3 Ways Machine Learning Can Help Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs who build AI into their business processes will reap the benefits.

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By Rashan Dixon

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Until a decade or so ago, artificial intelligence was -- for most Americans -- something that existed only in the movies. Now, Alexa and Google Home have moved into numerous households and live only to please.

According to many reports, 2019 will be the year of AI. A recent McKinsey Global survey found that 47 percent of companies have implemented at least one AI capability into their business processes, more than doubling the 20 percent that reported using AI the previous year. Artificial intelligence can be the difference maker in an entrepreneur's business, providing everything from customer support to automated supervision of assembly lines.

AI never takes a break, never clocks out, never takes a day off. Still, the common belief that artificial intelligence will cheat people out of jobs or make some positions obsolete may be overblown. Research published in Harvard Business Review involving 1,500 companies found that "humans and AI actively enhance each other's complementary strengths: the leadership, teamwork, creativity and social skills of the former, and the speed, scalability and quantitative capabilities of the latter. Business requires both kinds of capabilities."

Related: How Entrepreneurs Can Use AI to Boost Their Business

Employees often find that AI helps them achieve company objectives more quickly by tackling data-oriented tasks, reducing the number of rote tasks and improving workflow. Sales and marketing departments have utilized AI for years as chatbots. And with current machine-learning capabilities, AI can now be used not only to offer personal assistance a la Alexa and Siri, but also to make predictions about financial markets and advanced healthcare diagnoses.

It's clear that AI offers business leaders in myriad industries a more efficient way to overcome obstacles, clearing the path for businesses to thrive. Take note of strategies that could work for your business.

1. Machine learning is lightening the workload for humans.

Machine learning can relieve human workers of time-consuming tasks in many fields, and business leaders clearly recognize this potential. In healthcare, for instance, AI is improving efficiency and accuracy in a number of areas, from managing medical records to analyzing X-rays. Partners HealthCare, which includes the two biggest hospitals in Boston, is working with GE Healthcare to incorporate AI into every aspect of patient care -- envisioning deep learning applications that assist with treatment strategies, increase the amount of time clinicians spend with patients and more.

Legal firms, too, have turned to machine learning to help process large data sets. J.P. Morgan, for example, uses an intelligent software program to review documents and past legal cases; a task that would take human workers more than 300,000 hours takes the program only a matter of seconds. These AI capabilities don't mean that robots will replace lawyers or healthcare employees. Instead, this tech is easing the strain on human workers.

Related: Learning to Work With Robots Is How You Can Save Your Job

2. Machine learning is "writing the recipe" to personalize ad spend.

Rather than try to create a marketing technique geared toward certain demographics, marketers can lean on machine learning algorithms to create one-of-a-kind interactions for every consumer or potential client they target. According to Emerj Artificial Intelligence Research, 85 percent of online ad marketing dollars are spent with Facebook and Google because of their AI-driven ability to provide deeply targeted advertising. What entrepreneur can say no to that?

Using AI to sift through volumes of data to analyze patterns and trends means getting to know clients and consumers better and faster than ever before. The better businesses know their customers and what they want, the sharper their focus will be on delivering the goods. Facebook is developing similar deeply targeted advertising through text, and the same concept is available on Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat and other social media platforms. When it comes to spending their advertising dollars wisely, entrepreneurs can take their pick of AI-enabled platforms.

Related: Can Artificial Intelligence Identify Pictures Better than Humans?

3. The tech behind self-driving cars can improve efficiency in myriad ways.

AI gets more exciting every day in the autonomous auto industry, and 2019 promises to be a banner year. A McKinsey & Company article describes how developers created an if/then program and supplemented it with an AI engine to make driverless cars possible. That same object recognition capability can power other applications as well. "Object detection in a video can be applied in many contexts -- from surveillance systems to self-driving cars -- to gather and analyze information and then make decisions based on it," wrote Anna Bryk, market research specialist at Apriorit, a software development company.

Object detection is also behind the smart retail checkout experience at Amazon Go stores, which allows customers to grab items and be charged without going through a cashier's line. Object detection is likewise key to augmented reality, which has been used to enhance employee training.

From better security to deeply targeted marketing, machine learning has revolutionized the business world like nothing we've seen since the internet. Entrepreneurs who embrace artificial intelligence as a crucial element in running their businesses will reap sizable benefits.

Rashan Dixon

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Co-founder of Techincon and Senior Business Consultant for Microsoft

Rashan Dixon is a senior business systems analyst at Microsoft, entrepreneur and a writer for various business and technology publications.

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