Season 5: Innovating for impact

Make AI work for you, Kate Shepherd
Part 2 of 4

Rethinking AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the way we do business. It is the largest innovation in computer software since the start of the internet, and is how we will all eventually work. According to Harvard Business School, the expected impact is that for all office workers, up to 40% of the tasks currently performed will be augmented or replaced by AI. And according to McKinsey’s Committed Innovators report of 2023, innovative companies outperform their competitors by 35% by using technology to drive and support business growth.

AI is not a single product, but a collection of algorithms, data and applications – you might have heard of these referred to as “expert systems” or “machine learning”. Modern AI encompasses all these approaches, and will either be within your existing software, such as Microsoft Copilot – a chatbot developed by Microsoft and launched in 2023; or may be a standalone application, such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, a free-to-use AI system launched in 2022.

It’s now easier than ever to combine these AI tools with everyday software such as Google Drive, Dropbox, email and your digital calendar. This is in addition to easier access and lower cost enabling a business to recreate how it can execute many day-to-day activities.

AI tools can be applied to a wide range of everyday productivity tasks.

Let’s try and solve the following challenge:

I need to plan a journey from Birmingham to Swindon. We will use my electric car (EV) which has a range of 100 miles and we want to stay overnight so that we can be at our meeting early the next day.

For a moment, let’s just think about how we would do this using Google Search:

  1. Plan the route. We would probably use Google Maps for this.
  2. Somewhere along the route we would figure out where to stop and maybe charge the car.
  3. We would then look for hotels near the end of the journey.

Let’s ask Google AI, which is called Gemini (previously Bard), to do this.

We do this using what is called “a prompt”. Think of a prompt as providing a clear well-structured instruction to an assistant.

Here is the prompt:

I want you to plan a journey from Birmingham to Swindon. I am using my Mercedes EQC EV which will have remaining charge of 100 miles when I depart, I want to arrive in Swindon by 7pm. Recommend where to stop en-route for a break and to charge the car. Suggest some well-reviewed (4 star+) accommodation near the end of the route for me to stay in. Use the M5.

Here are the results:

Sure, the distance between Birmingham and Swindon is 93 miles (150 km) along the M5. While your Mercedes EQC EV has a range of 100 miles, it’s always a good idea to be cautious when estimating range, especially on long trips. Here is a Tesla Supercharger you can stop at along the way to top up your battery: Tesla Supercharger Hungerford. This Tesla Supercharger in Hungerford has a 4.5 star rating on Google Maps. It is located just off the M5 at J14.

The drive from Birmingham to Swindon should take about 1 hour and 46 minutes, but don’t forget to factor in meal and break times when figuring out how long your trip will take in total. Also be sure to factor in charging time – how long it takes to charge your car will depend on the specific Tesla Supercharger you use and the current state of charge of your battery.

I also found some hotels near Swindon that have a user rating of at least 4 stars:

  • The Saracen’s Head Hotel, Highworth: A traditional pub offering guestrooms with private facilities plus a restaurant, two bars and a garden. Price: £45 per night.
  • Travelodge Swindon West: Unassuming rooms in a modest budget hotel offering a cafe/bar and complimentary parking. Price: £64 per night.
  • The Crown Inn: Georgian-style coaching inn and pub, offering traditional fare and unpretentious rooms. Price: £55 per night.
  • Stanton House Hotel: Low-key rooms in a country manor house with landscaped gardens, plus free Wi-Fi and breakfast. Price: £76 per night.
  • Holiday Inn Express Swindon West, an IHG Hotel: Low-key budget hotel offering a restaurant and a bar, plus free hot breakfast, parking & Wi-Fi. Price: £73 per night.

You can see that the AI worked like a smart assistant, working out from my “prompt” what needed to be done.

There are a few things that you should understand. The AI is using data from a moment in the past for most of its information. Although it has accessed the internet for additional data, you will still want to check things, for example, that the hotel has accommodation available. You can however use the links provided to check and make a booking. In the future this may be automated for you by the AI.

When you use AI to generate additional information, you should always review for accuracy and check for any bias that may have occurred.

Why not have a go yourself? Find an AI tool like ChatGPT or Gemini, and then think about a similar journey – maybe an upcoming work trip. See what AI comes up with!

One final note is data privacy. There is a concern that the information you enter could be used as data for future versions of the AI. You should ensure that you have reviewed and opted out of any data services that involve the software provider keeping or having access to any company proprietary data or personal data. Each company will have comprehensive data policies which you should review. In the UK, GDPR still applies, as does any other data legislation.

As you can see from the examples above, this technology is continuously improving and being embedded into commonly used tools. Behind the technology of everyday activities such as search and document production there will be increasingly capable and available AI-driven tools for you to use and drive innovation and productivity.