Artificial Intelligence (AI) is widely considered to be the future of IT, transforming existing technologies, enabling automation, and creating new processes that will change how we do business forever.
Today, the influence of AI-enabled software and hardware is most obvious in consumer electronics. Voice-activated personal assistants are now ubiquitous in mobile phones, AI is integrating into operating systems, and smart speakers are increasingly commonplace in living rooms and kitchens.
But AI isn’t just a future trend, nor is it limited to the confines of the home. Smart technologies are already being used in the workplace and you might not be aware of it just yet.
Although Gartner says ‘meaningful’ deployments are in their infancy, half of CIOs have plans to implement AI technologies within their business. Advanced AI might include automated processes, self-optimising infrastructure and robotics.
Early uses of AI have tended to involve the use of consumer products in the workplace, some of which are increasingly being adapted for professional use, and through new features implemented by software vendors.
Amazon has been a pioneer in the field of smart voice-activated speakers, billing the Echo range as a way to more easily find information using voice commands and to control the smart home. Although increased competition in the space has seen its control of the market eroded, it’s still a hugely significant player.
And now it has its sights set on the business world with the release of tools that make it easy to use Echo in the workplace. Echo speakers can set up meetings, book conference rooms, report equipment problems, access the company calendar or sales figures, and perform other tasks simply using their voice.
The tools also allow Alexa to integrate with business applications, making it easier to find information and use voice commands like “Alexa, start the meeting,” which would see Alexa switch on video conferencing equipment and initiate the call.
Organisations have already built applications and commands that are compatible with Alexa, such as the ability to order pizza, but the public sector is also getting involved. One English local authority has trialled the use of Alexa to help support people living with severe disabilities.
AI-powered features are increasingly finding their way into enterprise software too. Cortana is an integral part of the Windows 10 operating system, allowing users to search for relevant information on their system and on the web.
There are enterprise-specific features of Cortana as well. These include productivity features for employees as well as integration with Microsoft services like Azure Active Directory, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Power BI. Organisations are even able to create custom demands.
Office 365 has also been boosted by AI features, such as intelligent search. The suite even learns how a user creates documents and presentations so it can issue recommendations that expedite work. Outlook can make suggestions as you type and even tell you when you need to leave for a meeting.
But one of the more intriguing additions is Microsoft MyAnalytics, which summarises how a user spend their time while at work. It offers ways to make more effective use of working hours, such as cancelling unproductive meetings, and when combined with the ability to set goals and make data-driven decisions, employees can develop better habits.
AI is also being used in front-end technologies in areas like search, translation and customer service chatbots, but many of the truly revolutionary aspects will be applied to backend systems. And there is evidence that this is taking place too.
In the future, most organisations will use AI to take automated decisions based on data analysis. But some are already ahead of the curve, using AI to try and spot market trends before making automated transactions. Others, such as over-the-top (OTT) entertainment providers use algorithms to recommend new content to consumers that will ensure they keep subscribing to that service.
AI is also already being used to self-optimise IT infrastructure as it becomes increasingly cloud-based and software-defined. An AI model could choose to allocate more network bandwidth or provision more compute resources depending on demand.
But all of this requires modernised infrastructure and the increased availability of high quality data. Digital Transformation projects will implement the technology and cultural changes necessary to harness the true power of AI.
But it doesn’t mean organisations have to wait to start feeling the benefits. AI might be the future, but it’s the present too.
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