AI, Automation and your Small Business

AI, Automation and your Small Business

Artificial Intelligence (AI): The theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages. (Oxford English Dictionary)

The world is changing faster than many of us can keep up with; artificial intelligence and automation in manufacturing, retail and service industries is reaching consumers’ everyday lives quicker than anyone expected. What pundits predicted for as far ahead as 2040 is happening now.

Self-driving taxis can be seen on the streets of Singapore, and closer to home Pittsburgh. The science is ready, its government, the legal system, and insurers that are holding things up.

Affordable drones are in our skies, Nike has self-lacing trainers and Nissan has office chairs that put themselves away at the end of the workday. There is no stopping the massive amount of fully, or semi-automated products and services that will hit the market in the next few years.

Why is this important to small, and even micro-businesses?

Why is this important to small, and even micro-businesses? Because these products and services will re-frame your customer’s expectations. Consumers will want, even demand, higher levels of efficiency, convenience and value.

If you are looking at this and thinking in terms of it being a potential dystopian nightmare, then you are probably not alone. There have been many movies such as I,Robot starring Will Smith in 2004, which showed how robots could take over the world. It may be just Hollywood, but the thought of artificial intelligence still scares many people. Concerns over massive job losses as computers and robots take over mundane, and maybe not so mundane tasks are real.

Countering this fear however, are consumers’ desire for cheaper, better, benefit-driven, exciting products. Consider, over 10-million Roombas (the autonomous robotic vacuum cleaner) have been sold by iRobot and are now going about their business while owners are at work. While the Roomba is expensive, an affordable version recently launched in China at approximately one-third of the price and when prices drop, adoption rates speed up.

In the U.K. the world’s first robot lawyer is handling driver’s parking fines, with a 64 per cent record of successfully appealing fines.

As the people at say, this type of AI use looks to consumers more utopian than dystopian. Given the chance not to have to do all the things that aren’t fun in life, what do you think consumers will choose?

The affordability factor is important where small business is concerned.

The affordability factor is important where small business is concerned. While prices remain stratospheric only high-end consumers can afford these technological trinkets but once prices drop, consumers at every level will expect their local businesses to offer these types of products and services.

You may be asking yourself, “But I thought local and artisanal was in? This is the opposite of that.” It is of course; however, the two will exist side by side with artificial intelligence making inroads into more creative services. The Tate art gallery, in England, in association with Microsoft ran a competition which was won by an AI program called Recognition. Recognition is basically an automated gallery curator which created a show which matched current events with artwork in the Tate’s collection.

Even the world of beer is being infiltrated by AI; algorithms can process consumer feedback and create recipes to make beer that reflects what the beer drinking customer wants. This is where artisanal meets AI. It won’t be long before we see whether artisan products such as bread can be made better by an artisan baker, or an AI equipped oven. Is this scary for you as a small business owner? It depends on whether you see the inevitable as a threat or an opportunity.

The world of intelligent assistants whose job is to help us lead healthier lives by making us eat better, improve our fitness, even provide personal, physical, mental health and business coaching is here – now.

In the retail world, we already know that online shopping is growing faster every year, as AI helps customers by finding, not only exactly what they are looking for but what they never knew they really wanted. Consumers will be/are supported and nurtured by what calls CLEVER COMMERCE platforms and services.

Where consumers currently visit Yelp and other product or service review sites, AI programs can now read the reviews for them, filtering out fake ones, and providing a concise product, or service, analysis. Another chore done away with by your friendly AI program.

The new trend toward automation using artificial intelligence isn’t going to go away – it will begin to affect every aspect of our lives and businesses, so being aware of what’s happening is vital for small businesses. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is not relevant to your small business – see it as an opportunity to keep up with your competition, especially those who are larger and better funded. The cost of new technology always drops rapidly; small business winners will be those secondary adopters who identify how AI can help their business and customers by adopting it at the first cost-effective point. Start by thinking how you could better serve your customer base if the right technology existed – because it probably does!

This article is provided by Community Futures Okanagan Similkameen. Questions about your business? Contact their office at 250-493-2566.

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