By next year, the number of businesses around the world using artificial intelligence (AI) in some aspect of their operations is expected to increase to 62 percent. Leading this trend are the South African organisations which are adopting smart technologies to not only make their procedures more efficient, but to adapt to the changing landscape of modern business.
Fifteen years ago, the internet and cloud computing changed the face of business, altering how employees work and share data. Now, an analysis carried out by Sage has revealed how business is changing once again, this time with AI.
The age of the internet and cloud computing has made the world smaller, allowing employers to connect with skilled workers all over the globe, with the only restriction being the time difference between countries. This advent of remote working has enabled workers to stay on top of their responsibilities from wherever they are on the planet, or, conversely, allows personnel to attend meetings halfway around the world without enduring the time or money spent on travel.
More recently, software developers around the world, including in South Africa, have begun developing “smart applications” capable of analysing large amounts of data for patterns, interacting with customers, or even suggesting potential business actions.
South Africa is one of the world leaders in developing new and upcoming consultancy software that “learns” business data. In the fraction of the time it would take a human employee, AI applications can scan terabytes of company data to spot patterns and suggest appropriate actions. While it can be difficult for a human to make sense of so much data, an AI can sort relevant information to identify sales patterns, key demographics, or cost-saving strategies.
While companies of all sizes, including hospitals and research centres, can and do use customised versions of these data organization applications, the most commonly used AI of this nature is Facebook’s Insights. Any business running a page on the social media site has Insights running in the background, collecting data on page activity and core demographics, which it then uses to recommend targeted adverts and actions to help page managers maximise user engagement.
Smart applications are not limited to data-driven companies, with even businesses which utilise heavy machinery and manual processes able to benefit. By using sensors to convert information about heat, movement, light or material integrity into electronic data, AI software can improve machinery productivity. With predefined, custom rules, AI can take control of ordering machine maintenance, detect failing parts, and even start and stop individual machines to ensure production is running at maximum efficiency.
Of course, one of the biggest challenges of embracing new technologies into existing business models is enabling the new tech to function on old infrastructure. Many of the more impressive AI applications take advantage of the previous innovation – cloud technology – to analyse more data than ever before.
One such technology is intelligent candidate matching, which are AIs capable of interpreting thousands of online résumés from hundreds of social media websites to find potential employees with the specific skill sets a business requires. These applications can reduce the time it takes from posting a job to sitting down for an interview from days or weeks to potentially hours.
There are even AI writers which can write the job post on behalf of the employer, using input data to mimic style and tone to advertise for a key set of skills and requirements, and then post and monitor the advert to a set of online job listings.
Taking this one step further, chatbots are AI programs which are the latest smart trend to help businesses reduce the number of personnel needed to maintain mundane, repetitive tasks, from answering customer queries on the company website, to managing the company’s accounts. The AI analyses text-based questions from the customer, via a chat messaging system on a PC or phone, scans its databases to find appropriate answers, and then presents it to the human user in a friendly and human-like response.
AI applications are being developed and adopted by South African companies at a rapid rate. Not only are they making businesses more competitive, but more efficient and cost-effective, too.