Ready to take the lead with artificial intelligence? Good for you! In this post, we focus on what real-world small and medium-sized business owners and managers need to do to make their operations “smarter, stronger, and faster” using AI. Included are links to AI business resources from Microsoft and some inspirational reads.
Artificial intelligence. This fantastical concept of teaching computers to teach themselves has transitioned from sci-fi movie and TV screens to our business lives. But never mind the cool dramatizations. What does artificial intelligence really mean? And, realistically, how can you introduce it to your business to gain competitive advantage?
“…it’s not enough just to–sort of–have AI capability that we can exercise—you also need the ability to democratize it so that every business can truly benefit from it. That to me is our identity around AI.” – Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO
As a concept, Theo Van Kraay—Microsoft Cloud Solution Architect (Advanced Analytics & AI), Customer Success Unit—defines AI this way: “Artificial Intelligence is the ability of a computer system to deal with ambiguity, by making predictions using previously gathered data, and learning from errors in those predictions in order to generate newer, more accurate predictions about how to behave in the future.”
Several key AI technologies-as-cloud-services imitate intelligent human behaviour. They imitate human vision through object recognition (like scanning footage). They simulate human speech through speech recognition (like Cortana in Windows 10). And they simulate human language through machine translation.
To bring that cognitive capacity into the field, technical teams build solutions using other revolutionary technologies and services.
- Cloud computing eliminates the exorbitant costs and risks businesses face buying and managing their own mainframes
- Edge computing brings the hyperscale computational capacity of the cloud to points in the field, where it’s needed
- Internet of Things (IoT) uses smart sensors to connect devices, like wearables, cars, and drones, to the Internet
- Machine learning enables computers to detect patterns and perform tasks without user instruction
- Intelligent cloud enables organizations to capture and make sense of their operational data to improve
- Enterprise-grade security measures, leveraging encryption, biometrics, advanced detection, and monitoring make it all possible
Keeping it real
Whoa! If this all seems a bit overwhelming, we understand. So, let’s keep it real. How can a non-technical small business, like a coffee shop or a courier company, invest in AI? Can it benefit the “little guys?” Should you hire AI experts, like developers and engineers? And what AI apps make sense for small businesses to invest in?
Start with strategy
Technical or not, you need to get your company AI-ready. And that means learning about AI strategy, culture, responsibility, and technology. Start by visiting the Microsoft AI Business School. It offers extensive online resources for business, including several free learning streams featuring videos from industry experts on how to use AI responsibly and with confidence. Learn how to:
- Define an AI strategy to create business value
- Discover ways to foster an AI-ready culture in your business
- Identify guiding principles for responsible AI in your business
- Introduction to AI technology for business leaders
If you have the technology expertise in your organization, you can jump into the deep end of AI by accessing Azure. Your team can start experimenting with machine learning, IoT, natural language cognitive services, and other transformative technologies-as-services right away.
Like modern magicians, technical teams can access all these technologies in a cloud platform like Azure. They can experiment, deploy, test, and learn!
Need third-party support?
Explore the Microsoft certified solution provider network. Find a certified AI expert near you and start the conversation about what you want or dream of doing with AI. Non-technical businesses and non-profits of all sizes can take part in the AI revolution in Canada by collaborating with the best technical talent available.
Microsoft presents the Great Canadian Innovators ebook profiling 10 incredible Canadian companies using artificial intelligence, machine learning, internet of things, holographic devices, and other powerful Microsoft technologies and services to innovate in their fields. Download the Great Canadian Innovators ebook here!