Artificial intelligence (AI) is now a daily topic that is being promoted time and again from many quarters. This is because the potential of this technology is very high and it is transforming the way we all live and work on a par with other technologies (can you imagine your job today without the Internet?). The most important advances for companies in the field of AI have been made in recent years and are still happening. In the midst of this whirlwind of information, it helps to know concrete examples of what is currently implemented to identify possible opportunities for your company.

We presented some practical examples at the Ticino Chamber of Commerce.

Like any potential innovation, it only makes sense to implement it if the resulting benefit is greater than the effort required for its implementation. It is therefore useful to broadly outline your business strategy in order to match it with existing possibilities so to define where to explore the introduction of this technology and where it brings the greatest benefits: if you are a high-volume business with strong pressure on margins, AI can help automate already highly standardised processes or identify hidden opportunities for optimisation. For others businesses, AI helps to position themselves more competitively in the market, to maintain a leadership position or to expand their market.

AI can be introduced anywhere and offers wonderful opportunities

One opportunity of AI is to use it to enable robots to perceive and respond to their environment: this greatly increases the range of functions robots can perform. Today we see for example the use of robots to automate the transport of materials within a building in areas shared with people. This is a major advance that allows robots to be introduced where they were previously excluded for safety reasons.

On a more strategic level, AI can help a company set prices for its products and services with greater precision, based on past data, as well as market trends and the individual characteristics of each of its customers. Based on the analysis of past experience, AI suggests or sets the most suitable prices so that it can optimise sales volume or margins without compromising the competitiveness, as has been proven by the tourism and retail industries that use it constantly.

The introduction of AI presupposes a company's willingness to embark on a transformation that will enable it to make the most of the qualities of its staff. AI can serve as a support in the execution of complex tasks that require speed and precision. By involving the people affected in the right way from the outset, resistance can be avoided and results exceeding the initial expectations can be achieved.

This is the case of a clinic in the Romandie that has introduced AI to improve the management of its emergency service. Every emergency is unique and often unexpected. However, the clinic decided to explore the opportunity of introducing AI, an analysis of the emergency data, combined with other data available on the market, revealed interesting correlations. On the basis of these, an AI was trained that was able to predict in real time and with an accuracy of over 90% the number of visits to the emergency department during the day, as well as the type of emergency of each visit. This has allowed resources to be allocated more efficiently as the clinic is no longer the victim of the unexpected, but can prepare and plan the day according to what has already been predicted. The participation of the staff involved has allowed them to translate this benefit into an improvement in all activities that were previously impacted by the uncertainty of emergencies, and to leverage this success and expand the use of AI to manage and predict the progress of their patients' hospital stays. The business has transformed from primarily reacting to unexpected events to optimising the care of each patient based on reliable predictions.

AI is almost a must there where its introduction began earlier than in other sectors. It is important to choose suppliers specialised in the specific field for the implementation of these solutions. The best of them offer the experience needed to develop a solution that can keep up with the most advanced competition and bring out the advantage that a company has to offer.

Another example is the use of AI to improve the quality control of the industrial production of mechanical components. It is possible to use a series of sensors that analyse at a very high speed (so as not to slow down the machines) each part produced, thus ensuring the identification of any defects that would otherwise have required a slower analysis with perhaps more expensive methods. The AI was trained to analyse all this information and identify parts that did not meet the required standards. By combining the analysed information, the AI is able to identify the defective part and create a three-dimensional model showing the identified defect. This dramatically increases the quality of the product offered, as well as allows to better allocate the specialists' expertise, who can concentrate on higher value-added activities.

AI brings with it the transformative potential that other technological revolutions have brought, which can, however, create legal risks. If AI is implemented without considering the broader consequences related to the existing regulations as well as the expectations of the people who are affected, such as your customers, suppliers, employees or the authorities with whom your company works, the legal and reputational repercussions can be significant. This is because the legal and ethical issues to be considered are multiple and complex, and only a thorough knowledge of these aspects combined with a deep understanding of how AI works allows to identify where the greatest potential lies, what are the best practices to follow and what are the risks to avoid.

A typical example of this is the introduction of tools to monitor the IT infrastructure of a company to identify and report possible threats. Cybersecurity is now considered one of the mandatory responsibilities of the management, as the data and systems connected to the digital infrastructure are vital and require high protection from increasingly sophisticated attacks. AI-based monitoring systems, trained within 24 hours on a company's specific characteristics, can identify activities that deviate from the normal within minutes, rather than days, so that it is possible to react immediately not only to cyber attacks, but also to threats that can emerge from within, such as the use of insecure services or even attempts to damage the company. However, it is essential to analyse what data can be collected and how it can be analysed, so as not to run the risk of infringing the rights of employees and customers. The choice of a provider is also influenced by the security requirements imposed by the client's particular field of activity.

Finally, an eye must always be kept on the costs and the practical issues arising from implementing AI. As mentioned at the outset, the effects of adopting AI tools is multiplied if it is done in alignment with a digital strategy that makes the most of the transformative effect that the digitisation of processes brings. Pursuing an internal revolution of the working of the company in a short space of time often leads to an explosion of costs and ongoing delays. It is therefore advisable to start with small steps, adopting small solutions that allow an initial experience with this technology without having to invest too many resources. The success of these initiatives serves as a springboard for a gradual evolution of a company’s business while maintaining its most valuable elements.

AI can be introduced anywhere and offers wonderful opportunities. However, the choice of the most suitable initiative, the right provider, as well as the involvement of the people affected and the planning of the various aspects specific to this technology is crucial to ensure a positive experience and thus to realise its full potential.