In the mid-1990s, a supercomputer that IBM nicknamed “Deep Blue” played chess, which was, in and of itself, quite remarkable at the time. But when it defeated chess genius Garry Kasparov the feat provided an early glimpse into the capability of artificial intelligence (AI).
A more recent example was demonstrated at Oxford University in 2016, when AI achieved approximately 95 percent accuracy at reading lips. Human experts at lip-reading who performed the same tasks were less than 53 percent accurate.
Today AI has confidently moved from the realm of sci-fi into the mainstream. AI powers business across an increasingly impressive variety of applications and in a wide range of industries.
AI is especially adept at crunching large volumes of analytical data in order to predict when maintenance needs to be performed on sophisticated equipment. Preventative maintenance or repairs are much less expensive – and much safer. Because it can anticipate failure before it occurs, this kind of application is extremely valuable.
Transportation and Delivery
AI is being famously incorporated to enable self-driving cars and trucks. But it can also do a spectacular job of selecting transportation routes for everything from taxicabs to delivery vehicles. Rolls Royce is collaborating with Google to build autonomous ships, too. AI is used, for example, to detect hazardous obstacles in waterways so that ships can safely navigate around them.
UPS navigates on land, to save an estimated $50 million a year, with an AI technology called On-road Integrated Optimization and Navigation (ORION). The system, which pairs AI with GPS, selects optimum delivery routes in real-time. That tool saves the delivery giant approximately 100 million miles and 10 million gallons of fuel per year – while also dramatically reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
Most consumers have had opportunities to interact with AI online during retail shopping excursions, whether they realized it or not. That’s because many e-commerce sites use AI-powered customer service representatives to chat with customers and answer questions.
But AI can go way beyond the presentation of FAQ information, to ascertain the emotional tone of a customer. If the customer is unhappy and the AI system detects that, they can be connected to a human sales rep or supervisor. AI is also used by businesses such as Netflix and Amazon to process aggregated consumer data in order to make more useful and targeted product recommendations to customers.
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Supply Chain Management
Improving supply chain efficiency is another area where businesses are enhancing productivity with the help of AI. The pharmaceutical company Merk, for instance, uses AI to manage inventory and distribution. Although a survey cited by American Express found that less than 20 percent of companies were using supply chain predictive analytics in 2016, that percentage is soon expected to nearly quadruple.
Banking and Finance
Meanwhile, the financial industry is using AI for a variety of purposes. AI can help confirm customer identities in a secure fashion, can automate payment and collection processes, and can detect activity of financial crimes such as money laundering and fraud. A leading financial industry trade publication, International Banker, ran a headline in the summer of 2018 that read “How AI is Disrupting the Banking Industry.”
Indeed, AI is a disruptive innovation that is impacting a growing number of industries, in positive and exciting ways.