Imagine if doctors, nurses, and health care researchers had the ability to interrogate both the healthy and diseased states of a patient’s biology and then use that data to uncover a network of causal relationships between historical, molecular, and other data types to approach treatment or develop the right type of drugs. BERG Health is using this information with a platform that uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to examine disparate sets of data from patient biology and electronic medical records.
“Artificial intelligence has the potential to disrupt many industries, but perhaps most important is its impact on health care, where the unsolved challenge is getting the right treatments to the right patients by utilizing tremendous amounts of experimental and observational data,” says Niven Narain, co-founder, president and CEO of BERG Health. “By comparing individual patient health data to the greater population health data, we can develop prescriptive analytics that can determine what treatments will work best for that patient, while also warning patients of potential side effects.”
AI is a set of complex algorithms and technologies that enables machines, systems and software to make human-like decisions.
“An example of AI that we take for granted in our everyday lives and businesses is the spam filter in our email,” says Alex Moore, CEO of email productivity company Boomerang. “Since the technology has been around for a while, it does not get a lot of attention, but spam filtering uses similar machine learning techniques to the voice assistants and other exciting new applications of AI.”
That’s right – the future of artificial intelligence is happening right now, in ways we don’t even think about anymore because they are so commonplace. And yet, as the artificial intelligence vendors in this piece show, we are still only scratching the surface of AI’s ability. So, what are we seeing as today’s current trends and where is AI heading in the not-so-distant future?
Currently, companies are already automating some of their production lines to the point where they can run unsupervised for several weeks, Accenture CTO Paul Daugherty adds. “While it may seem like a transfer of tasks from people to machines, for these companies, it is a step toward a larger goal of creating the fully self-organizing factory. Here, machines can largely organize themselves, supply chains will automatically link themselves together, and orders will be directly converted into manufacturing information that is incorporated into the production process.”
Virtual assistants and chatbots are another AI trend that we take for granted now. As Daugherty says, “Are you looking for a restaurant nearby? Ask Marsbot, a bot that learns about the types of places you like to go and texts you with suggestions for nearby eateries you might enjoy. Feeling under the weather? Speak with a chatbot named Your MD, powered by an AI engine that guides you to better treatment. You can ask Amazon Alexa to play workout music without having to name exact songs or artists. These experiences are seamless, and advances in machine learning algorithms power better recommendations, and improved speech recognition makes intelligent agents better at understanding the words you are saying.”
“Application of AI will bring in the most disruption in every process that we know of in the enterprise,” says Anant Kale, CEO of AppZen.
Where will we see AI trends in action? According to Kale, in marketing, AI will deliver optimized targeting and messaging, allowing sales departments to engage a prospect with the right product, improving sales efficiency and cutting down sales cycles. Supply chain professionals will be better equipped to optimize the inventory and logistics to make product available at the right time at the least cost. Accounting and finance folks will find AI applications that not only automate many of the manual processes that they do but also achieve better compliance.
Most importantly, expect AI to redefine the workplace. In a positive way, some AI vendors and expert think that AI will improve human productivity and creativity. The technologies available now and in the future will assist human employees to be more efficient and focused, in that AI will be able to detect things quickly that the human eye and brain would need weeks or months to discern. Daugherty also thinks that AI will allow people the freedom to follow their passions and business leaders to make better use of the talents already on their staff. “With the shift in technology, people can move onto higher value roles that will not only increase labor and productivity for the company, but more broadly the economy, while also satisfying their creativity output,” he says.
At the same time, there is concern within the workplace that AI will replace human employees. And the concern is legitimate, says Moore. “Technological waves have always resulted in technology replacing humans in some jobs and tasks, and this one won’t be any different. As machines learn to drive and identify objects without human intervention, there will be less people needed to create the same output.”
However, he adds, that’s a simplified view of the marriage between advancing technologies, including AI, and workers. He agrees with Daugherty that AI will improve worker productivity, and that, historically, has led to new job opportunities, and of course, there will always be situations where AI can’t replace people.
“We will have to figure out as a society how we want to distribute the gains from this increased productivity and how to handle the transitions for workers in industries where AI changes the skillsets that humans need,” Moore states. “That’s an area that, historically, we haven’t always been great at.”
It will be a matter of finding the delicate balance between the benefits of AI and how AI affects end users, in this case employees, says Bruce Orcutt, vice president Product Marketing and Management at ABBYY. “In many cases, the automation and benefits help the existing staff do more, be more efficient, and be more effective instead of having to replace staff,” he adds. “In most cases, our customers find that they benefit from our technologies to focus their staff on more meaningful business deliverables now that many of their previous tasks have been automated.”
The reality is that because of the ways we use technology and the vast amounts of data that technology produces, organizations – and humans – need AI. Expect 2017 to be the coming of the age of AI, especially within enterprise.
“2016 has given us a glimpse of what the possibilities of AI are with Amazon Alexa, Google and Tesla’s autonomous cars,” says Kale. “In 2017, AI application in the enterprise will go mainstream. Business models will be rewritten, some businesses may not exist, while new ones will open up.”
AI applications are possible today because we can combine the unending compute power delivered through the cloud with a majority of humanity’s information that is already digitized and continues to be tracked, captured and stored every second, Kale adds.
“It’s just a matter of time where AI applications are built for every aspect of our life,” he says. “It is truly transformative.”
Sue Marquette Poremba has been writing about network security since 2008. In addition to her coverage of security issues for IT Business Edge, her security articles have been published at various sites such as Forbes, Midsize Insider and Tom's Guide. You can reach Sue via Twitter: @sueporemba