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AI is not as remarkable as it sounds

Paul Rubens | March 17, 2016
Artificial intelligence may be coming to your IT department sooner than you think, but not the way you might imagine.

The same technology could also predict when a target candidate currently working at another organization might start seeking a new job – and make recruiters within the IT department aware of this, Deloitte suggests.

In a business context, AIs could also be used to help formulate tactics – for example working out the optimum amount to bid to acquire another company.

In order to get to work, artificial intelligence systems need data to learn from, and in the past it has been hard to provide them - and data analytics software more generally – with access to the many data silos in a typical organization.

But Mike Gualtieri, a principal analyst at Forrester Research, believes that the trend towards big data applications has largely solved this problem. That's because companies are increasingly creating data lakes in Hadoop – making it for AI systems to access vast amounts of corporate data in one place.

Listening … and learning

AI may also be used to collect data within an organization, using a technique called "machine listening," says Ruben Ortega, CTO at the Seattle-based Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence.  This type of AI technology has already been demonstrated in the consumer market by Amazon's Echo device.

An enterprise machine listening device would record, process and "understand" words spoken during internal meetings and telephone calls. It could subsequently provide answers to factual questions such as "what budget was allocated to the project discussed in the meeting yesterday?"  and perhaps even more predictive queries, such as "how much are our sales likely to increase if we increase our advertising spend as we discussed in the meeting yesterday?"

A particular area where the natural language capabilities of AI is already being used in an enterprise setting is in the form of "virtual assistants" which users can talk to (or interact with using a keyboard). For example, Carrel-Billiard says that a large oil and gas company already uses one to match employees with specific training courses that would suit them from the many that were on offer.

"Sometimes it could be a bit overwhelming for employees to find the right training, so we have replaced training managers with a virtual agent," he says.

Fred Brown, CEO of Next IT, a virtual assistant software vendor, believes that this application of artificial intelligence within an organization is likely to be successful for a number of reasons. Firstly it provides accurate information and doesn't overlook or forget things. Secondly, it can be cheaper than employing an expert to help people get information they can't find. "Lower costs is what everyone is looking for," he points out.

And increasingly, he believes, people expect and are happy to interact with a machine rather than another human being. In fact they may prefer that, he says. "Sometimes interacting with another person doesn't feel right – there is a growing preference in society for people to go to a self-service channel."


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