Although it might seem like artificial intelligence (AI) is a hot new trend, this technology has existed since at least the Cold War era of the 1950s. The computer giant of the time, International Business Machines (IBM), used AI to translate Russian language into English. Advances in AI have continued since this early time, going through many boom and boost cycles that industry insiders refer to as an AI Winter.

Expert systems and micro-world were some of the ways that people used AI in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, of course, numerous organizations around the world use AI. By understanding its evolution, you can develop new and improved solutions and services for your clients and business partners.

The latter half of this decade has ushered in another cycle of hype. However, three distinct factors make this cycle different than others. These include:

  • Breakthroughs and advancements in machine learning
  • Computational power
  • More data available for training models

Because of this progress, both start-up and well-established organizations have invested heavily in AI technology. This means that AI is becoming a part of everyday life in the United States and many other developed countries. As a small business leader, it’s important for you to understand the implications of these changes. By implementing AI yourself as well as the tasks you can streamline with AI your business will definitely reap the benefits.

Understanding Machine Learning

Machine learning is a specific technique of AI that encourages computers and other machines to behave with the mindset of a human. It uses deep learning, a type of algorithm that structures its data based on modeling of a human brain. Both technologies are making significant progress.

Data includes both quality and quantity and it continues to evolve over time. With so many datasets now available, models for deep learning have become much more reliable and sophisticated. That leaves developers to focus on computing power. According to Moore’s Law, it takes an average of 18 months to double computing power. That means small business leaders today can access cheaper and more powerful processing capacity to assist with implementing AI solutions and training models of deep learning. Even better, the cost to develop and implement AI keeps decreasing as it becomes more mainstream.

The ability to access tools and skills presents companies trying to innovate with a big opportunity to do so. The results of a recent research study by McKinsey determined that it’s possible to automate nearly half of work activities that people perform today. Machine learning could accommodate a full 80 percent of these changes. One area where this will become evident is the interaction between systems, APIs, and computers. Algorithms can help to reduce production costs while increasing revenue. The next logical step from there would be to look at customer-facing interactions and touch points.

How AI Has Affected Various Areas of Business

AI has enabled many companies to improve the customer experience by implementing chatbots. These virtual customer service representatives help to decrease costs while offering a more personalized and tailored experience to customers at the same time.

Hiring is another area where AI has shown great promise because it helps to automate and streamline the process so managers can make better hiring decisions. Its applications utilize the techniques of natural language processing (NLP) to increase the quality of new employees it chooses from an applicant pool. With these AI solutions in place, it’s easier to analyze the profile information and responses of applicants to determine who will make the best fit. This technology can analyze an applicant’s emotional make-up as well as his or her technical skills when selecting the best candidates for the job.

Many people don’t associate AI with training employees. However, it can greatly facilitate work when used correctly. Some of the functions that AI can perform in this area include training, coaching, and improved sales forecasting. Some companies even report a 50 percent increase in sales just by having its sales team use chatbots. The chatbots coached salespeople by proving the information, conversations, and groups of words that help to close more sales.

The infrastructure and data to operate artificial intelligence and the power of algorithms has improved dramatically in the last several years. Even more exciting is that costs go down as capabilities go up and that small businesses can take advantage of AI just as large business do.

One of your most important tasks as a small business owner is to understand how AI impacts your organization and industry. It’s nothing to fear since it can automate work, tasks, and processes to free up you and your employees to focus on more important matters. Call Sumo would love to show you what a difference AI can make for your small business.