When we think of artificial intelligence it’s easy to conjure up futuristic visions of driverless cars, deliveries by drone and robot armies plotting to take over the world, but what we don’t perhaps realise is the extent to which we already encounter AI in our everyday lives.

And it’s not just on your smartphone, where Facebook automatically tags pictures of friends and family as you upload them, or at home where Alexa learns the songs you like and suggests similar tracks.

The banking and finance sectors are using machine learning to determine the likelihood of fraudulent transactions. The NHS is using automated image recognition to advance the diagnosis and treatment of cancers. Logistics companies are using AI for better inventory and delivery management, and utility companies are pushing out smart meters to decrease power consumption.

So big business and the public sector are beginning to realise the benefits but what about SMEs?

They’ve been standing on the edge of the AI revolution for some time. Concerns over the cost of implementation and a perceived lack of skills in-house to effectively use AI have been a deterrent in the past.

So is it still out of reach?

Microsoft certainly doesn’t think so and things are changing fast. Its recently released AI apps for sales and customer service promise to deliver built-in machine learning to users of its Dynamics 365 platform, with further apps in the pipeline.

With the increased availability of affordable solutions comes the opportunity to make better use of the data you are probably already gathering, and use the insight you get from that to improve efficiencies and increase productivity now – there’s no need to wait for the future. AI is here and one thing is certain – it’s poised to enter our offices and change the way we do business for the better.