Whether you’re a business owner or simply a consumer of IT applications, you’ve probably already heard the term “Artificial Intelligence” (or AI) as it has become one of the new marketing buzzwords in IT. Vendors are touting the AI features in their products and many of us are uneducated about the real benefits that AI-enabled features give the products. While some benefits can be seen more clearly than others, let’s take a look at how some products can really benefit from adding AI to their feature set, while you consider which ones to add to your solution stack.
AI is sometimes referred to as “Machine Learning” and it’s a term that describes the use of algorithms to allow computers to use trial and error to improve upon previous work and to work toward better (and more accurate) results. Some recent uses of AI employ machine learning to try to identify and catalog objects in pictures. It’s not hard to imagine the mountains of time that could be saved by allowing AI to sort through years of our digital photos and to organize them in ways that make it easier to find the pictures we want to see. Imagine sorting all your digital photos by a place or person. It shows the promising future that AI has the potential to provide for streamlining otherwise mundane human endeavors.
AI really shines when it is given large amounts of data to work with. One of these areas is security. Whether you realized this or not, there are thousands (maybe even millions) of malicious scans on your network every day. Many of these security events are simply “knocks on the door” to see if a vulnerability exists. After all, most of the bad actors out there are more interested in finding easy targets rather than spending a huge amount of time and effort trying to penetrate one specific network. Many security devices (that are used to protect a network) can detect when a bad actor was able to find and exploit a vulnerability. This is usually referred to as “Intrusion Detection”. A downside to this technology today is that there are many “false positives” which are alerts that are incorrectly flagged as legitimate security concerns. AI is being employed to more accurately determine whether a security alert is legitimate. It does this by learning over time which alerts are legitimate and which ones aren’t and training itself to know the difference.
Another security area that is being targeted for AI advancement is the AntiVirus industry. Hopefully your IT staff has outfitted your work computers with the latest A/V software to help protect it against malicious code. The way that this software traditionally works is that it contains a database of harmful code definitions and it continually compares the code on your computer to its own malicious code database. When you scan your computer, the A/V software looks for a match and it quarantines or removes any offending software that matches that found in its database. The downside to this method of employing AI is that it uses a lot of computer resources (slowing your computer down) and it’s only as good as the current definitions included in its database. Newer AI-enabled A/V works differently. It uses AI to prevent malicious code from executing by using a deep neural network which compares millions of data points on the activities of malicious software (without using a local database). It’s a more effective method of preventing malicious software from doing harm to your computer and is an example of how AI is being used to improve virus detection and activity.
From a business perspective, the sales department is an obvious area where virtually every business would like to improve results. Many businesses now use a Customer Relationship Management (or CRM) program to track customer data. CRM provides insight into sales leads and existing customers and allows sales people to cultivate more sales by leveraging the data to identify prospects that are ready to make a purchase. This is a burgeoning AI opportunity as machine learning is employed to help identify which prospects are ‘hot’ so that their efforts can be focused on these prospects rather than wasting time on prospects that are unlikely to buy. Some AI technology is being applied to monitoring conversations between sales staff and customers. Some newer AI programs can take an hour-long phone call and distill it down to a five-minute summary in real-time. This is a huge time-saver for the sales staff.
Another interesting way that AI is being implemented is in “Chat Bots”. Advancements in this technology is making AI a fantastic tool to automate the interaction with visitors to your company’s website. These Chat Bot programs get better over time and can even take the context of a conversation into account to make the interaction with customers very natural. The bottom line is that by making your existing sales team more effective, a business can keep labor costs down and improve the relationship that it has with customers.
While AI continues to evolve, the world of AI is already a reality. Even though an increasing amount of work is now being automated, it doesn’t mean that we will all be out of jobs. It’s important to note that AI is not a replacement for human productivity but a tool to enhance the efficiency of our work. It’s time to consider adding AI to your IT stack where it makes the most business sense and where it can be leveraged to provide the most value to yourself or your organization.