Earlier this year, a US-based company introduced a mobile app for buying and selling cars. Customers are asked to click an image of their vehicle’s rear end. Within moments of uploading the image, the car’s year, make and model, and the resale value are identified. That done, offering the car, or seeking refinancing and insurance is well, a smooth ride. The technology behind all this does seem like magic.
A company that’s in the business of monitoring sales and customer service phone calls uses the same technology to turn the talk into text. It then scans the words in real time for keywords and patterns to predict whether a company is headed for the desired outcome — a new sale, a satisfied customer.
Today, as the world stands at the cusp of the Information age and the era of Connected Intelligence, meet the technology that has sparked off the fourth industrial revolution – Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI technologies are largely designed to help humans work better – first, by generating insight from data more quickly and accurately than is humanly possible and second, by acting automatically on that insight.
Artificial Intelligence: The new normal in technology
Not so long ago, AI was merely a “one day” conversation that came alive in sci-fi novels and movies. The idea of an artificial being with human-like consciousness can be traced back to tales of mechanical men from Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ to, more recently, author-scientist Isaac Asimov’s ‘Three Laws of Robotics’. AI has indeed come a long way, and it has already triggered the most transformative revolution ever. Not surprisingly, Artificial Intelligence features in Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2017. And the unprecedented pace of the current breakthroughs is disrupting almost every industry in every country, making a potent tool to create business value. A Forrester study reveals that by 2019, AI will impact 25% of jobs in some way or the other. Reason enough for future-driven companies to sit up and take notice.
The exponential rise of this technology can be attributed to 3 key factors:
• The emergence of smarter, modern-day algorithms
• Easy access to a huge volume of data because of increased mobile usage, connected devices and sensors
• Cloud enabling cheaper and easier access to large scale compute power and bigger storage
Augmenting what’s humanly possible
With new developments in technology, and the emergence of buzzwords like cognitive computing, machine learning and VR, merging human interactions with AI seems to be a possible solution for managing customers’ needs. For instance, Google’s search engine uses thousands of human ‘raters’ to assess the quality of its AI-driven search results. Facebook’s facial recognition software asks people to label their photos to improve accuracy. Deep Learning, a branch of AI responsible for recent breakthroughs in speech recognition, language translation, and image analysis, may involve extensive human training on hand-picked data sets. A notable example of Augmented Intelligence is well encapsulated in Gary Kasporov’s new book, Deep Thinking: Where Machine Intelligence Ends And Human Creativity Begins. His research has proven that the combination of human and machine teams are far more enhanced than machine only team in chess. According to a research by Colombia Univeristy, AI is still fairly new and is as accurate as the data it feeds on. An AI system would identify that patients with pneumonia were at higher risk of death, and had to be admitted to the hospital. The machine algorithm, recognized that patients with asthma were at a lower risk. It did not realize that because of history they were being rushed to the ER. Hence, there can be chances of misinterpretation. Human intelligence continues to be an irreplaceable and a vital component in healthcare.
Therefore, the goal of AI shouldn’t be to replace human interaction, but to improve human interaction and take human capabilities to the next level. In this scenario, the best way organizations can equip themselves for the accelerating onslaught of AI and machine learning systems is to learn to partner with them.
AI in the era of Connected Intelligence: The business perspective
As more data is collected and wrangled, as algorithms become smarter and computing power increases, so will the power and success of AI. Artificial Intelligence leverages self-learning systems by using tools like data mining, pattern recognition and natural language processing. So what are its key business advantages over human intelligence? It’s highly scalable, resulting in phenomenal cost savings. Besides, AI's consistency and rule-based programs allow enterprises to minimize their errors. Its longevity, coupled with continuous improvements and its ability to document processes translate into rewarding business opportunities.
For instance, machine learning solutions allowed us to build a single customer view utilizing integrated commerce, analytics, IoT and social data for a CPG and home appliance brand. This resulted in an unmatched consumer experience through personalized, hyper-targeted marketing that boosted the RoI of the brand’s campaigns.
AI solutions can be further classified in 3 broad categories:
Eradicates banal tasks: AI liberates employees from repetitive knowledge tasks that require little cognitive effort beyond ‘common sense’, to drive both cost savings and accuracy. RPA (Robotic process automation) can drive operational ROI by automating several repeatable processes for large enterprises.
Amplifies human intelligence: AI enhances the intelligence of humans by providing contextual knowledge and support, to help customers and employees perform tasks in a simpler, more effective way.
Automates insight generation: AI extracts previously unknown insights from structured and unstructured data automatically, to identify and act on recommendations for an improved competitive advantage. It could play a key role in churn prediction for companies wary of losing customers. AI helps them identify unhappy customers early on and give them a chance to offer incentives to continue the relationship. In fact, many companies leverage machine learning for the automated identification of unhappy customers, or customer churn prediction. Deploying this technology, we dug into their enterprise data and customer behavior data of a home security company and identified customer potential churn for them with 70% accuracy.
How AI is transforming the business landscape in India
Indian companies across diverse sectors such as healthcare, education, auto, banking and retail are increasingly tapping into the potential of Artificial Intelligence to transform their businesses. Take for example, ICICI Bank, which has been experimenting with robotics and AI. Its Email bot sorts out customer and distributor emails on the status of transactions and other similar things, and has helped the bank cut its customer response time.
Most big e-tailers like Amazon India are exploring Artificial Intelligence solutions to reduce costs and overheads, and also to make their platform far more superior, intuitive and smart. For instance, AI is capable of learning the latest fashion trends by analyzing customers’ social media feeds. Based on that analysis, it can assist e-commerce companies in incorporating those trends while showing their results and recommendations.
AI can help such companies decode patterns in their customers’ online behavior and predict the probability of a product return. Most of them are resorting to Customer Segmentation – leveraging customer data to create specific clusters of customers with shared attributes. This allows them to boost customer loyalty by creating more personalized, relevant marketing messages. Players like Flipkart and Delhivery have already adopted this approach to effectively gauge the customer’s propensity to return a product, resulting in cost optimization. Furthermore, it helps draw insights in customer segmental, vendor reputation index and logistics optimization.
Recently a Chennai based bank launched India’s first banking Robot. The artificially intelligence powered robot promptly responds to questions related to account balance, interest rates on home loans and projects sensitive financial information on its screen.
So what’s next?
We have come a long way since the first industrial revolution…From horse-drawn carts to self-driving cars. From navigating by the stars to relying on voice-activated GPS instructions. From penning letters to a beloved to having awkward conversations with Siri. This is the age of Connected Intelligence, defined and driven by extreme automation and ubiquitous connectivity. And the fourth industrial revolution is gathering momentum faster than you can say ‘AI’.
Early last year, Google CEO Sundar Pichai predicted that we will move from a mobile-first to an AI-first world. Data is the oil that powers AI. Brands identify and own valuable data no one else can to lay their claim to. Mature organizations create or generate data where none exists. For example, a renowned ecommerce firm invested in research to collect data without the fear of losing it’s capital spending. They understood that the ROI will help them monetize data and insights to deliver a better customer experience.
When combined and designed with the consumer in mind, AI technologies can deliver solutions that drive customer loyalty, engagement, consumption, and satisfaction. And the faster today’s companies wake up to the real potential of AI, the better.
-By Prashant Mehta, Group Vice President, Global Service Line Lead – Systems Integration & Data, SapientRazorfish
The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.
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