The UK is ranked as one of the most innovative countries in the world and is at the forefront of developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Digital Technology.

AI gives machines the capacity to mimic human reasoning by learning from experiences and performing tasks in a similar way to a human being, and new AI applications are being developed every day. Many companies believe that AI will underpin the biggest technological advances and innovations over the next few years, fostering the fourth industrial revolution.

The increased use of modern, ‘smart’ technology in the automation of manufacturing and communications processes is changing how we live and work, from medical diagnoses to playing video and board games.

Potentially, AI could bring immense benefits to SMEs, saving manpower and time. Artificial intelligence could reduce the time spent on day to day mundane administrative tasks such as scheduling business meetings, and logging and analysing sales data to improve marketing and management strategies.

Advances in technology come thick and fast, and it is important for small businesses to grasp the opportunities and advantages offered by AI, to help them thrive in a competitive marketplace.

AI is becoming integral to marketing

Businesses are using AI systems to improve how they find their customers and then engage with them. Machines can learn by analysing customer data and produce predictions of customer behaviour which will help the company target exactly the right kind of customer for their market.

This helps to shorten their return on investment time as well as allowing them to create more insightful marketing campaigns.

The most obvious use is for AI to provide a competitive edge by raising sales and providing flexible and interactive solutions based on a customer’s requirements and interests. Some of the most popular AI marketing applications are:-

Adext - This is an online ‘supercomputer which provides ‘smart’ digital advertising. It uses intelligent algorithms to detect and predict which type of audience viewing your advertisement are most likely to become customers, and then puts the ad in exactly the right place.

Clever Chatbots - These are a form of AI used by companies as ‘virtual’ customer services. They provide a conversational interface with the customer, which can answer their questions quickly and efficiently, without the need to involve a human being, thereby saving business time and money.

In the world of social media, there are over 300,000 Facebook chatbots, and big businesses such as Sephora Beauty and Pizza Hut use Facebook Messenger to automate online sales. Marketing information can be acquired by the Chatbot requiring the customer to sign up for marketing updates or webinars and even guiding customers to a site where they can finalise their transaction and pay.

And even cleverer Chatbots!

Machines communicate using structured and logical language patterns based on their data input. However, we as human beings rarely speak logically, using slang, wrong spellings and even the wrong words altogether. More advanced Chatbots have natural language processing which enables them to communicate in a more human-like, personalised way, creating a customer service experience similar to text messaging.

Another attraction for businesses is the 24/7, round-the-clock service provided by Chatbots, anytime, anywhere.

Visual search engine – similar to a keyword search engine, this allows you to take a photo of something you want to buy and your phone will show you something identical or similar, which you can purchase straight away.

Intelligent Enterprise Immune systems - this technology uses AI algorithms which mimic the human immune system to combat cyber criminality, by detecting and containing cyber threats including ransomware, malware and a whole raft of other sinister technology. IEIs help businesses feel more secure, knowing their data is as safe as possible.

Government support for innovation in AI

As well as providing research-led tax incentives such as R & D tax relief, the Government has allocated funding for innovative research which businesses can access via Innovate UK. This agency can also help by connecting your business with other researchers and potential collaborators, and even find possible customers for your new idea.

The Office for Artificial Intelligence (OAI) is a part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and is responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Government’s AI and Data ‘Grand Challenge’ to drive innovative uptake of AI technologies in the UK.

The OAI’s mission is to ensure the UK is at the leading edge of the AI and Data revolution, which is transforming the global economy and business models across all industry sectors.

Turing AI Acceleration Fellowships

Another major Government investment of £20 million in AI skills and research has just been announced with the creation of 15 Turing fellowships for leading UK researchers to develop cutting-edge AI technologies.

(The fellowships are named after British mathematical genius and AI pioneer Alan Turing).

This research could bring major improvements to our lives from fighting disease to improving the environment, and the fellowships will foster collaboration between industry and academia, creating opportunities for businesses to form partnerships which will accelerate the impact of these transformative technologies.

Funding for the Turing AI Acceleration fellowships is part of the £46 million investment in the industry announced by the Government in 2018.

Turing AI Research topics include:

  • New neurotechnological devices which measure signals from the brain and enable the wearer to interact with technology without having to move. This could help people who are unable to communicate because of an illness or a serious injury.
  • Improving the performance and capability of voice-based virtual personal assistants similar to Siri and Alexa. Currently, these systems are only able to perform simple tasks and sustain limited conversations.
  • Systems involving the network of neurons in our brains, and the use of photonic devices which can manipulate, detect or create light. They could have a wide range of applications in weather forecasting, analysing wind patterns in offshore energy farms, or processing images at very high speeds for medical diagnostics.  

Companies interested in becoming Turing Project Partners can find more details here :

Turing AI Fellowships | The Alan Turing Institute