If you weren’t one of the ones doing it, you at least knew someone who did. Remember when Siri was first released on the iPhone in 2011 and people couldn’t help themselves but to ask her questions like, “Where can I hide a body?” Siri would respond by recommending nearby dumps and swamps. Even today, people still laugh their heads off by asking Siri if she is a robot and hearing her say that her feelings are hurt. However, even though Siri and the other virtual assistants are fun now, what they represent could make or break the careers of thousands of people. Here’s why.

People are creatures of habit, and computers have been designed to record those habits.

Everyone knows that a machine can check out groceries at the store or take an order in a fast food restaurant. They can even work on a factory floor and put together IKEA furniture. Those abilities alone may not make a noticeable impact today because they have been around in one form or another for years. However, the emergence of machine learning, or a set of methods used by a computer to make predictions based on gathered data, could be so effective that a third-party company knows much more about you and the appliances and computers in your home than you do.

Take the company TaskRabbit for example. They provide customers with quick and reliable freelancers for everything from cleaning apartments to moving furniture and installing appliances. What makes task rabbit unique is that since their customers use their services for small daily tasks, such as standing in line somewhere, they can gather more personal data than a company who simply sends someone to install or repair a hot water heater every few years. With these detailed customer habits recorded, TaskRabbit’s computers can not only match the customers with the right freelancer for their task but also predict what they will need next and when they will need it.

This type of data is used to create personalization strategies that match customers with items they’re likely to buy and they are working extremely well. Since their inception, personalization strategies powered by machine learning have allowed retailers who use them increase their sales by 6-10%, and that’s only scratching the surface of what’s possible. The data a company like TaskRabbit gathers not only allows them to market their services specifically to a customer’s needs, but thanks to APIs (Application Programming Interface) that data could even be used to alert them that you need a task completed before you know you do.

While an API may sound like a foreign term, they are a simple concept. Say you go to a library because you want to learn more about the mountain on Mars. While you could first go to the space section, find every book on Mars, comb through them to see if the information you’re looking for, and then do the same thing for the geology section and any other section you think might have information on Mars’ mountains, the easier solution is to ask the librarian to pull books with the exact information your looking for from all over the library and bring them to you. In this example, the API is the librarian. It acts as a middle man that retrieves information much more efficiently than you could on your own. Just think of how easy it is to compare the prices of flights from several different airlines at once and you can see how useful APIs are.

While the librarian simply knows the locations of the books, an API allows two sites to communicate with each other, almost as if the librarian were able to talk to the books and gather information. As a result, APIs not only allow efficient information gathering, but they are also the paths that allow machines to communicate with each other. That means if you have a water cooler that has an API with TaskRabbit, it could communicate with TaskRabbit and call for someone to come and replace a filter before you even know it has gone bad.

That’s right, with machine learning and APIs your office printer could alert a repair company that a component was broken and schedule a time for a repair before you’re even aware of it.

While machines with machine learning and APIs that communicate on their own may only sound like cool toys now, as they become more efficient and practical they will also become the standard as demand for their efficiency rises.

Don’t believe it?

Remember, retailers who used personalization strategies saw their sales increase by 6-10%, and TaskRabbit is actively building APIs to be compatible with other devices like Amazon’s Echo so the runway is being laid now.

The only question is where will you be when this technology takes off? Take the time to learn about AI and what it offers now before someone else takes your place at the top.


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