Photo: This is not a simulation: artificial intelligence for businesses. Credit: Unsplash.
By Álvaro Ballesteros
In 1956, during the Dartmouth conference, the computer scientist John McCarthy coined the term artificial intelligence (AI). 41 years later, in 1997, IBM's supercomputer, christened Deep Blue, would take this concept to new heights by beating the then world chess champion, Gari Kasparov. It was the first demonstration of this technology's potential, which would become a source of all kinds of solutions a little over a decade later.
Today, artificial intelligence is no longer just a concept that feeds research papers and projects: it has made the leap into companies to improve their processes, boost their businesses and create new services that make people's daily lives easier. Why not ask Amazon or Apple how many times their respective voice assistants respond to everyday questions such as "what day is it" or "what's the weather like today".
According to a report prepared by the consulting firm McKinsey, The state of AI in 2021, AI integration in companies continues to rise. The results of the 2021 survey indicate that the adoption of artificial intelligence is steadily increasing: 56% of respondents claim to adopt this technology, for at least one purpose, compared to 50% in 2020".
The figure indicates a positive trend, but many companies are still wondering how they can integrate this technology or whether they have the necessary resources. "Companies should recognize that betting on artificial intelligence is a long-distance race and requires a certain maturity in data management. If you don't have that experience, you will have to carry out an adaptation process," says Laura García, UX Research Manager at Opinno.
AI in business: closing the distance between words and action
Applying artificial intelligence to the structure of any company has numerous advantages. As many applications as there are purposes for the company. However, as García points out, incorporating AI into companies "should not be an end in itself, but a means".
Over the past few years, the application of AI has been refined in a variety of areas, giving rise to use cases that, according to a study by the Harvard Business Review, can be simplified into three types of "real-world" applications.
They are divided into: process automation, obtaining information through data analysis, also known as cognitive insight, and customer and employee engagement, also known as cognitive engagement.
Photo: AI in business: closing the distance between words and action. Credit: Unsplash.
Don't say efficiency, say process automation
Process automation is perhaps the most popular use of AI in companies. Known by its acronym RPA (Robotic Process Automation), companies such as Renfe have already integrated this innovation into their structure.
In the summer of 2021, the rail transport company joined forces with Blue Prism, a company which has developed an RPA system, to improve processes such as issuing invoices and freeing up 19,000 hours of work for its employees.
This is one of the areas of greatest interest for companies. In fact, according to a report by Gartner, 'Forecast Analysis: Robotic Process Automation, Worlwide', investments in RPA will increase by 20% compared to in 2020.
Artificial intelligence to decipher data
Another field where AI is showing its potential is in data analysis. The application of artificial intelligence helps organizations to detect patterns and interpret huge amounts of information, an advance that opens up a whole range of possibilities. In this sense, a goal that unites all kinds of companies, regardless of their purpose, becomes relevant: the fight against fraud.
Within this framework, at the end of 2021, CaixaBank and Revelock, a startup specialized in cybersecurity acquired by Feedzai, created an AI-based solution to reduce fraud in the bank's digital channels. This system makes it possible, as the company said, "to detect activity that could be fraudulent use by cybercriminals".
Even then there are also other sectors where deciphering data can have a positive impact on society. This is where Tartaglia comes to the fore, a project led by GMV together with 15 other organizations, including Opinno, to bring about the humanization of data. The project seeks to harness the advantages of artificial intelligence "to enable training in mathematical models to support decision making", as the company explained. The aim? To contribute to personalized and high-precision medicine.
The big mission: improving employee and customer experience
AI not only allows companies to improve their internal functionalities or enhance the security of their services, but also offers an improved experience for the organizations' own employees, as well as their customers.
In the first case, the example of Lufthansa is a case in point. The German airline joined forces with IBM in 2019 to develop new solutions that use artificial intelligence to enable its staff members to quickly respond to passengers' questions and requests. This will improve its customer service and provide users with faster solutions.
Photo: The big mission: improving employee and customer experience. Credit: Unsplash.
This is also the case for the Spanish footwear company Pikolinos. At the beginning of 2022, the company teamed up with the American company Aextrex. The result? A scanner christened Albert2 that takes more than 40,000 images of the customer's foot in just 20 seconds, thanks to the use of AI, to offer the best fitting models and sizes.
Collaboration with startups, the final push for the leap from AI to enterprises
In the vast majority of cases, the fruit of the application of artificial intelligence in companies is due to the integration of solutions developed by companies specializing in this technology.
This is a prolific field in which a good number of unicorns trot - companies that have a valuation of more than 1 billion dollars before their IPO. Firms specializing in artificial intelligence such as Faire, Scale AI, Afiniti or DeepBlue Technology are some of those included in the list drawn up by CB Insights and which give a good account of the weight that AI has acquired in companies.
Challenges and upcoming AI applications in businesses
Whether in banking, healthcare or entertainment, many of the applications and improvements that were linked to a futuristic vision of artificial intelligence are already having an impact on all types of companies across different sectors. However, their integration still faces several challenges and hurdles, such as the ethical dimension, especially when it comes to handling data.
"It all depends on what purpose you are going to use it for," says Laura Garcia of Opinno, who argues that, in cases like Tartaglia's, it is justified that the use of data is accredited by seeking solutions that can improve people's health through the early detection of pathologies.
To speak of artificial intelligence today is not to speak of an ethereal concept or one that only has visibility in some advanced machine in a dystopian world. "Humans have the curiosity to predict the future. Based on this, the application of AI helps companies save costs, maximize profits or create a positive impact," says Laura Garcia.
In artificial intelligence, the simulation phase has passed; crossing the border to a much simpler and more efficient present is within everyone's reach thanks to this forward-looking technology.