A Look Back on the AI Strategic Forum

On Monday January 15th, a strategic forum on AI was held in Montreal, organized by the CCMM. This was the place to be to get more information and to better understand the ecosystem set up around the advanced expertise of artificial intelligence (AI).

ExoB2B has been interested in AI since the beginning of 2017. We produced a small series of videos with AI entrepreneurs in Montreal.

If you haven’t already seen them, I strongly encourage you to take a look.

I was on site to take into consideration the “strategic” aspect of this forum and share it with you. After all, AI systems are described as capable of reproducing and improving human capabilities.

Advances in recent years have moved AI from supply chain AI to more intellectually complex tasks. Considering that marketing is still very much a matter of emotions, it is this most advanced AI’s ability to decode emotions that fascinates me the most and that I was going to investigate.

Let’s start with the sinews of business warfare…

AI according to CGI

The integration of AI into a company has several advantages and allows among other things, to increase:

  • Profitability (reducing costs);
  • Employee productivity
  • Quality of services to clients
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Income
  • The ability to be more competitive.

Still, according to CGI Global Insights, it’s interesting to note that the most complex use is found at the marketing level.

If the first chatbots emerged with an astonishing ability to interact and, are increasingly refined with the advances of machine learning, we will soon see the appearance of virtual agents with the ability to interpret emotions and empathy.

It’s with profound learning, based on neural network layers (imagine a hierarchy of concepts), that the human/machine relationship will still improve.

Therefore, it’s not surprising to see the communications and financial sectors being the most “mature” in terms of AI use, although they are still experimenting, much like all sectors.

In its predictive elements (what will happen?) and its prescriptive elements (prevent or reproduce?), AI will significantly change the customer experience.

Chatbots are already in operation and are increasingly refined through machine learning.

The more data there is, the more possibilities there are in AI. The quality goes with the quantity. For the moment, at least…

In some instances, this is what gives B2B marketing a little leeway.  The complexity and length of the purchase cycle will offer specific challenges for those who want to tackle it.

However, for now, apart from the concrete applications of supply chain optimization, few new innovations effect B2B in general.

Different levels of intelligence

Essentially with AI, there are 3 levels of intelligence:

Assisted Intelligence: It’s used to improve processes. In your daily life, think about the automatic classification of incoming emails via Gmail. Based on all users, it automatically sorts your incoming emails, to such boxes as, main inbox, social networks, promotions and notifications

Enhanced Intelligence: This is used to make complex choices. Think of Netflix or Amazon, which offers you choices of movies or books based on your tastes and that of other people who have made a cultural consumption, similar to yours.

This way, every car learning experience is shared with the entire Tesla fleet.

Autonomous Intelligence: That of science fiction, the one that chooses, on its own, what is to be done. Facial recognition or some bomb-defusing robots are part of these known applications.

Of course, Tesla’s autonomous conduct is probably the most spectacular public version of this type of artificial intelligence. YouTube is full of examples where the car takes control to save its driver.

Each learning experience of each car is shared with the entire Tesla fleet. Apply this to the Internet of objects and let your imagination go…

It is there on the other hand, that the question of confidence in the machine is going to be the most “tested”, while many cases of ethics surface. The adoption of AI will become a matter of trust for the one who uses it and for the receiver!

It’ll be necessary to think strategically about the effect of AI use on the different internal and external parties of the company. Pay attention to control or, lack of control… and that’s where we get to the marketing.

The impact of AI on marketing

As far as B2B marketing is concerned, it is in the niche of augmented intelligence, the one that helps decision making by taking inspiration from previous behaviours, that we will see disruptive innovations.

One can therefore imagine that, combined with constantly updated data on people, this increased intelligence will give a serious edge to the company. Its marketing tactics will benefit from a high degree of personalization.

Provided, of course, that the marketing strategy put in place from the outset is the right one.

Consequently, the impact on your company’s branding will be affected. Every point of contact, every moment of truth contributes to positively or negatively shape your brand.

Will you be smart enough to think about the next unique use of AI for your business?

  • Product customization
  • Experience personalization
  • Stakeholder in the company’s business model

The competitive advantage will lie in the data you have, and it will become, according to many experts, the new frontier of intellectual property.

At the beginning you have to “feed” the machine: 

  • Take the time to test and train the machine.
  • Find the test subject and the number of tests.
  • Consider acceptable social norms and expectations
  • Also find the “sweet spot”, where is it worth making this investment of time and resources.
  • Determine the threshold for human intervention!

Thus, push human intervention too early and the investment is questionable; too late, one must ask what the possible harms are.

Given the risks associated with a B2B transaction and the length of the purchasing cycle, that’s a lot to leave to a “machine” … So, I expect the adoption of AI in B2B, outside the factory, to be a little slower than in the general population.

In addition, the slowness of B2B companies to invest in the long term is another factor that will also slow the adoption of AI.

A shadow hovers over the horizon, but…

Imagine being able to corrupt the database the AI feeds off of. This would result in manufacturing defects, confusing customers or, intelligence drawing the wrong conclusions.

However, I would be remiss if I ended on a negative note…

The immediate future of real-world AI applications will undoubtedly involve meshes such as Ubisoft’s Forge, which offers the possibility of bridging the gap between theory and practice when it comes to artificial intelligence.

Of course, they will be the first to take advantage of this. But when we think about the different simulators that exist and how valuable they are for the safety of us all, we can only hope that there will be more of this kind of networking.

Closer to marketing, Element AI’s collaboration with Automat, an AI-powered online conversation solution for major brands, already offers a glimpse into the new generation of chatbots.

The future looks bright

With 9,000 AI students in Montreal, a mecca for technology start-ups, don’t be surprised to see young start-ups on the market that will revolutionize large parts of your industry and mine.

The human mind is flexible. We’re going to have to adapt…


Think ahead, what do you see popping up on the market in the next few years?

Personally, I see in the short-term websites that update themselves and whose content becomes clearer with the number of visits and choices of users. What do you think about this?

As a member of the NextBlue Alliance, a group of companies offering IBM Watson Artificial Intelligence-based solutions, ExoB2B is well positioned to help your business in your digital shift. Contact us!

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