Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: AI and the Future of Business

Ten technologies that are precursors to the AI era

Here are 10 technology tools that are leading the way to the era of artificial intelligence in the enterprise.

AI
Image: iStockphoto/pixone

After decades of research and development, artificial intelligence (AI) is finally becoming a part of daily life. While we may not be fully in the age of AI just yet, there's no denying that it's just around the corner.

The evidence is clear in the consumer market with personal assistant apps like Siri and Google Now using AI to provide contextual, relevant information, and anticipate our needs. But, the enterprise is rife with AI as well, in the form of cognitive computing, machine learning, and more.

Here are ten enterprise technologies that are setting the stage for the AI era to come.

1. IBM Watson

Perhaps the best-known cognitive computing system in the market today, IBM's Watson is popping up in industries such as healthcare, finance, fantasy sports, and many more. As part of the Watson Ecosystem, many companies are building apps and products based on certain features of Watson -- such as natural-language processing, image recognition, and data management.

2. Mathematica

Stephen Wolfram's company, Wolfram Research, is known for creating some of the most technically advanced search and language processing. Mathematica is one of Wolfram Research's flagship products and it provides mathematical computation as well as geometric computation, data science, data visualization, machine learning, and more.

3. Slackbot

Slack quickly rose to fame as one of today's best enterprise messaging apps. However, the platform's programmable built-in robot, Slackbot, gives you a glimpse into what work will look like when AI becomes ubiquitous. Slackbot asks new users questions to build out their profile and integrate other products. It can be programmed to respond to certain comments in a particular way and it can answer specific questions for employees -- if the office is closed on a certain day, for example.

4. SAS Enterprise Miner

Enterprise Miner is an advanced analytics tool from SAS that provides data mining and machine learning capabilities for business users. Upon mining and preparing an organization's data, it can apply predictive and descriptive modeling to help you find any patterns among the data as well.

5. Grok

Numenta's product, Grok, is anomaly detection software that monitors the health of an organization's IT systems and reports any issues. Using pattern detection, it understands how an organization uses something like an AWS environment and then notes behavior that falls outside of that pattern. It also automatically builds models for your data.

6. AutoPilot

AutoPilot is an automation software that, as it states on its website, seeks to "replace system administrators with machines." The tool automates each aspect that it can throughout your entire IT stack, making human-like decisions to limit inefficiency.

7. CognitiveScale

Billing itself as the Cognitive Cloud Company, CognitiveScale provides cloud-based cognitive computing tools that use AI to provide data interpretation and insights into a user's business. The company offers a Cognitive Cloud Suite that can be optimized for your organization's domain and works in retail, supply chain, customer service, and healthcare. CognitiveScale also offers its Cognitive Fabric to weave into your existing business apps.

8. Conversica

Conversica is an AI-powered virtual sales assistant that identifies and follows up on leads on behalf of a sales representative. The assistant initiates emails with potential leads, asks questions to qualify the lead, and alerts the sales representative when it's time to step in. According to the company's website, it integrates with any existing CRM and is up and running in a week or so.

9. Amazon Machine Learning

In April 2015, Amazon introduced a new AWS service called Amazon Machine Learning. The service offers predictive modeling for data your organization has collected to help business leaders make better decisions based on that data. There are several different tools within the Amazon Machine Learning Console that can be used to glean new insights from your data.

10. The Grid

The Grid uses AI to custom build a responsive website for your organization or business in a few minutes. After you upload your content -- be it text, photos, or video -- the platform uses its algorithm to properly lay out the website. It then uses image recognition to look at photos on the site and develop a color palette theme to go with it. If things need to be resized or manually moved around, The Grid will learn user preferences and apply them going forward.

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