A version of this article originally appeared on the Forbes Technology Council publication.
As I speak with business leaders from around the world, I’m continually surprised by two important realities that seem to go unnoticed and that are poised to transform the way companies engage with their customers.
First, while artificial intelligence (AI) remains a buzzword, many people are still unaware of how advanced algorithms have become. We’re not talking about a collaborative filtering algorithm that predicts which Netflix shows you’ll want to watch next.
Today’s algorithms are able to mimic human decision-making on tasks as complex as composing music and predicting what topics are of interest to your Congressional representatives. I like to demonstrate the second reality by asking you to take out your smartphone and look at it (if you’re not using it to read this article, that is). That device you’re holding in your hand has more computing power than the lunar module that put a man on the moon.
The complexity of AI and the computing power in an ever-growing proliferation of endpoints (like smartphones and internet of things devices), along with massive amounts of data to train models, is unleashing a huge opportunity for companies to communicate in entirely new ways.
Here are some areas every business leader should explore within the AI and communication space.
While it may sound outlandish, a computer is now officially better than a human at recognizing an image. Several image recognition algorithms are now being applied to real-time processing and live video streams thanks to increased availability of compute resources like GPUs and specialized machine learning chipsets. The ability to quickly identify objects and areas of interest in live, real-time streams finds broad application across a range of industries.
For example, there are drones that can fly over thousands of acres to identify and detect leaks when coyotes (yes, coyotes!) chew drip irrigation lines that water pistachio trees.
The image quality and high computing capabilities of drones, combined with fast algorithms that can identify water leaks from real-time streams, can be a powerful water-saving tool in large-scale agricultural applications.
A whole host of other applications in the energy sector, aviation industry and field services are being actively explored through the clever application of real-time image processing techniques.
There is hardly a more nuanced image to recognize than the human face. In fact, biometric analysis using facial recognition has proven to be much more secure than fingerprint detection for example, the FaceID technology in Apple’s iPhone X has a false positive rate of 1 in 1,000,000 (as compared to 1 in 50,000 for Touch ID).
While much of the facial recognition work focuses on security, it can have a very powerful impact on customer relations and field services. Sentiment analysis is surging as a way to understand what your customers are thinking as they engage with your brand.
It’s also being used as a mechanism that enables high-quality interactions with your customers. In China, consumers are already able to pay with facial recognition at locations that vary from KFC to high fashion stores, supermarkets and banks.
It is so simple and intuitive, I expect it will penetrate markets all over the world.
Think about how you currently interact with people in your customer service efforts. Are there ways that this level of facial recognition could deepen your understanding and, in turn, increase customer satisfaction?
For example, some emerging companies are using novel mechanisms like merged reality to help improve outcomes with field services and customer interactions.
This is an area where we see some of the most cutting-edge uses of AI. The impressive power of devices has led to a world where services can be individually tailored to every user of a service. Consider that your smartphone can now be categorized as a class-one medical device because of its ability to process health-related information.
Google can look at a high-quality image of your eye that’s taken live from your smartphone and predict coronary conditions, just by inspecting the image. Eventually, techniques like this, coupled with smart wearables, home devices and inputs from various sensors and endpoints could be used to construct an extensive map of you and your preferences, creating hyper-personalized services for you.
The opportunity for hyper-personalization is nearly limitless. Are your customers engaging with your company in a way that allows you to analyze them as individuals in real time?
I believe every industry will be touched by the evolution of AI and the proliferation of computing superpowered endpoints. This combination will continue to transform businesses in every vertical, from insurance to healthcare to education.
The most forward-looking organizations will begin investigating this opportunity now in order to achieve success down the road.