How AI Can Improve Searching for Data

As the Information Age unfolds and the volume and variety of data explodes, it’s clear that organizations must put data to work more effectively. At times, it’s amazing how intelligent systems have become—including smartphones, computers and IoT devices. At other times, it’s also somewhat flabbergasting to discover how poorly systems perform.

The common denominator is that it’s becoming more difficult to find the data and information required at the moment it’s required. As a result, marketing offers, e-commerce engines and analytics tools are frequently off-base or mired in poor results. Even the likes of Google and Bing are increasingly yielding results that are subpar.

Simply put, we need more and better artificial intelligence. Right now we’re taking baby steps. In October, IBM and Apple announced that they are collaborating on iOS apps that will incorporate Watson in order to simplify processes and enhance decision making. Introducing conversational interaction, for example, would allow field technicians to access data but work hands-free.

These apps could also be used by retail associates and customer support reps to view data from different sources and channels—social media, customer databases and product forums, for example—in order to assist customers. Similarly, deep learning technology could help financial advisors make better recommendations to clients, based on both market patterns and personal behavior and characteristics.

Meanwhile, Siri, Cortana, Google Now and Amazon Alexa are redefining the space for consumers—even though these tools are still in the nascent stages. They already eliminate tedious taps and menu choices. However, few consumer apps take full advantage of these capabilities or deliver their own functionality. Not surprisingly, Amazon does. Yet, Apple Store, Best Buy, Macy’s and Expedia do not. So, I can find paper towels but not search for a computer, TV or flight using voice and AI.

Alas, too many apps function more like Mobile 1.0 rather than Mobile 2.0. Right now, many businesses can get away with this. But a few years in the future, probably not so much. The takeaway? At this point, CIOs should focus on how to incorporate voice and cognitive computing functions into apps—and across the enterprise. The reality is that we are heading for a business environment where a zero interface will play a supporting or starring role, depending on the situation and the app.

It’s time for everything to get smart.

Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard
Samuel Greengard writes about business, technology and other topics. His book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press) was released in the spring of 2015.

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