Salvatore Minetti, CEO and founder of Prospex, discusses why tech entrepreneurs should consider leveraging AI in the workplace.

Since the advent of the first computer, there have been predictions about the rise of artificial intelligence (AI). With viewpoints ranging from the apocalyptic to the fantastic, for decades now the debate has evolved regarding the opportunities and challenges that could present themselves if machines were able to learn and make decisions.

Once the realm of science fiction, AI is undoubtedly now very much a reality. All manner of everyday technologies are powered by AI and machine learning (ML), such as: email spam filters, bank credit decisions, automotive sat nav, Facebook facial recognition, Google Maps, Uber, and Amazon. The list goes on.

But importantly, AI is not just the reserve of the Silicon Valley elite; today, businesses around the world stand to benefit massively from the proliferation of this new technology, regardless of their size. In fact, so far-reaching is the projected uptake of AI tools that the value of the global artificial intelligence market is set to rise from $2.5bn in 2017 to a staggering $60bn by 2025.

For many SMEs, including those in the tech sector, the possibilities are huge. As such, it’s of utmost importance that they consider how the tech could deliver competitive advantage.

No time to waste

A survey among UK small business leaders in late 2017 revealed that less than a third of them were using AI within their operations. Yet as the number of AI service providers grows and, simultaneously, the associated costs of the tools becomes more competitive, there is a plethora of options available to tech startups and scaleups.

Following in the footsteps of cloud computing and big data – two hugely significant business technology trends over the past 10 years – AI is ready to take the way businesses gather, analyse and gain insight from data to another level.

To list all the potential uses of AI would require thousands and thousands of words, but it’s useful to begin by establishing the over-arching paradigm shift that the technology is driving. In short, while more traditional data analytics and business intelligence tools review what has already happened, artificial intelligence enables us to gain insight into what will happen next.

By analysing huge amounts of data from a wide range of sources, establishing outliers and trends in real-time and recommending potential actions, AI produces forward-thinking results. Consequently, AI and machine learning tools today can generate new leads for a sales team; streamline the R&D process for new products; and personalise marketing activities to individual customers, to name but a few of the most common uses.

And for tech businesses, the potential advantages are two-fold. On the one hand, they can incorporate AI into their operations to improve internal decision-making and efficiency. On the other hand, tech firms can also use AI to enhance their own offering; by using ML techniques they can find ways to deliver new or better experiences to their users, whether that’s consumers or other businesses.

Gaining competitive advantage

The possibilities from AI exist in their droves for tech SMEs. But there are certainly obstacles to adopting the tools as well. For one, there is now an ever-growing list of tech vendors keen to jump on the buzzword bandwagon by claiming they are offering AI solutions when, in reality, their technology lacks the sophistication to be worthy of the ‘artificial intelligence’ moniker.

As when choosing any product or service to allocate resource against, thorough due diligence is required. Checking for case studies among relevant businesses is a good start, while it’s also important to ensure suitable research is done on the specific tech that underpins the proposed AI solution – this will help a business identify the legitimate providers that they could work with.

Positively, when it comes to price, this is no longer a significant barrier, even for small tech businesses. Today, there are AI-powered technologies available on the as-a-service model – this means that there is no requirement for upfront capital expenditure, while the monthly payments are by no means prohibitively expensive for SMEs.

With AI poised for take-off in the months and years to come, there is an advantage available to those tech start-ups and scale-ups that are able to embrace it in the short-term. And not just advantage over their direct competitors, it is also an opportunity to steal a march on larger competitors – smaller, more agile firms can adopt new technologies more quickly, and this is a benefit that should not be overlooked.

Amidst much hype, it’s unquestionable that AI is going to have a transformative impact on businesses of all shapes and sizes in the future. And as the market matures and innovative new solutions emerge at pace, now is the ideal time for SMEs to make sure they are at the forefront of this exciting new technological trend.

If you want to learn more how SMEs can benefit from AI, Prospex will be hosting a free event on the topic on Wednesday 18 April in London – the panel debate will be chaired by UKTN’s editor Yessi Bello Perez. For more information or to register for tickets, click here.