Do you know your AI from your elbow?

What is Artificial Intelligence

AI or Artificial Intelligence is a field of computer science that involves the use of computers to solve problems using “intelligence.”  The scope of AI is under constant scrutiny. Still, it’s generally agreed to be when a computer program receives inputs from its environment and takes certain actions to maximise its chance of achieving a specific outcome.

What is Artificial Intelligence?

The field of AI has been around since the 1950’s and has evolved in parallel with the evolution of computers.  The breadth of the field today is huge and includes:

  • Machine Learning
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Robotics
  • Automated planning and scheduling
  • Image and speech recognition
  • Artificial general intelligence

The majority of computer software we use at work and home are not ‘intelligent’ because they respond to your actions in a defined way.  What sets AI apart from ordinary software is its ability to demonstrate certain traits like reasoning, perception, problem-solving and planning.  Perhaps the most important and impressive aspect of AI is the ability to learn from past experiences and use that to influence future outcomes.

Everyday AI

Siri, Google Home, and Alexa are the most well known AI-driven tools of today; they hear your voice, unravel the intent in what you’ve said and give back the most appropriate answer.  Face recognition and image analysis is another typical example of AI in action.  Other examples are hotel booking engines, driver-less cars, and social media messaging.  Other less prominent examples also include credit card fraud detection, analysis of medical imaging for tumours and detecting wear and tear in elevators.


There is a multitude of examples of AI being used in the industry.  Some of the most common examples are:

Customer Service

Improve customer service through deep analysis of individual customers’ buying patterns to promote higher yield outcomes.

Efficient merchandise/stock management

Understand the seasonal flow of merchandise and stock and use AI to optimise procurement.

Pricing optimisation

Continually analyse thousands of customer transactions as well as competitive pricing to identify price optimality for all products and services.

Employee retention

Use AI to attract, screen, engage and hire the best employees.

How to put Artificial Intelligence in your business

Any organisation can benefit from AI right now.  Yet, there’s a reluctance in most organisations that prevents them from acting.  In my experience, there’s a belief that AI is complex and will, therefore, be difficult to implement.  Fortunately, it’s very simple.  While the mathematics under the hood is very complex, there is an abundance of tools and software packages that you can use to implement AI without needing to know how it works.  But before you go and spend millions on something like IBM’s Watson, it’s best to scope out a small project that would use AI first.  One that’s small enough not to break the bank or your organisation if it fails but one that has the ability to produce results.