AI application—time to focus on the what, not the how

Meghann Fraser

Despite being the buzzword de jour, Artificial Intelligence (or AI as it is now commonly known) has been formally researched since the 1950s and used in commercial application since the 1980s. Its promise to brands today is threefold: it can make them more efficient organizations, improve the overall customer experience, and present new opportunities to expand their offerings, to deepen their relationship with customers, and to fulfill their growth objectives. While many established brands are making their strategic bets on AI well known, a new breed of brands is emerging, disrupting everything from how we book travel, to how medical breakthroughs are being made possible. Even with all the energy that surrounds AI, there remains a desperate need to manage the conversation that surrounds it. Those who can help demystify what it is and isn’t, and focus on what it makes possible for their customers versus the technology that underlies it, will ultimately be the ones to win in end.

There is no shortage of proof points on the technology industry’s focus on AI. To quote Google CEO, Sundar Pichai, “Over time the computer itself–whatever its form factor–will be an intelligent assistant helping you through your day. We will move from mobile first to an AI first world.” But what really is AI you might ask? While no universal definition exists, some common capabilities that are attributed to AI include machine learning, natural language processing, and image recognition. These terms in and of themselves mean little to those outside the technology world, but their value can be seen in many applications. You may have noticed how much Google Translate has improved in recent years, all powered through advances in their machine learning capability. Apple’s Siri combines the power of machine learning and natural language processing to answer your questions and help fulfill some of your daily tasks. Amazon has taken image recognition capability to the next level with the introduction of the Echo Look. Beyond helping you turn on music in your home or place your next order on Amazon, you can now outsource your daily outfit selection; taking away yet another daily task deemed tedious by many.

While many of these established brands continue to use AI as a means to both improve how they operate and expand the experience they create for their customers, exciting things are happening within the startup community as well. Cylance, a California-based cybersecurity brand, uses machine learning technology to predictively identify potential security threats versus the traditional method of reactively detecting them. Claire by 30SecondstoFly has become an extension of many business’ teams. Acting as a personal travel assistant, Claire helps businesses small and large reduce travel expenses, save money, and improve compliance, all through a simple and intuitive user interface. Finally, China’s Face++ helps other brands read faces and body language to improve their customer experiences. It keeps China’s AliPay customers safe by utilizing facial authentication at point of payment system, or it’s called, “Smile to Pay”.

While common AI technology empowers all of these brands, so too does a common approach to talking about their product and service offerings. All either let the product capability speak for itself or focus their messaging on the benefits the technology provides versus creating confusion surrounding the technology that empowers them. Though Pichai first coined the concept of an AI-first world, hopefully in the future the dialogue in the marketplace focuses less on AI itself and more on the opportunities AI creates for us all.

Senior Director of Strategy