6 Things to Look for When Hiring an AI Consulting Company

Machine learning has been a growing technology for more than a decade, but recent media coverage has drawn more attention to the entire suite of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, and resulting in a number of AI Consulting companies.

From chatbots to facial recognition, AI has developed to the point where it offers direct, measurable business benefits. AI lets you work smarter by giving you smart technology to work with.

A recent Accenture study shows that AI could boost profitability by an average of 38%. That’s a big boost in a time when markets are becoming increasingly saturated and the competition is fierce for new customers.

Here are a few things to look for when you start shopping for an expert AI consultant to help with your AI application project.

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1. Types of AI Technology

The first thing to remember about building AI applications is that there are many different platforms and development options under this umbrella term. Everything from the coding language used to the training library available will affect the final performance of your AI application.

AI consultants stay on the cutting edge of the technology, leaving behind cumbersome if/then statements for more flexible and versatile natural language processing. The first AI experiments used if/then frameworks to create trees of possible actions.

Now, data scientists are leaving this modality behind as they develop less brittle programming that can handle more intuitive tasks. Ask about the type of AI technology on offer and how it will scale moving forward.

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2. Access to a Wealth of Training Data

One of the biggest barriers to entry with AI development is the training time. It takes hundreds of hours and hundreds of terabytes of data to train an AI to do a single thing — like consistently recognize an apple.

The more good quality, curated training data is available, the more you can shorten that timeline. One of the roadblocks lies in finding image data that has been properly tagged for the system to use. Discuss the availability of existing libraries and the need to develop specific training data with your consultant.

You’ll want to know what you need to provide versus what they already have available and how long it will take. While it is impossible to be specific, an expert should be able to get in the ballpark with an estimate.

3. Knowledge of Neural Networks

When building a network, you need an expert on network architecture. The same is true when you’re building a neural network for your AI. Neural networks are the foundation of your system, containing thousands of nodes full of historical data. How these nodes interact and transmit information determines the eventual output from your application.

This architecture is also what allows AI to learn and define criteria based on data. In an image training program, simply providing thousands of pictures labeled apple or no apple, allows the system to understand what to look for in an image.

4. Types of AI Training

There are lots of options out there for training an AI application. New automation technologies make it easier than ever. Google just released CloudAutoML, and IBM put Watson on the market for business use. Both of these platforms help streamline and fast forward the AI training process.

When working with an AI development agency, you’ll want to know what platform they use and about their expertise in this area of development. After all, an AI is not a contained system. It must work with all of your infrastructure both physical and in the cloud.

5. Blending Cloud, IoT and Networking Requirements

Engineering systems that integrate with your existing cloud, IoT and network is a challenge for new entrants into AI development. Make sure the company you work with can build an application that doesn’t conflict with your existing systems.

You want something that will pull data and present solutions, not only act on a limited data set available through your network, missing everything stored on the cloud.

6. Niche Expertise in Your Area of Business

When you find an expert AI consultant, that means you’ve found an exceptional engineer. Unfortunately, not all engineers can translate theoretical knowledge into real world solutions. Make sure the agency you choose has a deep understanding of business process and how to map specific solutions.

AI automation has a lot of potential, but systems need to be purpose-built with a specific goal in mind. That often means performing internal assessments, and working with an AI consultant that also has management consulting experience.

Few businesses have the in-house expertise to tackle an AI development project, and even fewer have the deep pockets need to invest in machine learning from scratch.

That’s why development agencies offer the heavy lifting needed to get your project off the ground. From streamlined accounting to self-service HR to more complex systems like customer service or credit offerings, AI can be a major player.

The challenge lies in finding the right team to help teach an AI the skills needed to understand and adapt to changing conditions.