News

30th April 2019
Do you know your AI from your Automation?

Do you know your AI from your Automation?

In these nervous times, few terms have gained more traction than “Artificial Intelligence”. Often misunderstood, automation has come a long way from the realms of science fiction stories, embedding itself into our everyday lives and alleviating the burden of many mundane tasks at work.

Did you see what we just did? We used the words “automation” and “artificial intelligence” interchangeably, as if they were the same thing. But there are several important differences that anyone running a business should know. Let us explore the main differences between AI and automation and see how you can combine both to improve your business.

Automation

Put simply, automation is software that follows specific “rules”. Humans programme a machine to follow an unambiguous command: “if X, then do Y.” So, if I press the cappuccino button on a coffee machine, then I can expect a cappuccino to come out, not a drink that the machine thinks I should have.

We also rely on automation to deal with the things that we simply do not want to do, often because they are boring or time-consuming. A good example is the humble cash register. Our forebears, if they worked in retail, spent half their lives jotting down every single transaction on paper, adding up all the sums (no calculators, remember?) and organising every sale into a meticulous file. But thanks to automation, this is now all done for us in the blink of an eye.

Automation is deeply embedded in our everyday lives. When we set the heating to come on using a smartphone; when a new Netflix recommendation pops up on the home screen; when the bank blocks our credit card due to suspected fraud – all examples of automation in action. All fairly benevolent stuff, which leads us to…

Artificial intelligence

Unlike automation, artificial intelligence (AI) is designed to mimic what us humans do, think and say. Rather than follow orders, AI will follow its own path of behaviour based on the data we have given it.

Most views on artificial intelligence tend to fall into two extreme camps:

  1. AI is a sinister, reckless invention that will seek to conquer all life on earth and punish its human creators.
  2. AI is a liberating tool that will solve most of mankind’s problems, including: sadness, ill-health and time spent at work.

Indeed, it is easy to see why cynics might believe the former. After all, the whole point of AI is to replicate human intelligence. To solve problems like us, to learn from experience and continually strive to improve itself. Perhaps, like humans, AI will eventually seek to bend the world to its will.

But until this far-off (and probably non-existent) day, businesses should embrace the many advantages of machine-learning. Smartphones, for example, are packed with artificial intelligence that learns from our behaviour to make our lives that much more efficient. These range from the well-known (Alexa and Google Assistant) to the lesser-known (your camera’s portrait mode).  

How can automation and AI improve my business?

According to a recent study by ServiceNow, businesses with at least 20% revenue growth are 61% automated. On the other hand, companies with flat or declining growth figures are only 35% automated.

To achieve these results through automation, it is essential to gather large amounts of data on your business. Without this, automation cannot collate data and AI cannot understand it. But with sufficient data, you will be able to do the following:

  • Match supply with demand more efficiently
  • Increase productivity
  • Harness behavioural data, not just demographic data
  • Free your time (and your employees’ time) to expand the business

It is important that you use automation and AI in a way that benefits your customers and does not leave them wanting to pull their hair out or concerned about cyber security and data privacy threats.

Switch2IT and reap the rewards

Our business intelligence reporting systems will help you make better decisions at work. Our regular automated computer system backups will store your business data safely in a high-tech data centre. To find out more about how AI and automation can help your business, get in touch with Switch2IT.

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