Artificial Intelligence for Small and Medium Sized Businesses

by September 11, 2018 1 comment

Authored By: Vishal Shukla, Senior Director of Artificial Intelligence Solutions, NVXL Technologies

Despite all the hype about Artificial Intelligence (AI), most of the AI technology is still in very early stages of development. Any AI successes are coming from Machine Learning (ML) and Deep Learning (DL) technologies, which are far too expensive and complex, with no direct ROI evidence, for Small and Medium Sized (SM/MS) businesses. However, there are out-of-the-box tools and services, that many SM/MS businesses are currently using (some without even realizing it), and are worthwhile.

What is Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Deep Learning?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a set of technologies, which are used to achieve a single goal – to make machines behave like humans, and achieve tasks, which typically only a human being can accomplish. So far, machines cannot perform cognitive skills, data analysis, language processing and other undertakings at the level of complexity a human being can deliver.

Machine Learning (ML), a significant aspect of AI, uses algorithms to parse data, learn from that data, and make a determination or prediction, so that computers are “trained” to solve a problem like a human being. The best example of ML is computer chess, where the program knows the rules, how to play, and goes through all the steps to complete the game, and records the results. Then the computer replays the game over and over, until the program wins ninety percent of the time.

Deep Learning (DL), a sub-field of ML, goes one more step and structures algorithms in layers to create an “artificial neural network” that continues to learn and make intelligent decisions without significant human interventions.

How Can a SM/MS Business Be an Early Adopter?

To leverage AI technology, a SM/MS business can improve its business functions and profitability by using “off-the-shelf” products. Many SM/MS companies are already using AI tools offered by giant corporations, like Google and Facebook. For example, Google writes in their ad platform literature, “App [ad] campaigns use machine learning to optimize your bids and ads, and market your app to users who have similar characteristics . . . .”

Currently, there are applications that have built some forms of document editor or customer relationship management AI tools into their software, like Salesforce, MailChimp, Microsoft Word. Clare.AI is an example of a plug and play app that SM/MS businesses can use for their online banking services, and uses natural language processing and Machine Learning algorithms to handle a larger volume of customer inquiries without hiring more staff.

The amount of data that must be inputted into a machine to even begin to “think” like a human is beyond the scope of SM/MS businesses (and most Fortune 500s). It would be smart for a SM/MS company to be prepared, and think ahead by making sure that all the company’s data is secure, and on the cloud so that it would be available for future AI technologies.

One Malaysian company, Supahands, is using a hybrid approach, which acknowledges that machines and humans need each other. Their software is positioned between crowdsourcing and freelancer marketplaces providing higher level of curation and quality-control, which some SM/MS businesses are taking advantage of when they hire from an online service like Upwork.

Franchises will be incorporating more AI tools into their future offerings. Small retail stores will be able to use some cutting edge technologies, like Amazon’s AI and specialized camera that is a “grab and go” shopping experience for its customers.

In China, similar futuristic stores, where shoppers choose their items and leave, are being tested. This technology will also help predict store sales for the next day so that a store manager can more accurately decide such things as, how many sandwiches to make to meet customer demands. “We expect to bring the technology to about 200 stores in central China’s Wuhan city in 2018 through our partnership with convenience store chain Today,” said Mr. Liu Yongfeng, senior project manager of Baidu’s Deep Learning platform.

Another possibility of taking advantage of AI would be the smart speaker or home robot. Chinese consumers are early adopters, own 21% of the devices, and another 52% intend to buy one. SM/MS businesses can be innovators for how voice interaction can be used by consumers.

What Off-the-Shelf AI Products are Available Now for SM/MS?

An Intelligent CRM

  • SalesForce has embedded some AI functionality by launching Einstein AI, which allows developers to integrate the AI technology.

An Intelligent Customer Service

  • Digital Genius can suggest or automate answers, classify tickets and messages, and quickly route them to the right person to handle the queries, freeing up an agent’s time to deal with issues only a human can handle.

An Intelligent Ad Service

  • Acquisio manages marketing operations across multiple channels (e.g Adwords, Facebook, Bing), analyzes advertising performance, and makes informed suggestions about the best budget distributions in terms of PPC (pay per click).

An Intelligent Data Security Service

  • Darktrace has an Enterprise Immune System, which detects emerging threats in real time based on its understanding of what is “normal” behavior.

An Intelligent Competitive Intelligence Tool

  • Crayon tracks competitors across different channels (websites, social media, web applications), identifying price changes and subtle modifications in messaging and PR activities, while using its AI capabilities to instantly identify a competitor’s product gap, weakness and strength.

Start Today with the Simplest AI Tools for SM/MS Businesses

  • Consider advertising on Google and Facebook  (if your company is not already advertising on the two major ad platforms), that have Machine Learning capabilities to increase conversions and find more responsive buyers.
  • Use an AI chat bot for improving customer service, check Aivo out (for as low as $100 a month), which can respond in real time with text or voice, optimizing resources, and increasing conversions.

Use Common Sense When Deciding to Purchase an AI Tool!

SM/MS businesses must be conscious of the shiny object syndrome, and not be seduced by all the AI hype. Only use an AI tool that has a proven record in your industry, and actually solves an existing problem, or improves current practices. Be aware that many companies say they are doing AI, and are in fact not. It is important to be aware of what may be coming down the pike, but it will be awhile before you are replacing your staff with machines.

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  1. Jenny
    #1 Jenny 13 February, 2019, 21:39

    Great article and insights … Wondering if the author can suggest ready to use tools here.

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