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Does AI Have a Place in Your Company?

Posted By Ron Sidman, Monday, April 8, 2019

 

Few technological innovations have been hyped as much or created as much concern as artificial intelligence. In reality, it is simply the next generation of information processing. And the only thing you should fear are the implications of NOT utilizing it to increase your business’s competitive advantage.

 

You’re undoubtedly already familiar with the need for you and your company to evolve as the world around you changes and as technology advances. Even so, your first reaction to artificial intelligence may be that it’s only relevant for huge or high-tech corporations. Not so. Just as the advent of computer automation revolutionized the way business is done in companies of all types and sizes, AI will inevitably have the same effect.

 

The reason is that there are business functions that machines can perform far better, faster, and more accurately than humans. If you don’t take advantage of this fact, you can be sure your competitors will. The difference between the automation your familiar with and AI is that AI actually mimics human behavior. Rather than just performing routine tasks, AI technology can learn from experience, react appropriately to sensed changes in the environment, make decisions, and predict the future.

 

But before you ponder the end of the human race as we know it, I can assure you that there are also things humans can and most probably always will be able to do better than machines. The promise of AI comes from letting machines do what they can do best thereby freeing up humans to do what only they can do. This not only could make your company stronger and more efficient, it could also increase employee satisfaction by letting machines do the boring repetitive work while allowing your employees to have more satisfying and enjoyable jobs. 

 

What Exactly is Artificial Intelligence?

AI applications can be organized into three different categories of technological advancement:

·        Machine Learning (ML)

·        Natural Language Processing (NLP)

·        Robotics

Machine Learning is the use of computer programs that actually learn from experience rather than relying on rules-based programming. An example is the ability of Google Photos to search for images of people, animals, and objects. By feeding huge amounts of data into the system and letting the system know when it’s right and wrong, the program actually “learns” how to distinguish for example cats from dogs.

 

Natural Language Processing enables people to have a natural conversation with a computer. This aspect of AI has become pervasive almost overnight—Siri, Alexa, Google Home, etc. As the technology continues to improve, it will get more and more difficult to distinguish between people talking to you and machines. The savings in payroll costs are obvious.

 

Robotics refers to machines that can perform physical tasks in the real world. Unlike movie robots, they typically do not look like humans and are designed for very specific tasks. Sophisticated washing machines, driers, and dishwashers can all be thought of as robots--as can autonomous cars and self-driving fork trucks. Any device that senses what’s happening around it and performs an action based on that information is a form of robot.

 

Applications in the JP Industry

Let me give you just a few of the many possible applications in the juvenile products industry to start you thinking.

·        Parenting Chatbot
Add a chatbot to your web site that answers parenting questions, provides customer-specific product suggestions, solicits ideas for new and improved products, and triages product complaints. This can reduce customer service costs, increase customer satisfaction, and enhance your company’s reputation for parenting expertise.

·        Product Development Team Virtual Assistant
Use machine learning technology to support teams as they wrestle with the complexities of product development in the JP industry. A virtual assistant could prompt teams on the next steps in the process, review research for thoroughness, assist in regulatory reviews, forecast potential sales and return on investment, and report on project progress to senior management. This could speed time to market, increase your product development “batting average”, and reduce development costs.
 

·         New Kinds of Products and Product Enhancements
The flood of products and product features that utilize AI is well underway. AI allows a product to not only sense environmental conditions but react to them automatically. Imagine how this could be applied to strollers, car seats, floor toys, etc. Natural Language Processing offers intriguing options for child entertainment and education. Robotics could also be applied to perform some of the grunt work of parenting allowing moms and dads more time for quality parent-child interaction. The possibilities are endless.

 

Implementation Considerations

My advice to every CEO would be to learn at least the basics of artificial intelligence. I took a 6-week online MIT course but there are also many excellent videos, books, and articles readily available. Here are some other implementation tips:

·        It will be critical to position AI as a necessary enhancement of currently used technologies that are required to ensure continued growth and financial success.

·        Just like when computer automation first came along, substantial training will be required for everyone in your organization.

·        Understand and respect the ethical issues that are likely to arise such as with respect to customer information and privacy.

·        Take it step by step, proving the effectiveness of initial AI applications by monitoring results and communicating benefits.

 

Next Steps

Consider how technology and AI might fit into your 10-year vision. Then start building the interim goals and action plans into your planning and implementation cycle. Like everything else, adopting artificial intelligence will be an evolutionary process with some setbacks and learning along the way.

As always, if you’d like more information or assistance regarding AI implementation or you just want someone to brainstorm, vent, or commiserate with, consider taking advantage of JPMA’s Executive Mentor Program by scheduling a Skype or Face Time with me. I’d enjoy meeting you and helping you any way I can. Check the JPMA web site for more information or contact Reta Feldman at rfeldman@jpma.org.

 

   

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