AI: what is it really, and how can it help my business?

AI is a technology that is being used more and more in many parts of our daily lives, but there’s some confusion about what it really is. Join the Esme team as we explore the different parts of AI, and how they can be used to help your business succeed.
AI: what is it really, and how can it help my business?

AI – what is it really, and how can AI help my business?

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It’s predicted that investment in Artificial Intelligence (AI) will grow from $1 billion in 2018 to $17.2 billion by 2025 in the global manufacturing market alone. But what is AI really? How can AI be used in business? And what about it could cause such an explosive growth in spend?

What is AI?

AI is widely considered to be a huge, critical part of the next technology revolution, and when you look at what it can do and how AI is already changing business, it’s easy to see how it has the potential to be just that.

In one sentence, AI is machines or software programs behaving as if they had human intelligence. To dig a bit deeper, this can be split down into two broad categories; Automation and Machine Learning.

AI Automation

Automation is usually the first thing that springs to mind when you think about AI - Robots in factories performing incredible feats of precision engineering beyond the capability of humans. But in reality, these robots are not as smart as you might think.

While it’s true they may be far more effective in performing these tasks than humans, what they’re doing does not use much ‘thinking’. Instead, they are using defined instructions to carry out repetitive, albeit intricate, manual tasks. This is a part of AI, but it’s not the whole story.

AI Machine Learning

Machine learning is exactly what it sounds like, the ability to learn from experience (just like humans) and improve the way the program carries out tasks. It is machine learning which can be used to improve decision making and response to real-time information.

In the example of robots in a factory, applying machine learning means that, Instead of being restricted to a single repeating task in one area, they could move around the factory floor and sense and react to people and obstacles in their path.

How can AI help my business?

Embedding AI and machine learning can help businesses in a number of ways. Read on to find out how to use AI in business.

Boost Productivity and Increase efficiency

The factory isn’t the only place where automation can boost productivity and increase efficiency. Across almost all businesses, using automation can cut the time and effort needed for the most boring and time-consuming processes. Software that can do this is frequently offered as part of software-as-a-service (SaaS) packages and works using Robotic Process Automation (RPA), which automates menial and repetitive data entry and analysis tasks.

Examples of RPA at work range from collecting sales information to chatbots answering phones and online queries.

Transform supply chains

We’ve already looked at using AI in software and hardware, but to be truly AI ready, you could also put an internet-enabled sensor on almost everything. This is the industrial Internet of Things (IoT), which will use connected sensors to gather huge reams of data and process it for new business insights.

We can already see this happening in supply chain management. In fact, according to a McKinsey report on “Supply Chain 4.0”, the potential impact in the next two to three years is huge - up to 30% lower operational costs and a reduction of 75% in lost sales. IoT sensors are expected to ramp up agility in supply chain while decreasing inventories by up to 75%.

Reduce Costs

While investment in any technology costs money, AI doesn’t have to cost the earth and the benefits could outweigh the money spent. Taking the example of RPA, this can be featured in SaaS packages, making it a potentially (very) cost-effective option.

The as-a-service model is also being adopted in other areas of AI too, offering a potentially (much) more cost-effective option than buying your own AI systems. For example, Robotics-as-a-service (RaaS), which combines AI, cloud computing and shared services, is being touted as the business model of the future. According to a McKinsey report, this type of intelligent automation could increase output by 20%, using AI to manage supply chains can lower operational costs by 30% and reduce lost sales by up to 65%.

Looking at those figures, it is difficult to challenge the value of AI, and it is encouraging to anyone who is looking to implement AI in their own business right now.

The future of AI in business is bright, but emerging technologies don’t stop at AI. For more information about technologies like Augmented Reality (AR) and specialised software, including AR and AI tools for small businesses - head over to our blog.

How can Esme help?

AI business solutions are becoming widely available to small businesses so if you’re considering in investing in new technologies such as AI, Esme could help. We provide unsecured loans to businesses from £10,000* to £250,000 over a one to five year repayment period. Just fill out our 10 minute application form, or get an instant quote.

*From £25,500 for sole traders.