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From robotic process automation to machine learning algorithms, many of today’s most influential companies are deploying artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to drive business results. While most decision makers are aware of the business opportunities that emerging technologies present, many are unprepared simply because they fail to understand them.

AI includes a variety of technologies and tools, some that have been around for a long time and others that are relatively new. Nevertheless, one thing is clear: businesses are thinking harder about how to prioritize AI in 2018.

According to International Data Corporation (IDC), the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence will jump from $8.0 billion in 2016 to more than $47 billion in 2020. Here’s a closer look at three popular AI technologies and how innovative companies are using them.

Machine Learning

When companies talk about using AI technologies, most are referring to machine learning (ML). The most popular branch of AI computing, ML involves training algorithms to perform tasks by learning from historical data rather than human commands. In other words, computers learn without explicit programming. Small start-ups and major brands both use ML to access, organize, and make decisions off data in a more efficient and results-driven way.

At SAP, machine learning is an essential component of a content marketing strategy. The enterprise software company uses ML to analyze content to provide a more tailored experience for their customers. ML algorithms map published articles by themes, helping SAP personalize customer engagement through content.

The goal is to help the audience find more relevant articles based on their unique behaviors and search histories. For SAP, ML-powered technology allows them to go beyond standard recommendation engines with insights that inform targeting and content that engages the right customers with the right creative experience at the right time.

Computer Vision

Computer vision is a branch of AI that deals with how computers imitate human sight and the human ability to view and interpret digital images. Through pattern recognition and image processing, computer vision understands the contents of pictures, and it’s having a profound impact on how we experience the world around us.

Amazon uses computer vision technology to improve brick-and-mortar shopping for customers through its Amazon Go experience. With no lines and no checkouts, customers simply use the Amazon Go app to enter the store, choose the items they want, and leave. How? Cameras snap pictures of customers as they shop. Using machine vision, deep learning, and sensor fusion, Amazon keeps track of items in a virtual cart, appropriately charging the right Amazon account.

Vision-guided retail is only the beginning, as computer vision will also likely open doors for smart cities where advanced vision technologies may be able to help reduce the number of collisions and injuries on the road.

Robotic Process Automation

AI-driven software, like robotic process automation (RPA), has become a competitive advantage for companies around the world. Digital technologies like RPA improve efficiencies, reduce mistakes, and even disrupt the way companies’ craft customer experiences.

South Africa’s largest bank, Standard Bank, digitized legacy processes through RPA, ML, and cognitive automation, increasing efficiencies in operational, back-office work. As a result, they’ve reduced customer onboarding time from 20 days to 5 minutes!

RPA software gave Standard Bank the flexibility and capability to deal with the challenges of financial services while staying current with other industries. RPA technology reduced mistakes and turned mundane work into something interesting, all while delivering a richer experience for their customers.

In Sum

Today’s customers expect digital, frictionless experiences. AI technologies take the heavy lifting out of interpreting and acting on the mountains of data that companies have available today. Smart businesses, like those discussed above, use these tools to optimize content marketing, improve operational efficiencies, and deliver award-winning customer experiences.