Beyond the buzzword, there are plenty of sources promising an AI-powered future that will look like magic: fleets of autonomous cars that never encounter traffic jams or crash, robot doctors that diagnose illness in fraction of seconds, and “intelligent” infrastructure that optimizes flows of people and goods and consistently maintains itself before repairs are ever needed. All that may come—but not in 2018.
Executives think that AI will be crucial for their success: 72% consider it to be the business advantage of the future. The question is: What can it do for me today? And the answer is here.
Elevating human productivity
If AI sounds implausible, what about a tool to perform repetitive and non value adding white-collar tasks, so managers can spend their time on analysis and deriving meaningful strategic outcomes? How about one that detects fraud and increases supply chain resilience to make it more efficient?
This is the value of AI in 2018: probably it won’t create entire new industries (that’s for the next decade), but will surely empower current employees to add more value to their existing tasks. That empowerment is coming in three main ways:
- Automating processes too complex for older technologies and methods
- Identifying trends and patterns in historical data to create business value
- Providing progressive intelligence to strengthen human decisions
Value from mundane tasks
Consider how most companies’ different functions spend a large portion of their time: wading through data coming from ERP, business intelligence, payment processing and other systems. The result is that value-adding analysis is what many professionals only do when they have time left over from their other routine tasks.
Now imagine an AI system examining all the function’s data, capturing trends and anomalies, performing many transactions automatically, and indicating relevant issues for further action. Imagine AI also identifying and explaining credible risks and providing data-driven forecasts to support managers’ analysis and decisions.
It may not be as sexy as a smart city, but this kind of practical AI is ready right now. And it’s often “sneaking in through the backdoor.” PwC‘s recent study has identified use cases where industries will put practical AI to work in 2018: