Thursday June 6 2019

Competitive edge from investing in Artificial Intelligence

Investing in AI can bring businesses a competitive edge - but can be an 'expensive game' if not approached with caution.

Competitive edge from investing in Artificial Intelligence

Early adopters of Artificial Intelligence could gain a competitive edge and boost their bottom line, according to a professional working in the field of robotics.

Philip Graves of GWS Robotics in Queen Charlotte Street, Bristol, believes the key benefit of AI for business is saving time and money on intelligent data analysis.

It has been estimated that AI could add an extra £630 billion to the UK economy by 2035, increasing the annual growth rate of gross value added from 2.5 to 3.9 per cent.

But Philip, who has been programming computers since the 1980s and studied economics in Sweden, warned firms should take steps to ensure AI does not become an ‘expensive game’.

Philip, who is also a marketer at the firm’s sister design and digital marketing company GWS Media, said: “AI is a valuable tool, which can bring many social and economic benefits to the workplace.

“AI can analyse and interpret information more quickly and accurately than humans can. It can increase efficiency and performance in most industry sectors, from healthcare to financial services.

“It can make economic good sense for a business to look at ways they could benefit from AI in their industry. But it can be an expensive game if it is not approached with some caution as smart technologies are costly to create and maintain.

“From a business perspective, it is economically unsound to invest in any new technology or tool unless there is a strong probability of a return on that investment.

“Those looking to invest should factor in not only the direct costs but also the time associated with learning how to use the new technology.

“Where a new technology already has an established user base in your industry, it could also be worth asking other established users about how it has worked for them in purely economic terms.”

AI and changing business practices

Artificial Intelligence (AI) describes a set of advanced general purpose digital technologies that enable machines to do highly complex tasks effectively.

Applied AI is already changing business practices across financial services, law, medicine, accounting, tax, audit, architecture, consulting, customer service, manufacturing and transport.

Firms like Ocado and Amazon are using AI to optimise their storage and plan out the most efficient routes for delivery.

AI can also enable new business models and approaches to existing problems. In healthcare, for example, data from smartphones and fitness trackers can be analysed to manage chronic conditions.

The worldwide market for AI solutions could boost productivity by up to 30 per cent in some industries, and generating savings of up to 25 per cent.

PWC reported UK GDP will be up by more than 10 per cent in 2030 as a result of AI– the equivalent of an additional £232bn – making it one of the biggest commercial opportunities in today’s fast-changing economy.

Philip said: “Business should embrace AI to the degree that it enhances net profitability. Those who fall behind with new technology risk losing out on improving the efficiency of business processes.

“But more importantly, they risk being outdone in the profitability stakes by competitors in both domestic and foreign markets.”

AI can be used to automate workloads; optimise logistics such as planning the quickest transport routes; protect a business from an IT outage or security intrusion; predict performance and predict customers’ buying behavior – adapting marketing and advertising accordingly.

Philip said: “For instance, a retail shop may be able to input data gathered on footfall and sales at varying times into program which can then make predictions in future.  This can help with decision making around levels of stock and staff numbers at those times.

“Insurance companies use many variables to predict risk and set appropriate premium levels. Almost any business could benefit from a program that helps in cashflow planning by automatically predicting the level of income, outgoings, borrowing allowance and credit balance at different times in the future.”

Customer-facing AI

AI can also be used to improve customer services, such as using virtual assistant programs or robots to offer support.

Philip, whose firm has invested in Pepper, a humanoid robot which can be customized to individual businesses and is used in shops and hotels, said: “Customer-facing AI may take the form of programs running on a conventional computer, a mobile device or even a mechanically mobile robot. They can inform and entertain clients, and thereby enhance their customer experience.

“They may particularly appeal to a type of customer who prefers to ask questions, gather information and explore buying possibilities without being pushily sold to, as well as to those who enjoy the novelty of inputting data into programs as a part of their shopping experience.”

AI advances

The pioneering British computer scientist Alan Turing is widely regarded as launching and inspiring much of the development of AI.

AI can include programming such as the primitive chess simulators, which assess the benefits of making varying moves, or voice recognition.

Philip said: “These common applications of artificial intelligence barely scratch the surface of what is possible with it today.

“Artificial intelligence is being applied to bring efficiency gains to virtually every field of industry, from agriculture and mining to warehousing and logistics. It will continue to develop, as individual programmers devise and optimise new routines for particular applications.

“As hardware specifications have improved in leaps and bounds since the early days of computing, the cost of processing power and data storage is no longer the limiting factor it was 30 or 40 years ago. Mathematicians with good programming skills can expect to be in strong demand for a very long time to come.”

While other countries and international companies are investing heavily in AI development, the UK is still regarded as a centre of expertise.

A government report, which released the figures around the benefits of AI to the UK economy, said: “We have a choice. The UK could stay among the world leaders in AI in the future, or allow other countries to dominate.

“We start from a good position in many respects but other leading countries are devoting significant resources to growing and deploying AI.”

Embracing AI in your field

Philip advises businesses to find the right tools for their industry and needs, rather than a blanket approach.

He said: “It generally makes sense for smaller businesses to continue to use proven existing technologies for their core workflows until the benefits to them of new technologies are clearly established.

“As with any new piece of technology, it is advisable to test emerging developments on a small scale initially before committing to a full-scale investment.”

Ten benefits of Artificial Intelligence for business -
AI can allow you to:

  1. Save time and money by automating routine processes and tasks
  2. Increase productivity
  3. Mine a vast amount of data quickly
  4. Make faster business decisions based on data analysis
  5. Increase accuracy, provided that systems are set up correctly
  6. Gain insights into customer preferences - with the chance to offer a more personalised experience and targeted marketing
  7. Increase revenue by identifying sales opportunities
  8. Optimise logistics
  9. Protect your business from incidences such as IT outages or security intrusion
  10. Predict performance


Five risks of AI:

  1. Cost – smart technologies can be expensive to create
  2. Ongoing maintenance is often required
  3. Risk of losing or exposing sensitive data
  4. Need to retrain employees to keep them in jobs
  5. Perceptions around AI are not always positive

* For more information, visit www.gwsrobotics.com

"It can make economic good sense for a business to look at ways they could benefit from AI in their industry. But it can be an expensive game if it is not approached with some caution."
Philip Graves

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