San Francisco startup Plenty’s innovative use of artificial intelligence (AI) has attracted $200 million in funding from SoftBank Vision Fund, the world’s biggest tech fund. Plenty uses AI machine learning in conjunction with IoT sensors to grow crops indoors with only water, nutrients and light. Plenty’s AI-powered growth system uses only 1 percent the water of conventional farming while yielding 350 times as much produce per square foot.
As Plenty’s story illustrates, AI has become mainstream enough to be accessible to startups. Here are three ways startups are already using AI to improve their daily operations.
One of the most widespread applications of AI is customer service. Forty-two percent of all companies use AI to increase customer satisfaction, a number that rises to 90 percent among the top companies, according to an MIT Technology Review report. One of the most prevalent customer service applications in AI is chatbots, which enable companies to offer customers self-service options, reducing customer wait time in the process.
Another popular customer service application of AI is analytics, which enables companies to use data about the customer to provide personalized service based on the customer’s background and current needs. AI is expected to transform the customer service experience by allowing companies to optimize call center operations and deliver service customized to customer preferences.
Customer service applications of artificial intelligence are also helping boost sales, another popular application of AI. Using analytics to deliver personalized service enables call center agents to determine which upsell and cross-sell offers are most likely to appeal to customers. Companies can also use AI to send customers personalized sales offers via email or text.
Another valuable sales application of AI is optimizing sales processes. For instance, most sales reps spend 80 percent of their time qualifying leads and only 20 percent of their time closing, says Conversica CEO Alex Terry. AI automates the qualifying process, enabling sales representatives to spend more of their time closing sales and generating revenue.
Another important application of AI for IT operations is security. Cybersecurity experts have long used machine learning techniques to identify and analyze threats. AI also helps security specialists identify security breaches more rapidly by analyzing the contrast between normal and abnormal behavior patterns, enabling more rapid responses.
Another important security application of AI is biometric identification. Biometric identification methods that rely on image recognition such as facial recognition require AI. Using AI for this purpose requires more computing power than mobile devices have traditionally had, so recent smartphone innovations such as Qualcomm’s Artificial Intelligence platform have begun increasing their processing speed in order to enable on-device AI. On-device AI allows companies to secure employee smartphones with facial recognition and other biometric identification methods.
Customer service, sales, and security are three of the growing range of areas where AI is helping start-up companies improve their operational performance. As artificial intelligence becomes more prevalent and more start-ups incorporate AI, their operations will become increasingly more automated, more efficient and more profitable.