The granddaddy of American tech companies, IBM (NYSE: IBM) is suddenly displaying some impressive capabilities in artificial intelligence – (AI) but is it making money?
IBM’s latest AI, Project Debater shocked audiences by winning debates against two human speakers in San Francisco, Fast Company reported. Project Debater bested Noa Ovadia, a debate champion from Israel in a discussion about space travel.
Project Debater then beat another competitive debater Dan Zafir in an argument about telemedicine. Project Debater was able to best the two by instantly accessing thousands of articles about those subjects and formed arguments. It even managed to formulate jokes at Zafir’s expense.
Will IBM Deploy AI Salespeople?
Winning a debate is an important accomplishment for an AI, because the same skills are used in other tasks such as selling. An AI that can formulate a debate argument should be able to formulate a sales pitch.
Responding debate questions utilizes the same skills as responding to customer service queries. In the debates, Project Debater had to look up information and provide an instant response. That is exactly what a customer service operator, a dispatcher, or a receptionist does.
If it can be widely deployed the technology behind Project Debater will have numerous business uses. Those uses include customer service, telemarketing, polling, research, and advising lawyers or political leaders.
The Vast Potential of Project Debater
Such technology can do a lot of good it might be a more effective and reliable 911 operator and dispatcher than a human. Other uses might be dispatching fleets of cabs, or enhancing ridesharing apps like Uber with more detailed information.
Something like Project Debater might be programmed to screen out drunken passengers. That would certainly make Uber and Lyft drivers’ life easier.
The Project Debater technology is likely to be controversial. It has the potential to kill vast numbers of jobs, and to give those who deploy it a fearsome edge in many surroundings. Those surroundings include court, political debates, and the college classroom to name just a few.
Expect to see calls to ban Project Debater and similar AI in the near future. Such technology will scare the luddites to death – if they can grasp its potential. The Project Debater is likely to become a major nuisance if somebody combines with Chatbots designed to spread political propaganda on Facebook or Twitter. It might call at hours of the day with questions or sales pitches. A true nightmare would be an AI con artist that knows exactly when to call people and talk them out of their money.
How IBM can Profit from AI and Chatbots
The humble Chatbot might help IBM make a lot of money, IBM’s Watson is the most popular Chatbot platform among business. The Chatbot Market Overview estimated that 61% of Chatbots were built with Watson.
The global Chatbot market is expected grow by 24.3% to $1.23 billion by 2025, Grand View Research predicted. That prediction might undervalue the Chabtot, the worldwide Chatbot market went from $113 million in 2015 to $703.3 million in 2016, a nearly seven fold increase, the Chatbot Market Overview indicates.
The demand for Chatbots is huge because mobile messaging is becoming the world’s most popular electronic means of communication. eMarketer predicted that 25% of the globe’s population or 1.75 billion people will be using mobile messaging next year in 2019. Chatbots will be the logical way for advertisers and propagandists to reach them.
The potential cost savings from Chatbots to business might be immense. The Chatbot market overview estimated that Chatbots might save businesses $8 billion a year by 2022.
Solutions like Project Debater will increase the effectiveness and profitability of those Chatbots. They will inevitably lead to intense public debates about the role of AI and fuel popular reactions against artificial intelligences.
Is IBM Making Money?
With or without the controversy, IBM is in a good position to cash in on both chatbots and AI because it is making a lot of money right now.
IBM reported revenues of $19.072 billion for 1st Quarter 2018; that grew by 5.08% from the same period a year earlier, the data at Stockrow indicates. IBM reported revenues of $18.155 billion for 1st Quarter 2017.
More importantly IBM reported a gross profit of $8.247 billion, an operating income of $1.301 billion, and a net income of $1.679 billion for 1st Quarter 2018. The company is making money from its existing tech at a time when lucrative new solutions are coming online.
Best of all, IBM is a cash-rich company it reported a free cash flow of $3.709 billion and an operating cash flow of $4.602 billion for 1st Quarter 2018. That gave IBM cash and equivalents of $12.262 billion and cash and short-term investments of $13.155 billion on March 31, 2018. IBM reported assets of $125.285 billion on the same day. That made IBM a very healthy company in spite of the $46.387 billion in debt it reported on March 31, 2018.
IBM is a Great Dividend Stock
Best of all IBM is a great dividend stock, its shareholders received a payout of $1.57 on June 9, 2018. That amount was up from $1.50 on March 10, 2018, and $1.40 on February 10, 2017.
The dividend alone made IBM undervalued at $139.06 on 26 June 2018. The company’s artificial intelligence capabilities and cash make IBM a definite value investment.
The company formerly known as International Business Machines is still a great income and growth stock. If you are looking for a good widows and orphans stock to add to your portfolio, IBM is probably it.
Value investors looking to cash in on the growth of text messaging, social media, and the expansion of artificial intelligence should look at IBM. Artificial intelligence makes IBM a true investment for the 21st Century.