Given the impressive results that some organisations have seen from their artificial intelligence (AI) deployments – and the constant hype around AI in the press and at IT industry events – one would be forgiven for thinking that AI is already a truly mainstream technology. But despite some notable exceptions, this is not the case, with many organisations still very much in the discussion phase when it comes to AI and machine learning.
But that could be set to change in 2018. As businesses begin to realize the potential for AI to transform certain elements of their organisation can outweigh any concerns or reservations they might have, so investment in AI will increase. Will 2018 be the year that AI hits the business mainstream?
Very few observers would doubt the potential of AI to transform any number of business processes. Yet at the same, very few organisations are deploying AI in any meaningful sense. This is in part due to a number of concerns around what AI really means and how it affects an organisation.
Firstly there are issues around how to go about implementing AI. Some organisations lack the skills, knowledge and resource to do and are unsure as to where to deploy AI and who is best positioned to help them. There is also a certain wariness about the long-term impact of AI on the workforce – are some employees at risk of losing their jobs to technology?
Then there is the issue of control. When AI automation is used for number crunching or other mechanical tasks, there is no problem. But AI can go beyond that and suggest recommended best actions based on the insight it extracts. Taking automation to this next stage – quasi decision making – takes away an element of power and control, and some may not be comfortable with or ready for that.
Finally, AI is to a certain extent, a step into the unknown. If things are being done in a certain way, and that is working for an organisation, it is a risk to invest in a new technology that would approach things differently. Yes, those processes could be improved and be more efficient, but there is definitely an element of uncertainty to it, which could be a factor in signing off budget for AI-based projects.
The potential of AI
However, despite these concerns, AI is growing in adoption and will do so even more in 2018. A recent report from IDC and DataRobot revealed Japan leading the way with 74% expected projected growth from 2016-2021. The US can expect 49% compound annual growth, and Western Europe can expect around 44% growth.
The same report also predicted that an estimated $57.6 billion will be spent across industries on AI over the next five years, with this spending set to increase employee productivity, deliver new business insights, and more workflow automation. It is benefits such as these that are really driving this wave of increased AI adoption.
AI’s ability to automate certain tasks and augment any number of others, and bring enormous insight based on big data is causing many organisations to see beyond any challenges that may come with it. What’s more, this data insight is also becoming more readily available to anyone across the business.
AI – unlocking data insight
In a world where more data exists than ever before, the ability to get true insight from that data is a key objective for many organisations, and AI is pivotal in allowing them to do so. But until recently, this insight was reserved for data scientists, who might share it with senior executives in a digested form, but it was mostly unavailable to business users that could most benefit from it.
Data is one of the most powerful tools in any enterprise, but its value is highly limited if it is only available to a select few. The true value of data only comes when each employee can benefit from the insight it delivers – the democratisation of data. AI is making data much more accessible to business users, and it is this that will really help drive AI adoption in 2018.
It’s true that AI is still very much in its infancy. Despite all the hype, no AI technology has yet passed the Turing Test, a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.
But the advances of faster computing multiplied by advances in algorithmic computing have been breath-taking. AI-driven solutions have not yet mastered causation, but if business leaders can apply such solutions to specific elements of their own business – the efficiency driven approach of deploying AI – then results will follow. Approached in this way, AI can have a massive impact for any business, and will see it gradually make the transition to the business mainstream during 2018.