The idea in a nutshell : Artificial Intelligence sounds like a far flung and future idea. It’s not. Artificial Intelligence has happened. It has already been rolled out in practical ways in almost every area of life and business. These AI projects have been executed by those you’d expect but also by those you wouldn’t – the risk averse and non profit sectors. If you haven’t rolled out an AI project, you’re behind.

AI is ‘already here’

I had a meeting with someone in another ( there are a few where I work ) innovation team the other day. He was obviously a switched on guy. He said a number of interesting things but the one I remember most clearly was ‘AI has already happened.’ It’s hard to argue with that sentiment when, it seems, every day, there is another announcement of a commercialised AI project in the news.

Considering the threads between AI is interesting in itself. Plus : I just returned to the corporate world after a couple of years out running ‘WhatPhone’ which makes me see the subject in a new light. We are all going to face rapid changes caused by impending AI and bots which – and each of us to be responsible down the path for the decisions we are making now.

Trends in AI Commercialisation

In the few months that I’ve been following the subject, I’ve seen live examples of AI projects at O2 and Barclays in the UK and ANZ in Australia. Importantly, these projects are at companies that I wouldn’t always put at the forefront of innovation : Banks and telco. Both have a lot of legacy technology which slows them down and both are traditionally risk averse, conservative cultures.

Some of the trends seem to be :

  • A 3500% increase in the private companies working on AI in the last 2 years. The technology is ‘exploding.’
  • What’s happening isn’t ‘dumb automation.’ What’s being developed for commercial application is software that can ‘learn about’ ( in computer terms, pattern recognition ) and adapt to its environment. The sum of these things allows ‘it’ to perform <human work>. And the tech is being applied to – apparently – everything – from customer services to answering legal queries.

Real life examples of AI actually in place :

I always read announcements of brands making innovative steps with a pinch of salt. The truth internally is often not nearly as polished as the PR might lead you to believe. However :

  • Barclays are using AI : Barclays are one of the world’s largest banks. It seems they have dipped a toe into this specialised AI. Barclays are using ‘Blue Prism’ to deal with demands from UK customers after their regulator demanded that it ( Barclays ) repay billions of pounds of mis-sold insurance. ( The Economist, May 2015 )
  • ANZ are using it : Based on research at IBM ‘s Watson research center in Melbourne. AI is already used by ANZ to match customers situation to financial product needs. ( Whither financial planners. ) It’s just a feeling but this one seems particularly unbelievable to me.
  • O2 are using it : Probably the most believable and scary example of commercial application is O2’s rollout. O2 has replaced 150 workers with a single piece of software. “A large portion of O2’s customer service is now automatic, says Wayne Butterfield, who works on improving O2’s operations. “SIM swaps, porting mobile numbers, migrating from prepaid onto a contract, unlocking a phone from O2″ – all are now automated.

Some areas are less progressed but still on the brink of adoption. Some more quotes direct from the papers included here.

  • Legal companies are trialling it : Canadian start-up ROSS started using IBM’s Watson supercomputer to automate a whole chunk of the legal research normally carried out by entry-level paralegals. “Right now ROSS has a year of experience,” says Ovbiagele. “If 10,000 lawyers use ROSS for a year, that’s 10,000 years of experience.”
  • AI in resource prospecting : AI is being used in Oil and gas fields to pinpoint deposit. Companies pin hopes on artificial intelligence to save cash. With oil and gas prices hovering at decade lows, companies are turning to artificial intelligence to cut costs and boost productivity.
  • AI in Apps : IDC, the market research firm, estimates that the market for machine learning (AI) Apps could reach $40 billion by 2020. Only 1% of all software Apps have AI features but it expects that by 2018 at least 50% of all Apps will contain AI features
  • AI apps in banking : Clydsdale and Yorkshire Bank have launched an AI App: You can check your real-time balance, make transfers and search through your transactions. It aims to be more interactive than a standard banking app, offering extra insights about your spending. B ( the app ) will send you notifications prompting you if stray into your overdraft or with advice about reaching your savings goals and information about particular types of spending.
  • AI in Lipreading : A three-year study at the university’s school of computer studies could prove a significant advance in the science behind automated lip-reading, which is still in its early stages. The technology could help people who have recently lost their hearing and, on a more basic level, it could improve our interactions with gadgets that are usually controlled by hand.
  • AI In Auditing ( Of financial services ) : Intelligently, this article suggests that it will be the boring parts of the auditor’s work which will be affected most. Unusually, among the articles I’ve seen, this one takes a balanced view and looks at the positives of Artificial Intelligence Rollouts.
  • AI in hedge funds : Hedge funds are a good example of an industry in which making an early investment in AI is financially viable, provides and immediate benefit and creates intellectual property in the world which will lower the price of AI implementations.
  • AI in marketing : Econsultancy, the bunch which put together this article used, in my view, to be one of the best sources for up to date insight and trends in Digital. Unfortunately, that seems to have petered out. This article does, however unusually, provide a
  • AI in finding poachers : Weirdly, this story is one I have seen more than any other reported in the press voer the last 3 months. Gamekeepers are using Artificial Intelligence software to identify where the next act of poaching is going to occur around the park.
  • AI In Telstra to find disgruntled customers : Similarly to ANZ rolling an AI solution out, seeing Telstra invest in it acts as a stark reminder to bigger companies with the blinkers on that it’s time to get going.
  • AI In education : Personalised learning offers the chance to take some of the technology advances that students have both witness and entirely internalised outside the classroom in to school. With the support of Bill Gates and the media attention that gives the subject, this article suggests that AI will soon improve educational standards around the world.

Summing up AI has already happened

There are a number of surprises to me about this list. First of all, it’s so long. These things came to me through news feeds. I didn’t go looking for them. It seems like there is a new example every day.

Secondly, while there are obvious examples in the areas of fund management and oil and gas extraction, where the money involved warrants expensive investments in new technology, there are also examples of AI being used in efforts to find poachers (save wildlife), education and lip reading. Together, these suggest that the benefits of AI are so substantial that even not for profit organisations have seen the benefits and acted on them.

Finally, Telstra, ANZ and legal companies are investing. Again, these companies (obviously ) have the money to look in to the area. What’s more important is the association those brands with risk tolerance. In each case, those companies have taken what must have been a huge step internally to focus on this upcoming and important area.