Research into artificial intelligence (AI) started in the 1950s but the technology has only recently been put to use by industry. In fact, this time last year, just 15% of businesses were using AI and 31% planned to use it within a year. According to Veeva, the technology could transform pharmaceutical sales in 2019. Put simply, AI is the development of ‘intelligent’ computers that can perform a number of human-like tasks. The technology should develop traits, such as reasoning, problem-solving, perception and planning, and learn from past experiences. Overall, AI should think and behave rationally, in a way that is similar to humans.
Another buzzword in the area is machine learning – a branch of AI. In contrast to AI, which mimics human capabilities, machine learning trains computers using huge quantities of data in order to recognise patterns and make decisions without direction. Machine learning algorithms have been around for a while, but a recent development is that they can now be rapidly applied to big data. Netflix is currently using the technology to tell you which film to watch or series to binge on next.
Going one step further, Novartis is using AI to tell its sales reps what to say during meetings. Novartis’ pharma chief executive, Paul Hudson, told FiercePharma that the company’s ‘virtual assistant’ will make sure his sales team are “talking about the things that the healthcare professional is absolutely interested in.” Elsewhere, Pfizer Australia teamed up with AI provider, Complexica, back in 2017 to simulate sales and marketing strategies and resolve tricky ‘what-if’ scenarios.
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