data on the customer for the purpose of improving the overall shopping experience. How many businesses have an in-house person that can collect and decipher this invaluable information?
AI should be embraced, not feared. The technology is being used in ways to make our world more secure and allow us to immediately know what is going on around the globe.