When that ‘AI company’ isn’t really an AI company

Artificial intelligence is one of the most important fields in technology right now, which makes it ripe for buzzword-savvy startups to leverage for attention. But while machine learning and related technologies are now frequently employed, it’s less common that it’s central to a company’s strategy and IP.

It’s important to note that this sort of posturing doesn’t necessarily mean a company is bad — it’s entirely possible they have an overzealous communications department or PR firm. Just consider the following points warning signs — if you hear these terms, dig a little deeper to find out exactly what the company does.

“Powered by AI”

There are innumerable variations on this particular line, which is a red flag that the company is trying to paint itself with the AI brush rather than differentiate by other means.

“Our machine-learning powered ___,” “our proprietary AI,” “leverages machine learning…” all basically mean the same thing: AI is involved somewhere along the line.

Apps that purport to connect users (“our unique AI-powered matching engine…”) with the right people or resources based on AI recommendations are also a common offender

But machine learning algorithms have been deeply embedded in computing for many years. They can be simple or complex, tried and true or novel and used for highly visible or completely unknown purposes. There are off-the-shelf algorithms developers can buy to help sort images, parse noisy data and perform many other tasks. Recommendation engines are a dime a dozen. Does using one of these make a product “powered by AI”?

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