Behind the Buzzword: Artificial Intelligence

By BDO Digital| October 04, 2017

Welcome to our five-part data analytics series: Behind the Buzzword, where we’ll explore common terminology from the data analytic world most frequently popping up in the news today. What do they really mean and how can I apply these new solutions to my business? In this series, we’ll examine the terms Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), Machine Learning, Internet of Things (IoT), Predictive Analytics, and Big Data. We are excited to share our insights and discussing how modern companies are using these solutions to drive business value.

What Is Artificial Intelligence, Really?

Artificial Intelligence, or A.I., is a term that’s been around for years, most popularly within the realm of science fiction. Admit it – when you think “artificial intelligence,” you see robots, right?

What Is AI

Now we’re hearing A.I. in the news and on the tongues of the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and Richard Branson. So, what exactly is artificial intelligence? Are we in for a future of Terminators and Westworld?

Simply put, artificial intelligence is an old branch of computer science software that simulates human decision-making and activities. It mimics "learning" and "problem solving" and activities through advanced algorithms and machine learning.

A.I. has actually been in use for over sixty years, when American computer scientist, John McCarthy, coined the phrase in 1956. Since then, there have been plenty of A.I. technologies all around us – we just may be referring to them with different names. For example, it has been estimated that the average Boeing plane is flown with actual human hands for an average of only seven minutes. That’s because commercial airlines have been using autopilot, a form of A.I., to fly planes for decades. Google Maps uses A.I. technology to trace your travel options depending on up-to-the-minute traffic, construction, and weather. And we’ve all seen how retailers like Amazon and Target seem to magically suggest products in our Facebook feeds and internet sidebars right after we were browsing their sites. Purchase prediction, fraud detection, music suggestions – they all use artificial intelligent technology.

How A.I. Is Impacting Business

As it becomes more mainstream, more and more companies are integrating A.I. technology into the way they do business. Your first thought might be that engineering departments might be the biggest beneficiaries, and while they are utilizing A.I. to detect security intrusions and automate processes, it’s predicted that by 2020 it will be sales, marketing, and customer service sectors that will be the most affected by A.I. Corporate divisions like HR, finance, and strategic planning and development will also be utilizing artificial intelligence technologies more commonly.

Early adopters will have the competitive advantage. There is a clear correlation between investments in artificial intelligence and business impact. Companies that invest more in IT realized an average revenue increase of 16% from A.I. initiatives, as compared to a 5% growth from those that did not. Companies like Uber and Airbnb are leading the way and serving as models for how businesses must embrace digital transformation by investing in IT.

Scope of AI

A.I. Examples in Midwest Businesses

Not everyone has to be an Uber or Google in order to benefit from A.I. BDO Digital's Data Analytic team recently completed a project with a local Chicago hospital which sought to predict heart failures in their patients. Using artificial intelligence technologies, data on individual variables including heartrate, bedside device data allowed doctors to predict which patients showed signs of having heart failure.

We also worked with a financial services firm to predict customer churn. They ended up utilizing A.I. technologies to analyze their massive data sets and trends with their customers allowing them to ultimately make better business decisions on what customers might leave so they can take proactive steps to retain their customers and increase bottom line.

That might not sound as exciting as the humanoid robot war movie coming to a theater near you, but that’s the true reality in virtual reality. If you’d like to learn more about how your business can harness the power of artificial intelligence, contact us to talk – to a live human – today.

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