By now, everyone has heard of artificial intelligence: It populates our Facebook feeds and powers the virtual assistants we keep around our homes, including Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. Perhaps you found this article through a Google search or a news aggregator app, which is also powered by AI. The average consumer interacts with AI multiple times every day — despite a HubSpot survey that indicates that 63% of consumers don’t even realize they have used AI — but not everyone understands the full impact the technology will ultimately have on our economy.
The founders of up-and-coming AI startups are poised to build multibillion-dollar enterprises. In fact, the immense value of AI technology is likely to spawn the world’s first trillion-dollar companies — a feat that tech giants like Amazon, Apple and Alibaba are racing to achieve. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, AI is expected to be a $15.7 trillion industry by 2030. This includes everything from workforce automation to in-home smart assistants to new uses that haven’t even hit the market yet.
The AI revolution is coming, and businesses that are prepared for it have huge potential to grow.
The disruptive duo of AI and IoT
Although it certainly is revolutionary, AI technology has existed for more than 60 years. The technology itself wasn’t particularly well-received for decades, as it was stunted by the lack of available computing power and necessary data sets to build out its systems.
What makes today’s AI technology so unique — and what puts the AI industry at an economic tipping point — is its ability to use modern computing power to process the 2.5 quintillion bytes of data society generates every day. The integration of developer stacks on mobile device platforms, like iOS and Android, and personal assistants, like Alexa and Siri, have propelled a generation of startups with innovative ways to resolve age-old problems using AI.
Soon, AI will be able to run complex algorithms on the reams of data provided from fully integrated IoT systems. With IoT embedded on a city level, AI vehicles and municipal services like streetlights and traffic signals can communicate with each other and make decisions based on billions of computations per second. For example, a factory equipped with integrated IoT devices will be able to use AI to automate individual tasks and automate management-level production decisions.
You’re probably starting to get the idea: AI is a disruptive technology on a scale larger than anything we’ve seen before. However, the path forward is not without its share of obstacles.
The implications of AI
As with any truly disruptive technology, AI will displace workers across the value chain. Hundreds of thousands of freelancers prospering from the sharing economy will lose their contracting gigs as autonomous cars replace drivers at Uber and Lyft. Millions of customer service reps across the globe will also have their jobs supplanted by computerized chatbots. Imagine the day when you talk to a computer system that sounds like a real human, expertly engineered to quickly and cheaply solve your pain points.
In the near future, employee value will come from how well workers can complement their businesses’ AI strategies. Businesses will need to adopt this technology to remain relevant, and that will require a reimagining of how companies are built.
Here are four steps business leaders can take to prepare for the AI revolution to come:
- Analyze gaps and pain points. Before making any big changes, consult with a team of AI experts and developers to determine how AI can add value to your existing business. If your company relies heavily on distribution, for example, AI could optimize routes, better track packages and refine your supply chain.
- Create a prototype first. Test, test, test: Test your assumptions on a test model in a test environment. It’s important to pivot in business, but you also have to be cognizant of the potential consequences of a pivot. AI could cannibalize portions of your business in the short term, but the technology will be necessary for long-term survival.
- Collect as much data as possible. AI is only as good as the data that you feed into it. This is where integrating AI with IoT becomes crucial. As the two technologies grow together, they will continue to make each other more useful. Eventually, AI will be able to compute and organize data from IoT devices on a scale that’s impossible for humans to replicate.
- Be ready to fail and try again. A pilot project could fail to live up to its promise. If (or when) this happens, it’s important to learn from your mistakes by setting up a post-mortem analysis and finding takeaways you can use in the future. Businesses experience routine failures, but there are innovation incubators around the country, so there are always new tech opportunities coming down the pipeline.
AI is creating a new power balance between ourselves and the devices we use on a daily basis. It will not be long before we meet new billionaires sprouting from the AI and IoT communities as the technology advances and generates mountains of useful data. The future holds plenty of opportunities for companies that are literate in these technologies; those that aren’t will face more and more challenges.
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