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The increasing prevalence of artificial intelligence

It is easily accessible, and companies are able to use it to analyse large amounts of data, which will allow them to better engage with customers

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As technology continues to make ripples across the workplace, AI has become increasingly prevalent. Through AI, companies are able to analyse large amounts of data, which will allow them to better engage with customers.

YOU'VE heard of it in movies or in passing conversations. Maybe your workplace uses it, or you're considering using it yourself. Regardless, in this era of digital disruption, one cannot go far without hearing the term AI, short for artificial intelligence.

As technology continues to make ripples across the workplace, AI has become increasingly prevalent. Through AI, companies are able to analyse large amounts of data, which will allow them to better engage with customers.

Today, AI is easily accessible. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs), such as Have Halal, Will Travel (HHWT), an online platform that shows Muslim travellers where there are Muslim-friendly eateries or prayer spaces, uses AI on its website to make it easier to engage with customers. With many emails to answer, some on completely different timezones, the company decided to build an AI interface using Microsoft's Azure platform.

A poll among customers soon gave the AI its name: Sofia. To this day, Sofia serves customers all over the world, 24 hours a day.

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Besides SMEs, AI is the foundation of several startups. Local startup Overdrive, a cloud solution that allows users to connect with their vehicles from a smart device, and part of Microsoft's BizSpark programme, makes use of AI as well. The company used Microsoft Azure to build a mobile Internet of Things (IoT) platform.

It is able to provide real-time updates and insights for car rental companies and school bus operators. Additionally, Overdrive is also able to provide information on vehicle condition, location and driver's performance.

Another startup that uses AI is Connected Life. It provides smart home technology for the elderly, and sends alerts to a nominated family member when troubles occur. The company was recognised as Startup Partner of the Year at Microsoft's Star Awards last year.It uses Microsoft Azure-based cloud to support elderly who live independently.

Connected Life does so by collecting motion and sound-based data. This data is then sent to the sensor algorithm on Connected Life's Azure Cloud, where it is analysed. By providing this service, Connected Life brings peace of mind to families of elderly people.

AI is progressing faster than its adoption rate. Microsoft announced on March 18 this year that a team of researchers has created the first machine translation system.

The machine was able to achieve human parity, translating English to Chinese on the same level as a human translator.

Microsoft also announced an update to its cognitive services on Azure. Such updates included object detection, which is a customisable Web service that learns to recognise specific content in images.

Additionally, resources are widely available. Microsoft also has an AI school, which allows students to take online courses on AI in which they are trained to use the technology. This helps to bridge skills gaps so that businesses are able to adopt and use AI.

In June last year, the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore (LKY School), National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), Institute of Adult Learning, SkillsFuture Singapore (IAL), Microsoft and LinkedIn signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

The three-year MOU will aim to provide insight into the skills needed in the digital age. Microsoft Azure will be used to analyse and store data.

The NUS Institute of Data has also inked an MOU with Microsoft. The collaboration will enable both parties to work on data science research. Microsoft will provide its Cortana Intelligence Suite Education Programme to help NUS build a suitable environment for research.

Innovative solutions, such as the aforementioned Connected Life, can be empowered by AI. There are also numerous resources available to help bridge the skills gap. This allows organisations to gain clarity in their ambition as the world continues in its fourth industrial revolution.

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