Earlier this year, Mark Austin, AT&T’s vice president of data science, noticed that some of the company’s developers were already using the ChatGPT chatbot at work. When developers get stuck, they ask ChatGPT to explain, fix or hone their code.
Mr Austin said it appeared to be a game-changer. But since ChatGPT is a publicly available tool, he wondered if it was safe for businesses to use.
So in January, AT&T experimented with a Microsoft product called Azure OpenAI Services, which lets businesses build their own AI-powered chatbots. AT&T used it to create a proprietary artificial intelligence assistant, Ask AT&T, to help its developers automate the coding process. AT&T’s customer service representatives have also started using chatbots to help wrap up their calls, among other tasks.
“Once they realize what it can do, they love it,” Mr Austin said. Forms that previously took hours to complete can now take just two minutes to ask AT&T, freeing employees to focus on more complex tasks, and developers using the chatbot have boosted their productivity by 20 percent, he said to 50%.
AT&T is one of many companies eager to find ways to harness the power of generative artificial intelligence, the technology that powers chatbots that has excited Silicon Valley in recent months. Generative AI can generate its own text, photos and videos based on prompts, features that can help automate tasks like meeting minutes and reducing paperwork.
To meet this new need, technology companies are racing to launch enterprise products that incorporate generative artificial intelligence. In the past three months, Amazon, Box and Cisco have all unveiled plans for generative AI products that generate code, analyze documents and wrap up meetings. Salesforce also recently launched generative AI products for sales, marketing and its Slack messaging service, while Oracle announced new AI capabilities for HR teams.
These companies are also investing more in AI development. In May, Oracle and Salesforce Ventures, the venture arm of Salesforce, invested in Cohere, a Toronto startup focused on generative artificial intelligence for business use. Oracle also resells Cohere’s technology.
“I think this is a complete breakthrough in enterprise software,” Box CEO Aaron Levie said of generative AI. He called it “an incredibly exciting opportunity that has never been seen before.” For the first time, you can really start to understand the internals of generative AI.” Process your data in ways that were not possible before. “
Many of these tech companies are following the example of Microsoft, which has invested $13 billion in OpenAI, maker of ChatGPT. In January, Microsoft made the Azure OpenAI service available to customers, who can access OpenAI’s technology to build their own version of ChatGPT. As of May, the service had 4,500 customers, said Microsoft corporate vice president John Montgomery.
For the most part, tech companies are rolling out four kinds of generative AI products for businesses right now: features and services for software engineers to generate code, for marketing teams to create new content like sales emails and product descriptions, and for searching company data to answer employee questions. Questions to questions and summary meeting minutes and lengthy papers.
“It’s going to be a tool that people use to do what they’re already doing,” said Bern Elliot, vice president and analyst at Gartner, an IT research and advisory firm.
But there are risks associated with using generative AI in the workplace. Chatbots can generate inaccurate and wrong information, provide inappropriate responses and leak data. AI remains largely unregulated.
In response to these problems, technology companies have taken some measures. To prevent data breaches and enhance security, some have designed generative AI products so that they do not retain company data and instruct AI models to answer questions based solely on the data source.
When Salesforce launched its AI Cloud last month, a service that offers businesses nine AI-powered generative products, the company included a “trust layer” to help obfuscate sensitive corporate information and promise users to be in Input into these products is not used to retrain the underlying AI models.
Likewise, Oracle said customer data would be kept in a secure environment while training its artificial intelligence models, adding that it would not be able to see the information.
Pricing for the AI Cloud from Salesforce starts at $360,000 per year, with costs rising based on usage. Microsoft charges for the Azure OpenAI service based on the version of OpenAI technology customers choose and how much they use.
Currently, generative AI is mostly used in low-risk workplace scenarios, rather than highly regulated industries, and requires human involvement, said Beena Ammanath, executive director of the Deloitte AI Institute, a research center at the consulting firm. 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 effectively, but also about preparing your workforce for the new types of jobs that may develop,” Ms. Amanat said. “New skills will be required.”
Panasonic Connect, a unit of Japanese electronics company Panasonic, began using Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI service in February to build its own chatbot. Today, its employees ask the chatbot 5,000 questions a day, on everything from drafting emails to writing code.
While Panasonic Connect expects its engineers to be the primary users of the chatbot, other departments, such as legal, accounting and quality assurance, also turn to it to help summarize legal documents, brainstorm solutions to improve product quality and perform other tasks, Judah said .Reynolds, Head of Marketing and Communications, Panasonic Connect
“Everyone is starting to use it in ways that none of us could have foreseen,” he said. “So people are really taking advantage of it.”