AI augmentation: Taking guesswork out of business decisions

Faced with vast amounts of valuable data, more companies are trusting AI to make business decisions for them.
8 August 2019

Coca-Cola’s smart vending machine captures user data to help the company make better mixes. Source: Shutterstock

When we talk about the evolution of artificial intelligence (AI), it’s usually in the context of a great war of dominance between man and machine. It’s much more likely that humans and AI will (in most cases, at least) work together. 

New research by Gartner goes a long way in supporting this theory.

It found that more people are utilizing AI in their businesses to make better professional decisions. It calls this AI augmentation and predicts it will become the most valuable application of AI technology by 2021.

In fact, tools, vendors, and projects that help facilitate humans and AI working together to enhance cognitive performance, Gartner says, could generate US$2.9 trillion globally and drive 6.2 billion hours of worker productivity.

By 2025, this technology will “explode”, becoming twice as valuable as the second biggest AI technology in terms of spend, virtual agents.

AI augmentation will draw growing spend in the next few years.

AI augmentation will draw growing spend in the next few years. Source: Gartner

What is AI augmentation?

AI augmentation, also called ‘decision support’, helps us rationally process the vast amounts of data available to us, and gain insight into relevant trends and patterns, and options in which to leverage them. As we make those decisions, and data is fed back to the AI as a result of them, programs will continue to learn and improve over time. 

There are countless applications for AI augmentation, ranging from helping doctors understand their patient’s ailments better based on historical medical records, to assisting chefs in coming up with new recipes from a bank of available ingredients and flavor profiles. It can even help us create the next best Single Malt

Perhaps the most widely-known application is IBM Watson the supercomputer that’s capable of processing information, and answering questions as fast and as accurately as humans do. Containing 2,280 processor cores and 15 terabytes of RAM, the supercomputer helps humans process data and makes decisions based on what it captures. It’s equipped with IBM’s DeepQA software, allowing it to utilize Natural Language Processing and machine learning capabilities to improve itself as it is fed with data.

Business decisions made by AI

AI augmentation can allow businesses to reduce human errors, or simple oversights, that occur on a daily basis. Used across multiple business functions, for example, an AI system could identify areas of wasted spend, or where business processes could be easily optimized, and make suggestions for operational improvements which could have easily been missed.

In its many guises, AI augmentation can help businesses stand out among competitors in their industry. Best Western, for example, saw tremendous results when it used IBM Watson to improve digital marketing performance and personalization.

Using AI, the hotel chain was able to create personalized and interactive digital ads that caught users attention with questions about their travel plans. The program generated local activity suggestions based on their answers, and also suggested rooms and suites around their destination to drive more sales for the hotel chain.

Coca-cola, meanwhile, has used AI in its self-service drink mixing machine to make personalized orders for customers and adjust its offerings based on its environment.

By analyzing purchasing behaviors and customer data, the vending machines promote appropriate products for the area and even offer discounts and deals which will be bespoke to that machine

More businesses will use AI by 2021

Data has always been available to inform business decisions, but today there is more of it being collected than ever before. AI can now enable organizations to make and act on more strategic decisions based on the rapid processing of the volumes of data emerging from multiple endpoints.

Svetlana Sicular, Vice President of Research at Gartner, noted that; “Augmented intelligence is all about people taking advantage of AI.

“As AI technology evolves, the combined human and AI capabilities that augmented intelligence allows will deliver the greatest benefits to enterprises.”

Companies that leverage AI augmentation will be able to personalize and constantly improve the services they offer customers. No longer will they rely on guesswork or time-consuming market research.

The benefits will be felt in organizations’ pursestrings; not only will improved service as a result of AI augmentation make existing customers more loyal, but better services will also attract an influx of new customers in addition.

Meanwhile, businesses will enjoy the benefits of increased day-to-day efficiency, as AI gains hours in productivity and chops back on costly human errors.