There has been quite a lot of comment around the challenges to publications from AI, with search engines returning results through AI chatbots that might eliminate the need to visit the publication site and therefore remove any opportunity to monetise the traffic. This is definitely a concern for many titles as the CPM model of online advertising requires as much traffic to the site as possible.

However, this isn’t a reason to ignore AI, as it has the opportunity to help publishers engage readers on the site. I’m particularly impressed with an early example of this approach from Power Systems Design, a title that has deployed an AI chatbot they call “PowerPal”. The GPT-powered chatbot aims to deliver a better experience than simply searching the site, so let’s see how well it works.

I started by trying to learn something – how a freewheeling diode works. It’s a pretty simple question, but searching for this, or “freewheeling diode operation” produced nothing in conventional search. PowerPal, however, was very helpful and told me:

A freewheeling diode is a type of semiconductor device that allows current to flow in one direction, while blocking it from flowing the opposite way. It works by providing an alternate path for reverse-biased currents and helps protect other components against voltage spikes caused when inductive loads are switched off suddenly or short circuits occur on power lines connected with them

So 1-0 to PowerPal. I then asked how to design a Vienna Rectifier. PowerPal offered four stories and searching for “Vienna Rectifier” got me six good results that all covered some element of Vienna Rectifier design:

Vienna rectifier search results

So it’s even at 1-1.

3 phase emc filter I thought I’d then try to look for a product, although I was concerned that this might inherently be easier to return from a conventional search. However I was surprised when asking for a 3 phase EMC filter i got nothing from search, but got several great results from PowerPal. I was surprised, and even after several attempts to refine the conventional search, the best I got was one result from searching for “3-phase emc filter”.

So PowerPal wins 2-1.

OK, this isn’t the most exacting test, with just three arbitrary searches. But I was very impressed with what PowerPal could do as it’s really is the first release of the AI chatbot on the site, and I do feel that it’s a great tool that should show other publishers what AI can do.

Of course PowerPal isn’t perfect – for example I asked about the most recent announcements from Vicor and it didn’t seem to be able to understand the dates on press releases. So it gave me a good selection of announcements from Vicor, but not the most recent.

Clearly in the long term PowerPal is going to get better at a much faster rate than Power Systems Design’s conventional search. So the future is bright. But is it ready for prime-time now? Well next time I go to Power Systems Design to look for something, I’m going to use PowerPal: it might not be the quickest way to get all types of information, but on balance it’s better more often than not. It’s amazing to see such a powerful tool be developed so quickly and be useful from launch. Well done Power Systems Design for such an innovative move!