Artificial Intelligence: Right For The SMB?

If the results of a Google search for ‘small business technology trends’ is any indication, artificial intelligence (AI) is not something that just concerns larger businesses and enterprises. Judging by the sheer number of articles that have been produced over the last several months, it is easy to see why a user might get the impression that SMBs who are not considering (or that aren’t already) investigating possible uses of AI are detrimental to their own success.

For those of you who are unclear as to what exactly artificial intelligence is in the modern business setting, it should be noted that AI isn’t necessarily like traditional notions of Skynet from the Terminator series or Agent Smith from the Matrix. The AI we’re referring to hasn’t shown the ability to operate autonomously or made plans to eliminate humanity… at least not yet.

Rather, today’s version of AI is more of a way that computers can learn and solve problems based on information amassed in an extensive database. For example, AI might be referring to an application's ability to understand human speech, take that audio and use it as data to more accurately predict a future purchase based on that audio, as well as, past purchases, buying behavior, demographics and other data. As the database grows, so improves the AI useable with that data.

  • Machine learning - It means that technology uses data collected over time to make better predictions about what you want. The idea of machine learning is not like human learning. It still requires data to be input in some way. This technology is by no means brand new but it has really taken on a new life in recent times.
    ex. Amazon uses your purchase history and the history of those similar to you to better advertise and recommend you products.
  • Deep learning - Machine learning that is enhanced by additional layers of data to further refine predictions making it more accurate as additional layers are accumulated.

AI Already in Use
Virtual personal assistants, like Apple’s ‘Siri’ and Amazon’s ‘Alexa’, are used by millions of people. The majority of those users haven’t realized that they’re already relying on AI. Asking Siri a question and having her answer is an example of machine learning. With each edition of these VPAs, capabilities and features are improving, expanding AI abilities with each release or update. How about Netflix? The popular film/TV application uses machine learning to try and curate content of media that you’re likely to enjoy.

AI and SMBs
Moving forward, your company will likely be met with inquiries regarding whether or not you’ve considered looking into artificial intelligence to improve operations, better accommodate customers, remain competitive with your peers who are considering AI, or any host of perceived benefits for SMBs. An investigation into AI use for an SMB can be something as simple as thinking of ways to automate processes or service customers better using technology. It’s worth noting, however, that before you can even think about using AI to bring your business to the next level, you’ll want to be cognizant of the fact that without advanced technology to handle it, exploring the use of AI is a moot point.

Software and Application Development
Those SMBs who are curious about possibilities but have neither the time nor budget to consider exploring AI for their own use should consider that their line of business application might already be exploring AI use. Which means that even though your SMB is not going to take any specific steps toward vetting and using AI in your business model, you’ll still reap the benefits of what it has to offer.

Far from the AI of Hollywood science fiction, today’s businesses are continuing to find new and innovative ways to apply AI to business intelligence and growth strategies. While small businesses might not have the capital to form their own AI exploration committee, there are still plenty of ways they can use AI to benefit their company and its clients. Are you interested in experimenting with AI? Connect with us at 216-397-4080 or let us know in the comments below!

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