At the Google I/O conference this spring, Google CEO Sundar Pichai noted an important shift in focus, stating, “We’re moving from mobile-first to AI.”Google is not alone. With the artificial intelligence (AI) market expected to be worth more than $16 billion by 2022, companies of all sizes — from novice start-ups to tech behemoths — are quickly looking to jump into the AI arena. While artificial intelligence was once the pinnacle of science fiction novels and blockbuster movies, it is now well on its way to being at the center of our daily lives.
While nobody really knows how long it will be before we see Spielberg-style robotics coming to fruition, AI has already had a significant impact on consumer and business users. From voice recognition applications — think Siri, Alexa, Cortana, or Google Assistant — to predictive search functionality, machine learning algorithms have made great strides to enable technology to react and respond in real-time. In fact, AI technology is advancing so rapidly that early-stage applications, like voice recognition, have started to match (and may soon surpass) human ability.
As computation power increases at an exponential rate, AI will continue to get smarter, enabling applications to automate and complete processes and tasks that were inconceivable even a few years ago. And with this, artificial intelligence has the potential to transform how businesses and individuals interact with data.
Ushering in the Renaissance for BI and Analytics
During the Renaissance, Gutenberg’s printing press revolutionized society. With its ability to quickly and easily disseminate printed information to the masses, the Gutenberg printing press helped spread literacy all throughout society. Today, there is a similar, revolutionary democratization of information and, more importantly, data insight. This revolution is taking place at the intersection of AI, big data, and analytics.
We are now seeing the first glimpses of this revolution through AI voice applications, which make interacting with the digital information as easy as having a conversation. They are now so intuitive, in fact, that even children are using AI applications like Siri and the Echo to tap into a sea of information using only their voices. Whether it’s asking Siri what the weather is today or looking to Alexa to review a company’s revenue figures during a meeting, these voice-enabled AI technologies have made huge strides towards bringing intelligence into the real world, and make insights accessible to the average person wherever they may be.
The impact of AI is appreciated by the consumer, but its impact is perhaps even larger for business. For businesses, the value of uncovering a previously hidden insight is constantly increasing, but the sheer amount of data — the source of those insights — has become overwhelming. AI can make data-driven insights accessible outside of IT and BI departments, helping them move off the desktop and into the real-world where users across an organization can use data to make better business decisions.
Humans (Still) Wanted
Many of the dystopian warnings about AI and robotics making humans obsolete — either by terminating our jobs or our lives — are premature (though far from negligible). To be sure, there is a danger that organizations can find themselves caught up in the hype and lose sight of the true value they are looking to harness from artificial intelligence.
When it comes to big data, AI technologies can create a human connection that brings insights to the masses, especially in the working environment — from HR to sales, marketing, and finance. Making data commonplace within the enterprise — for example, by changing the lighting or images on smart surfaces — can not only improve efficiency, it has the power to inspire new ideas, products, and applications. However, it is critical that organizations ensure that harnessing these technologies enhances (and doesn’t harm) the user.
While certain features, such as reading emails out loud to us as we drive and proposing the best likely response might have a "cool" factor, they don’t bring much value to the user experience or a company’s overall bottom line. Email anxiety is on its way to becoming a real medical diagnosis in the age of data; let’s not worsen it. In seeking out smart AI solutions, companies need to consider the end goal and what value the technology can provide.
The singular futurist and inventor Ray Kurzweil once proclaimed, “Our technology, our machines, is part of our humanity. We created them to extend ourselves…” AI capabilities will continue to get smarter, and there is greater potential to humanize data and to make it relatable to all users. As AI innovation powers the Renaissance for BI and analytics, allowing meaningful data and significant insights to flow freely throughout the enterprise, the possibilities for innovation and creativity are boundless.