Earlier this year, Mark Austin, vice president of data science at AT&T, noticed that some of the company’s developers had started using the ChatGPT chatbot at work. When developers got stuck, they asked ChatGPT to explain, fix, or improve their code.
It appears to be a game-changer, Mr. Austin said. But since ChatGPT is a publicly available tool, they wondered whether it was safe for businesses to use.
So in January, AT&T tried out a product called Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Services, which lets businesses build their own AI-powered chatbots. AT&T used this to create Ask AT&T, a proprietary AI assistant that helps its developers automate their coding process. AT&T’s customer service representatives also began using chatbots to help summarize their calls, among other tasks.
“Once they realize what it can do, they love it,” Mr. Austin said. Forms that used to take hours to complete only needed two minutes with Ask AT&T, so employees can focus on more complex tasks, and developers using the chatbot have increased their productivity, he said. increased from 20 to 50 percent.
AT&T is one of many businesses eager to find ways to harness the power of generative artificial intelligence, the technology that powers chatbots and that has filled Silicon Valley with excitement in recent months . Generative AI can produce its own text, photos and videos in response to prompts, capabilities that could help automate tasks such as taking meeting minutes and cutting through paperwork.
To meet this new demand, tech companies are racing to introduce products for businesses that incorporate generative AI. In the past three months, Amazon, Box and Cisco have unveiled plans for generative AI-powered products that produce code, analyze documents and summarize meetings. Salesforce also recently launched generative AI products to be used in sales, marketing and its Slack messaging service, while Oracle announced a new AI feature for HR teams.
These companies are also investing more in AI development. In May, Oracle and Salesforce Ventures, the venture capital arm of Salesforce, invested in Cohear, a Toronto start-up focused on generative AI for business use. Oracle is also reselling Cohere’s technology.
“I think it’s an absolute breakthrough in enterprise software,” Aaron Levy, chief executive officer of Box, said of generative AI. He called it “this incredibly exciting opportunity where, for the first time, you can really start to understand what’s inside.” your data in a way that it was not possible before.”
Many of these tech companies are following Microsoft, which invested $13 billion in OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT. In January, Microsoft made the Azure OpenAI service available to customers, who can then access OpenAI’s technology to build their own versions of ChatGPT. As of May, the service had 4,500 customers, said John Montgomery, Microsoft’s corporate vice president.
For the most part, tech companies are now offering four types of generic AI products for businesses: features and services that generate code for software engineers, create sales emails and new content like product descriptions for marketing teams, Companies search data to respond to employees. questions, and present meeting notes and summaries of longer documents.
“It’s going to be a tool that people are going to use to accomplish what they’re doing,” said Bern Elliott, vice president and analyst at IT research and consulting firm Gartner.
But there are risks in using generative AI in workplaces. Chatbots can generate inaccuracies and misinformation, provide inappropriate responses, and leak data. AI is largely unregulated.
Tech companies have taken some steps in response to these issues. To prevent data leakage and increase security, some have engineered generative AI products so that they do not hold a company’s data and instruct AI models to answer questions based only on the source of the data.
When Salesforce last month introduced AI Cloud, a service containing nine generative AI-powered products for businesses, the company included a “trust layer” to help obfuscate sensitive corporate information and promised that Words typed by users in these products will not be used for retraining. Built-in AI model.
Similarly, Oracle said customer data would be kept in a secure environment while training its AI models and said it would not be able to view the information.
The Salesforce AI Cloud offering starts at $360,000 annually, with costs increasing based on usage volume. Microsoft charges for the Azure OpenAI service based on the version of OpenAI technology chosen by the customer and the amount of usage.
For now, generative AI is primarily used in workplace scenarios with less risk — rather than in highly regulated industries — with a human in the loop, said Bina Ammanath, executive director of the Deloitte AI Institute, the consultancy firm’s research center. with. A recent Gartner survey of 43 companies found that more than half of respondents have no internal policy on generative AI.
“It’s not just about being able to use these new tools efficiently, but it’s also about preparing your workforce for new types of work,” Ms. Ammanath said. “There will be a need for new skills.”
Panasonic Connect, part of Japanese electronics company Panasonic, began using Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI service in February to build its own chatbots. Today, its employees ask the chatbot 5,000 questions a day about everything from drafting emails to writing code.
While Panasonic Connect expected its engineers to be the main users of the chatbot, other departments – such as legal, accounting and quality assurance – also helped brainstorm solutions for summarizing legal documents, improving product quality and other tasks. Turned to it, Judah said. Reynolds, Head of Marketing and Communications, Panasonic Connect
“Everyone started using it in ways we hadn’t even imagined ourselves,” he said. “So people are really taking advantage of it.”