On May 3rd, 1978, a man named Gary Thuerk sent the first email spam to 400 recipients inviting them to an open house to showcase a product which (supposedly) resulted in generating $12 million in new sales. But this also led to filing of complaints by a lot of people for the intrusive email.
That was then.
Now, with the onset of AI & Machine Learning, things have changed for the marketeer as well as the consumer. Email providers like Google can easily filter spam and phishing email with 99.9% accuracy, and consumers no longer have to filter intrusive messages.
Artificial Intelligence is now so interminably entwined with our lives that we don’t realize it anymore – from a task as simple as spam filter in our emails to “suggestions” on Netflix or even the news – it’s all driven by AI.
Here’s a look at some top examples of how AI is impacting our daily lives:
Social media – be careful what you wish for, or think about
We’re now all too familiar with the algorithms that have come to rule (and dictate) our choices. Be it the advertisements on your social media timelines (magically about the products that you were just thinking of buying), or a range of films you may “like” to watch – it’s all AI at work. Your clicks, your browsing history and even your voice is being documented and being regurgitated in various forms and shown to you on your social channels (ever wondered how Google auto fills a question in search just after you’ve spoken about it?)
It’s all being watched and stored away with the astute help of AI.
Smartphones and AI
One of the reasons why smartphones have become indispensable is because the user experience has been enhanced with the help of an AI interface. Starting from the built-in smart assistants like Google Assistants or Siri, to AI based portrait modes in phone cameras, AI has made modern technology more accessible for everybody. The bright side (and there are many) is that AI and Machine Learning have simplified our lives by making it easier for us to get information.
Then there’s the ease of entertainment
It only takes a couple of playlists for video streamers like YouTube to pool in video recommendations similar to your taste. And it gets sharper with time, as the apps get deeper insights into your tastes. The same is true for music listening apps – your recommendations are often what you wanted, but just didn’t know it!
A look at industry-wise applications and trends
Simplifying the work and lives of doctors and patients alike, AI has saved time, energy and cost by performing tasks in less time and in a fraction of the cost. Most importantly, AI has helped save lives by reducing errors, developing new technologies (and even medicines) and assisting in surgery, to name a few. The impact is evident – AI has helped reduce tedious back-office admin work, helped save lives with better diagnoses and recommendations for treatment. And this is just the beginning – AI is honing its skills as we speak (and as more data becomes available).
According to a recent McKinsey report, AI has impacted six primary areas in healthcare.
Here’s a look at few of ways in which AI technology is helping the healthcare sector:
- Buoy Health: It is an intelligent symptom checker used to diagnose and treat illness. Buoy AI listens to a patient’s symptoms and based on its diagnosis, it guides the patient to the rightful care. Harvard Medical School is among the many hospitals and healthcare providers using Buoy’s AI.
- BERG Health: This is one biotech platform for discovery and development of breakthrough medicines. Its specialty is to develop medicines/product that can fight rare diseases by using traditional R&D and Interrogative Biology.
The challenge, of course, is how to get the whole human-machine collaboration right in healthcare. It’s not one or the other – both machines and humans need to leverage their skills that best benefit healthcare. And this is where a lot of work still needs to be done,
The agriculture sector, much like healthcare, has also been greatly enhanced by AI – from simplifying labour force to maximizing output or harvest with the aid of AI-based equipment – the impact is evident. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, sensors, drones and robots are helping farmers to grow their crops more sustainably.
As the global population grows, the demand for agricultural products has increased exponentially. Many countries are witnessing increased demands for food products. And because there’s an urgent need to cater to the needs of this increasing population, the agriculture industry is innovating and using advanced technologies, like artificial intelligence to increase efficiency and productivity.
Thus the global AI in agriculture market is projected to see significant growth. One great example (that is helping farmers) is monitoring of live-stock in real-time – AI technology is providing solutions that help monitor the behavioural aspects of animals.
Additionally, AI is enabling farmers to monitor water and food intake of livestock. According to a recent research titled – AI in Agriculture Market Research Report: By Type, Technology, Application – Global Industry Analysis and Growth Forecast to 2030 – the global AI in agriculture market is poised to generate revenue of $8,379.5 million (going up from $852.2 million).
That’s a substantial rise and is indicative of the trend that is redefining the industry.
Here’s a look at a few ways in which AI is revolutionising agriculture:
- Plantix, PEAT: It is a crop and soil health monitoring software application where potential/possible defects and nutrient deficiencies in soil are identified through images (captured on the smartphone). The user is then provided with tips and techniques to deal with the identified problem.
- Farmshots: It is an AI powered satellite monitoring software to monitor crop health and sustainability. It is designed to analyse agricultural data from images captured by satellites and drones with a focus to detect – diseases, pests, and poor plant nutrition.
According to a survey conducted by Tractica – a market intelligence firm that focuses on human interaction with technology – revenue of AI in e-commerce is expected to reach $36.8 billion worldwide by 2025. From understanding customer behaviour to improving warehouse-related issues, AI has revolutionised the e-commerce industry.
Since consumer sentiment has a lot to do with consumer spending, AI is plugging into this and listening intently. As a result, brands are not only able to fine tune their products based on consumer feedback, but are also consciously working to better buying experiences for a tech-savvy consumer. E-commerce, thus, is irreversibly changing the brand-customer engagement experience.
AI-driven automation is a case in point.
Amazon, for instance, uses extremely sophisticated shopping recommendations based on some super smart algorithms. The company also uses AI to drive prices dynamically – i.e. costs get reduced to get more sales when needed, while prices increase as demands go up. This algorithm ensures maximum sales and drives revenue automatically. That’s AI for you.
Then there’s IMB’s Watson that’s doing its bit in transforming the e-commerce customer experience. Brands are using this (and other such AI solutions) to fine tune customer experience and provide them with the best options. The North Face, a large e-Commerce retailer, for instance is using AI to provide better customer experiences. The brand uses IBM’s Watson to help shoppers find their jackets. Using voice AI technology, the customers are asked questions about product usage (when or where they’d be using the jackets). This information is then used to scans the inventory and find the perfect piece. It’s one (but telling) example of how AI is making deep inroads into the e-commerce (and retail) shopping.
Also, chatbots and visual search are making online shopping easier too. Apart from getting any queries, chatbots are also being used to make product recommendations and personalise your shopping experience by using AI to understand the user behaviour.
Also, to make searches easier, e-Commerce now uses AI-based visual search technology where real-world images are used for online searches, which then come up with the most relevant results. Here’s an example. Say you’re looking to buy an outfit work by someone, but just can’t describe it in the right keywords. Here’s where visual search combined with indexed images can do the job. This feature alone has increased the level of engagement of customers with e-commerce platforms. AI, again, is able to index and search hundreds of products and get results quickly.
AI plays a critical role in manufacturing, which is really where the technology was applied initially. Today too it is being used to find similar solutions – like improving production speed and replacing manual, tedious tasks. The areas seeing a huge impact by AI transformation are in machinery maintenance and quality. According to survey by Capgemini, machinery maintenance and production assets made up 29% of AI implementations in manufacturing.
For a glimpse, here is a graphic that illustrates how AI is being used for intelligent maintenance in manufacturing:
Also, listed here are a few ways in which AI is revolutionizing the manufacturing industry:
- Predictive Maintenance: Predictive maintenance predicts with accuracy when machines need maintenance. This prevents unplanned downtime. Furthermore, the sensors and advanced analytics embedded in the equipment responds to alerts and resolves machine issues, thereby enabling predictive maintenance
- Robotics: Robots had been performing a large part of the manufacturing jobs. And now AI powered robots can do more than just that! It can interpret CAD models without having the need of programming them. AI has brought the possibility of letting robots manufacture products without being programmed.
A lot is being said about the relationship between AI and humans, and also about job losses because of the technology. The truth is that AI, while taking away jobs at one end, is creating more at the other. Also, it is helping humans to become more productive and live better lives. The thing to do is to embrace it and learn to use it to our advantage. 2020 has accelerated the adoption of AI more than ever before, thanks to COVID. When the pandemic hit, companies shifted overnight to AI-driven solutions. AI, ML and intelligent automation are now far more common than the previous years. It’s time to work on AI-complementing skills and not AI-replacing ones.
Also, it’ll help to remember the prophetic words of Isaac Asimov, as stated in The Zeroth Law – “ A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.”