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Intelligent Computers for an Intelligent Workforce

Since the late John McCarthy coined the term artificial intelligence (AI) in 1955, AI has taken on several different forms, many of which we are likely to have encountered, or even used, without even thinking or knowing about it. Driven by the mobility and massive computing power we have with our smart devices, along with the sheer scale and impact of cloud computing and big data, AI is going mainstream. By Steve Mason, Vice President, EMEA, ClickSoftware talks here about a world on the brink of change.

Siri and Google Now are services that most of us are aware of. But are these appreciated as a form of AI in itself? It’s interesting to see that while we are beginning to embrace AI more and more, in truth, we have only just started to scratch the surface of what actually can be accomplished with it, including major efficiencies for businesses and workers, and a more pleasant and easier experience for consumers.

The potential uses of AI has been around for many years and only now as it is being widely used by consumers, employees and business to make your everyday decisions and tasks easier, can we see the bigger potential turning into reality. Smart devices, which are fast becoming the route to market for AI products, are everyday pieces of equipment for most workers, meaning businesses have an instant ability to adopt an AI policy which can their organisation and staff.

Although AI is about making your business more intelligent and efficient, we’re still a century away from AI replicating the functions of a human brain. For now, it’s like having your very own personal assistant, predicting what you need and making sure it is done.

The average number of sick days in the UK in 2013 is predicted to be over 9 days, costing businesses £28 billion. However, with AI, if a supervisor or manager receives a sick notification, it will instantly provide recommendations for employee replacements for a shift, based on lowest cost and matching skills before the manager even arrive at work, saving the business time and money. For example, in a telecoms call centre this would mean that call lines aren’t left unattended, jobs aren’t missed, money can be saved, and customers are left satisfied and continue to have faith in your business. This is where AI is becoming far more sophisticated, and where future AI in business will take off.

There are many solutions providers who are leveraging the context of peoples’ everyday lives (location, weather, daily activities, work schedule, kids schedule, best places to eat, the list is endless) to make intelligent recommendations – and the ability to execute them for you.

One key area for growing a successful businesses is planning, and companies that add AI to their systems can significantly improve this and reduce the burden on staff to do things they simply shouldn’t have to spend time doing, such as timesheets or data entry. Take a telecoms engineer for instance, whose typical day may involve 15 jobs for which he or she needs to navigate 15 addresses, prepare the tools and parts they need to do the job and the phone numbers for the people being visited. Suddenly you begin to appreciate all of the work that needs to be done before the engineer even starts fixing the fault. With AI all of these tasks can be eliminated with the swipe of a finger. The telecoms engineer will have everything automated, leaving them to complete the task at hand, and with everything ready, he or she can move swiftly onto the next job.

AI also has a significant impact on the customer. If the telecoms engineer is running late, the back office systems or engineer is able to communicate in real-time with the customer on the estimated time of arrival. This means the customer will have up-to-the-minute information and can plan their day accordingly, without having to wait around.

However, AI is not completely faultless yet. Inevitably, there are one or two ghosts in the machine that crop up from time to time. But given the technology is relatively new, that can only be expected. So building in an acceptance of this is important. Though the good thing about AI is that the more it is used, the more sophisticated it will become, decreasing the likelihood of a rogue mistake occurring.

AI has come on leaps and bounds, propelled by the saturation of smart devices. As the hardware gets more powerful, it stands to reason that the software supporting it follows suit. Smart devices are the key to unlocking the potential of AI and with the limited use of it already, we can only expect a steep incline of its use in both our professional and personal lives.

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine
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