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Peer2Peer Finance News | October 20, 2018

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Small businesses using big data but missing a trick with AI

Small businesses using big data but missing a trick with AI
Kathryn Gaw

SMALL businesses are turning to big data to scale up, but underestimating the potential of artificial intelligence (AI), new research has found.

Accountancy firm Smith & Williamson conducted a survey which showed that 63 per cent of small firms across the UK are recognising the benefits of collecting data to develop their businesses.

“Big data has been collected, analysed and used for many years but until recently it has only been government and big corporates who have the resources to do so,” said Fergus Caheny, head of the tech group at Smith & Williamson.

Read more: Business groups herald plans for post-Brexit data sharing

“However, we’re beginning to see the development of tools and equipment which are affordable, and user-friendly, for those in the scale-up community.

“Intelligent data use allows SMEs to explore potential new markets, analyse customer information and cut out unnecessary costs. A business that can better understand what it is doing right, or wrong, is in a much better position to scale up.”

Read more: SMEs to contribute £241bn to UK economy by 2025

However, only one third of small businesses believe that AI plays a role in their day-to-day business activities.

“Some within the general public can see the use of AI confined to robots or the movies,” said Caheny.

“However, there are a number of unheralded uses of AI which most businesses will be taking advantage of on a regular basis which most business already take for granted. For example, almost every Google product employs AI, from their maps to their email.  If a business orders items from big sales sites there are often cues to order related items.  Even simple things like music playing in a shop or workplace usually incorporate a form of AI.”

Read more: London’s digital connectivity is holding back SMEs

Furthermore, AI forms a key ingredient in other tech solutions, the firm added. Almost all innovations in the cyber security sector deploy machine learning, for example to detect unusual network behaviour, to highlight vulnerable code or to flag up new threats.