The Future of Artificial Intelligence for Small Businesses

Science fiction could soon become a fact of life.

It’s no secret that in a few short years, artificial intelligence (A.I.) and business automation will reshape the U.S. and global economy. We’ve heard about it for years, but in the last five or so, these concepts that were previously reserved for science fiction novels have started to become reality. Software and apps have started to slowly seep their way into devices and business processes that were previously thought impossible.

Amazon Machine Learning, for example, lets small businesses use their existing data to make predictions about how many customers might be walking through the door on a given day.

Another company, Prism Skylabs, has created a solution that uses cameras to gather analytics from brick-and-mortar shops—it’ll measure where customers spend most of their time in a store and what paths they take when walking through the space.

Although it is tough to truly gauge how the future of automation might affect your business as it is today, it is a good idea to keep an eye on the rapidly evolving industry and prepare for the rapid change that is expected in the future.

The A.I. Rollout Will Be Slow But Meaningful

The emergence of accessible artificial intelligence for small businesses is coming. Wow, that sounded ominous, but it’s nothing to be afraid of, probably.

Although discussion of A.I. might conjure images of the Terminator T-1000, NBA Hall of Famer and possible cyborg Allen Iverson, or some other work of technology and science fiction, the true rollout of artificial intelligence and automation for small businesses will probably look more like the adoption of computers and software during the 1980s and 1990s.

At first, adoption will be slow. There will be naysayers. (And in the case of horses, there will also be neigh sayers.) Some older business will prefer to keep doing things “the way that they have always been done.” But eventually, the forward-thinking A.I. benefactors will win out, simply because they will be able to outpace their competitors. Machine learning and artificial intelligence for small businesses won’t suddenly become the standard overnight, but it will happen more quickly than many expect.

A.I. Will Initially Come From Third-Party Vendors

In the beginning, A.I., machine learning and data intelligence will likely be something that small businesses acquire from third-party service providers. As with all new technologies, it will simply be cost-prohibitive for small businesses to be able to afford their own custom A.I. software. But there will be plenty of outsourced providers that will be able to supply them with very specific A.I. processes. These may come in the form of data analysis, machine learning or marketing automation.

One day further down the road, it will be more feasible for companies to invest in their own A.I. applications. As the A.I. revolution begins, most small businesses will be able to access artificial intelligence applications from third-party providers that focus on specific business processes and information. For instance, in 10 years you might have separate entities that provide A.I. and automation software for different departments like inventory management, payroll and HR.

At first, these systems might be industry or process specific. As the technology progresses, these platforms may be able to adapt to new industries, processes and environments. That will be when true A.I. for small businesses becomes feasible for all industries across the board.

Start Small But Plan to Grow A.I. Adoption

Even today we can see the beginnings of the A.I. digital revolution creeping into view. There are more startups than ever that are designed to automate very specific tasks for businesses and learn as they do so.

You can start adopting A.I. and true business automation today. Start small, but always keep in mind that this is a rapidly evolving industry and there will be countless opportunities to adopt A.I. technologies in the future that will help you to grow your business.