2017: The year of true AI

Posted: 10 January 2017 | By Darcie Thompson-Fields

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have undoubtedly been the driving topics of 2016.

Its uses have infiltrated almost every sector and with headlines dominated by concerns that robots will ‘steal our jobs’, it seems that ‘AI anxiety’ is front of mind for many.

We have already seen AI overhaul the automotive industry with self-driving cars and homes with connected devices.

In 2017 we should expect to see AI being used across all walks of life to automate roles and crunch down on time-consuming tasks. Rather than seeing AI as a threat, it should be embraced as a tool that will inspire and enable human potential rather than replace it.

One of the issues that occurs when technology reaches the mainstream is a confusion about how it is defined. This isn’t helped by businesses jumping on the bandwagon and tacking ‘AI’ onto products, when it isn’t in reality ‘true AI’.

There is also a confusion about the difference between AI and machine learning, which is why many are sceptical about how it can enhance our daily lives, especially in the workplace. The concept of AI is based on machines carrying out tasks in a ‘smart’ way, whereas machine learning is defined as being an application of AI that gives machines access to data and enables them to learn for themselves.

In 2017, we will see AI taking on our mundane daily tasks, allowing to us to excel in more meaningful jobs, ultimately giving us more time to think creatively. Yet the human element will remain crucuial and we will instead pick up where machines leave off to complete a task efficiently and successfully.

The sales industry isn’t exempt from this and is one of the sectors AI is set to disrupt in the coming years. As far as sales is concerned, an amalgamation of predictive analytics and big data means that outreach will become noticeably more targeted, successful and efficient. Historical data can provide valuable insights into potential sales opportunities right down to when best to approach a potential lead. The more we data we gather, the more accurate we can become.

In essence, for the sales sector AI and the crunching of data will help employees to perform better. Gone are the days of unsolicited outreach. The application of science and data will enable employees to rule out cold leads, making way for legitimate prospects only. Human interaction is still crucial for sales. Customers expect and respond better to personalised and curated exchanges with companies rather than generic outreach that hasn’t considered the individual’s needs and requirements.

In recent years we have seen B2C pave the way with AI, using customer behaviour and data to personalise daily life. Our mobile phones know where we work and how best to get there, when the busiest times at restaurants are and can recommend a fitness programme based on our daily movements. In the coming years we can expect to see B2B businesses benefit from AI as more customer information becomes available to automate and streamline roles.

The growth of platforms like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics means there is a lot on the horizon for businesses and AI. Yet AI is at its best when there is a large pool of data to dive into. Established players who have been gathering data for years will yield the best results, enabling smarter and more efficient ways of working.