Get involved with AI - now

By Daniel Pitchford, Robert Woolliams and Georgios Kipouros of The AI Summit editorial team

AI is here and it’s already transforming many industries, with business gearing up for the fourth industrial revolution. In the past 12 months we have seen demand for AI in the enterprise increase exponentially, with the world’s largest companies investing well over half a billion dollars into AI-centric research.

Indeed, some of the biggest recent success stories in AI have been practical applications in specific industry sectors. AI Business researched FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 organisations in the first half of 2016 and found 32 per cent are already implementing some form of AI, with 75 per cent investing in machine and deep-learning applications, 45 per cent in natural language processing and 15 per cent in image recognition technologies.

With the increase in AI uptake across the enterprise landscape, there have been many new opportunities for technology providers from emerging startups through to long-standing giants such as Microsoft, Google, TCS and IBM.

According to Microsoft’s chief envisioning officer Dave Coplin: “AI is at the heart of the company’s vision,” having recently announced Microsoft Cognitive Services, a new collection of intelligence and knowledge APIs (application programming interfaces).

the world’s largest companies have invested well over half a billion dollars into AI-centric research

IBM Watson, IBM’s versatile and market-leading cognitive platform, has found wide application, particularly in healthcare diagnostics. IBM Watson’s European director Paul Chong frequently underlines that in the next ten years our professional lives will be inexorably influenced by AI and cognitive systems.

All industries are set to be impacted by AI technologies in a variety of different ways, but some are already seeing strong results and promising return on investment with early adoption. Among FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 organisations, AI Business identified transport, financial services and retail as the sectors with the strongest uptake of AI at this stage, with 87 per cent, 68 per cent and 53 per cent respectively.

In addition, logistics, legal, healthcare and manufacturing are investing heavily in AI, many in joint projects that also make the most of advances in robotics and automation.
The progress of Google’s self-driving car has been a mainstay of AI news in the transport and automotive sector. But many other major manufacturers are now investing in this space – Toyota, Bosch, Ford, Mercedes and Audi to name but a few.

AI work in the sector is not restricted to the roads. Phillip Easter, director of mobile apps and wearables at American Airlines, hails AI as “the next golden age”. British Airways’ owner IAG is also investing heavily in the field, recently winning Best Innovation in AI at The AIconics Awards.

The financial services sector has seen some of the most significant developments; banking, insurance, professional services, private equity and asset management are gearing up to greater efficiency parameters, improved customer service platforms and enhanced risk management.

Nationwide Building Society have implemented Tata Consultancy Services’ ignio platform to transform IT services for the company. RBS’s intelligent assistant Luvo recently made headlines in digital customer support. KPMG have partnered with IBM Watson to assess masses of structured and unstructured audit data cognitively. Looking ahead, PwC’s lead of transformation and innovation Michael Rendell says: “AI will become part of the firm’s DNA.”

Business and technology leaders largely agree we are only at the beginning of what is expected to be a significant departure from business as usual

In the retail sector, Amazon has been using machine-learning algorithms to recommend products for years, and US companies including Kohl’s and Walmart are investing heavily in predicting what their shoppers want.

Tailoring advertising and marketing to each individual customer is also an area where AI offers a competitive advantage. David Harris, senior vice president of IT at Burberry, says the company is currently formulating their own AI strategy, with chatbots in service functions and insights from pattern recognition firmly on the agenda for the immediate future.

The legal sector is expecting a profound impact, with many law firms saying that within ten years new attorneys and paralegals could be replaced by AI technologies. Last September in the UK, Berwin Leighton Paisner implemented RAVN Systems’ Applied Cognitive Engine. In the US in May, BakerHostetler announced they had employed their first robot lawyer, built by Silicon Valley startup ROSS Intelligence and powered by IBM Watson. America’s largest law firm by revenue, Latham & Watkins, is test driving new IBM Watson-based applications, including cognitive and predictive coding technologies.

While a number of initiatives are already delivering results, business and technology leaders largely agree we are only at the beginning of what is expected to be a significant departure from business as usual. Indeed, Josh Sutton, head of AI for Publicis.Sapient, speaks of a paradigm shift, a systemic change based on AI helping to expand what’s humanly possible.

AI Business found that FTSE100 and Fortune 500 organisations are planning to invest a combined $25 billion in developing and implementing AI technologies over the next three years alone. Not surprisingly, 82 per cent of our respondents told us they are looking to implement some form of AI in the next 12 to 18 months. The Bank of America projects a $95-billion growth for intelligent machines over the next five years and Forrester predicts that 25 per cent of jobs will be impacted by AI in some way by 2019.

But the statistics will not look after themselves – it’s down to the business leaders, developers and consumers alike to bear them out. Now is the time to get involved with AI, secure a competitive edge and transform productivity throughout your organisation.