A 2016 survey by Narrative Science predicted that by 2018, 62 per cent of companies would be using Artificial Intelligence technologies, while analysts at US market researchers Forrester have also forecast that AI will disrupt customer service and sales this year, through chatbots, robotic process automation or virtual assistants. So will you be getting on board?
“Any company can take advantage of AI without any deep technical know-how,” says Dennis Mortensen, CEO and founder of x.ai. His firm, which has raised more than $40m in investment, is one of a new wave of startups building AI systems that can be easily integrated into existing businesses.
x.ai’s technology has two virtual assistants, Amy and Andrew, which can be CC’d on emails and will automatically schedule meetings with contacts. Elsewhere, Polish startup Inhire.io runs an AI-based recruitment tool that ranks applicants on preselected criteria, while Wix has created an “artificial design intelligence” system (Wix ADI) that builds websites.
“Because they’re easy to integrate and support, modern AI solutions can be adopted in hours,” says Peter Cahill, founder and CEO of voice AI platform Voysis. Similar to AI-based home assistants from Google and Amazon, Voysis allows e-commerce businesses to add voice search and purchasing into their existing websites. One AI-based assistant, called Amelia and created by IPsoft, is being used by London’s Enfield Council to help answer questions posed by local residents.
Mortensen predicts that in coming years, using AI-driven tools will be as straightforward as installing an app onto a phone or tablet. This will, inevitably, have productivity benefits for firms. “Done right, AI has the potential to free up employees for more rewarding work,” says Rob Gear, an AI and digital expert at the PA Consulting Group. Handle things badly, however – fail to communicate with employees, or to plan transitions to other jobs – and it could have “detrimental impacts on morale”.
One tip though: Kieran Snyder, the CEO of Textio, a platform that analyses job adverts and provides ways to make them more successful, suggests making sure you see proof the AI works. “Ask the provider or developer what specific, measurable outcome they are promising, and make sure they have reference customers to back up those claims,” he says. And then... leap into the future.