Artificial Intelligence: Delivering Real Benefit to SMBs
Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology is poised to make sweeping changes in how both large organizations and SMBs run their operations. AI’s potential to improve efficiency got much clearer at Google’s recent developers’ conference, where the company unveiled its new personal assistant software named Duplex. In a video of the demonstration, Duplex, whose voice sounds amazingly human, navigates a complex social interaction with a receptionist to book an appointment at a hair salon.
Does this have implications for small and medium business? Yes, it certainly does. According to the presenter in the Google video, 60% of small businesses don’t have an online booking system in place, which means that appointments are being scheduled by human receptionists. For large companies and organizations that set many appointments in a single day, this process demands serious time and resources. There are a number of other companies that are trying to streamline the appointment setting process with AI, including Google, Microsoft, as well as start-ups like x.ai, which features both male and female assistants (“Amy” and “Andrew”) who will schedule meetings for you based on your schedule, availability, and even your preferences for café or restaurant. Though I haven’t used the x.ai solution myself, the experience is supposedly so realistic that Amy has even been sent gifts from people who think she’s a real person.
This trend toward greater use of AI helpers in customer-facing roles is no small fad. According to a report by Gartner, AI powered “bots” will handle 85% of all customer service interactions by the year 2020. Although that sounds soon, keep in mind that large companies like cosmetic retailer Sephora are already using AI chat-bots to automate the process of booking in-store appointments.
The revolutionary appeal of AI goes far beyond simply scheduling meetings though, and includes a number of applications for a range of very different industries. In the healthcare industry electronic health records (EHR) systems are beginning to benefit from AI systems that reduce documentation and automate time-consuming processes. In one example, leading EHR provider Epic recently signed a deal with AI developer Nuance to integrate its virtual assistant technology into Epic’s HER. According to Nuance, the initiative will have three separate parts, including an AI component to speed the collection of patient information and lab results, another to help nurses interact conversationally with flowsheets to input and confirm patient health information, and a final component aimed at helping patients with disabilities make or cancel appointments.
AI is even having an effect in fields like the construction industry. Though AI systems can’t help pour concrete yet, they can help construction companies automate their materials acquisition processes and trim costs. Project scheduling application ALICE provides these features, while enhancing construction planning by intelligently managing the many variables involved in a construction project with AI. Other companies like Smartvid.io are providing image recognition solutions to identify unsafe employee behavior and improve training programs in the construction field. This exhaustive report on the subject by consulting firm McKinsey & Company explores the possibility for other AI applications in the engineering and construction industry, such as in improving quality control, field productivity, and equipment management processes.
In other fields adjacent to construction, like the property management industry, AI is starting to have an impact too. Zenplace is a property management firm that’s using AI-based solutions to help locate desirable tenants, cost-efficient vendors, as well as to manage and maintain their properties. Zenplace has not only received great attention in the media for its disruptive approach to property management, but investment from major technology companies like Facebook, YouTube and PayPal. Other innovative start-ups like BuildingIQ and PointGrab have developed AI-based applications for the property management industry that help to improve energy efficiency, and improve security. These are no doubt just the beginning of a much longer, deeper adoption of AI into the property management industry.
What I’ve just described is a brief glimpse into the rapidly-growing AI industry. We’re still in the early days of an AI-drive revolution, but the team at Astute Technology Management is very excited to help our clients take maximum advantage of this new generation of AI technology — in all its many forms. If you’re interested in learning how this new breed of AI application can help your company work with greater efficiency, contact us at any time. We’d be happy to help you better understand how AI is shaping your industry so you can take advantage of all the benefits it offers, and get an edge on the competition.