Artificial intelligence, or simply AI, was merely a dream a number of years ago – now, not only are we seeing it become more common in our everyday lives, it’s beginning to be a very hot topic amongst businesses. Last year, the Boston Consulting Group and MIT Sloan Management Review study published a report that found 84% of respondents thought AI will enable them to obtain or sustain a competitive advantage whilst 75% felt AI would allow them to move into new businesses and ventures. Simply put, AI is revolutionising business as we know it.
Many business leaders agree that having AI and a level of self-automation being present in some part of a business, however big or small, is beneficial. However, there are still a number, albeit a small group, of leaders who have voiced their concerns. At the very worst, there is a worry that should AI become too prominent, the worst-case scenario is a humans vs robots with ultimately the human workforce being side-lined. Putting that to one side, the benefits of AI in business is vast and here are a few examples of how I believe AI will be revolutionising the enterprise space in the not too distant future:
When AI and robotics were added to the production line, many feared that manual jobs would become solely automated. However what sceptics of robotics don’t realise is that it was implemented to take on the smaller, less critical tasks – like packing, stacking and labelling boxes. Many think the world is on the verge of a technological revolution, or the “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” (4IR) which is a combination of technologies that fuse the physical, digital and biological worlds together – a world where machines can think for themselves.
Similar to production lines, basic data entry and programming roles are becoming much more efficient and cost-effective through AI. Filling vacancies with long-term, fully automated AI-powered computers could be the answer, but in the short term, teaching smart technology to work alongside human talent could be the way forward for businesses and help bridge the skills gap, which takes me onto my next point.
Whilst the access to time and skills is limited and businesses become more and more data-driven, it’s clear that taking two weeks to manually translate raw data has significant implications. With the volume of data being generated on a daily basis, it’s no surprise that inaccuracies occur. Whilst time is eaten by employees tidying data into something that’s meaningful – chances are that by the time it’s complete, it’s already out of date. Sceptics will argue that certain jobs can be done more efficiently by humans, however, this can come at a higher cost in man-hours and more receptive to human error. Jeopardising the security of your business cannot be an exception at any cost.
Improving data security
Cybersecurity is a critical part of enterprises with businesses spending billions of dollars each year in making sure its defences are able to keep out hackers. The job of staying ahead of hackers is incredibly challenging for CTO’s, but the capabilities of AI can certainly help. Whether it’s the latest spyware, DDoS attack patterns or botnets, hackers are constantly evolving and adapting to find new ways in which to breach a company’s data defences. Where we’re seeing AI supporting is having the ability to scour the internet to look for some of these threats ahead of time and before they are used against companies. Human security analysts can only do so much and in many cases, the pace and change to the threat landscape are simply too much. Leveraging AI and deep learning to help human analysts will make things a lot safer for businesses.
Bridging the skills gap
Despite AI’s potential to drive change, there continues to be a shortage of cyber skills. According to a ESG survey of 650 IT cybersecurity professionals this year, 51% claimed they had a “problematic shortage of cybersecurity skills”. The ramifications include increased workload on cybersecurity staff to hire and train juniors as opposed to hiring experienced cybersecurity professionals – leaving less time to deal with cyber crises when they need to. However, this shouldn’t be seen as replacing jobs, but will instead increase the need for workers with more advanced skills. Businesses need to invest in creating a culture of constant learning for their staff where they can learn new skills and attract leading AI practitioners. The introduction of AI could help bridge the gap by widening skills and allowing employees to work alongside machines – leaving AI to manage less critical jobs.
AI should not only create time for innovation and proactive threat hunting but deliver cost savings and increase employee productivity. Like the revolutions that preceded it, 4IR has the potential to improve the quality of life for employees and their employers around the world. With AI taking a leading role in tackling simple and repetitive tasks, the human workforce can focus on roles that are more complex, challenging and require much more critical thinking power. Unfortunately, though we cannot see the future yet, businesses should think more holistically about the advantages of AI and what can be reaped, before competitors do.
To keep up-to-date with the latest cybersecurity news, take a look at the McAfee Security blog here.