Adobe's new AI technology claims to answer questions you didn't know you had

Adobe has released a new artificial intelligence (AI) technology that can learn to adapt itself based on how different people in a company use it.

Its "virtual analyst" was developed over three years, adding to the company's software that can identify peaks and troughs in web traffic and online orders, among other things. The difference with the new AI is that it crowdsources insights based on how other people use it, based on the idea that different users will ask different questions of the same data.

Data management is becoming increasingly important for companies as they try to deal with, and understand, vast amounts of information.

"You're only as smart or as brilliant as, sort of, the questions that you ask of your data and these alerts that you create," John Bates, director of product management for Adobe Analytics, told CNBC on the phone.

"(People's) consumption patterns are different and we're always analyzing not just the data they look at, but we're also looking for people across their company who look like them," he added. "It goes beyond answering the questions that you ask of our system, but it also answers the questions you didn't ask."

It will automatically generate information without being told to. For example, if an airline starts its seat sale on the same day each year, the virtual analyst will compare this against data from previous sales. And when a user finds an insight, they can also "like" or "not like" it, helping the AI get smarter and provide more relevant information over time.

For Omar Akhtar, a digital marketing analyst at research company Altimeter, the creation of a virtual analyst isn't completely new, but he is impressed by the crowdsourcing element of finding insights. "It's machine-learning that's adapting to human learning and making it better, which is the best application of AI, rather than either of those two acting in isolation," he said in an email to CNBC.

"Other analytics can deliver insights for generic markers like traffic spikes, downloads, drop-off rates etc. But with (Adobe's AI) Sensei, the insights will, over time tailor themselves to the company's specific business needs, so its value will be exponential after a year of usage."

During testing of the virtual analyst, one Adobe customer discovered a competitor was stealing content from its website and passing it off as their own, information it hadn't expected to find.

Marketing automation is an increasing investment for companies, which will spend almost $100 billion on marketing technology this year, according to a study by research consultancies Moore Stephens and WARC that looked at businesses in the U.S., Europe and Asia-Pacific. Adobe is set to buy marketing software company Marketo in a $4.75 billion deal, it announced Thursday. A spokesperson said it was too early to make further comment beyond its news release when asked by CNBC.

Adobe stock is up 78 percent in the past year. The majority of Adobe's revenue comes from its Digital Media business, which includes creative cloud software such as Photoshop. Marketing software is included in the Digital Experience business, which generated $614 million in revenue in the most recent quarter, with 21 percent growth year-on-year.

  • CNBC's Jordan Novet contributed to this report