After all, governments are not typically at the forefront of disruptive digital trends. Indeed, by the time one arrives on a government’s radar, it’s safe to say that the technology has achieved a certain level of maturity and uptake. That is certainly true of AI.
The global AI market is already valued at $2.5 billion. By 2025 this figure is projected to reach $60 billion. It’s clear that AI and machine learning have moved beyond the ‘hype’ phase; these buzzwords that are now playing a critical role in the day-to-day lives of businesses and consumers everywhere.
Google Maps, Facebook’s face recognition, autopilot on commercial flight and Amazon recommendation – all of them are powered by AI. At more accessible level, many smaller businesses are leading the way by embracing this rapidly evolving technology to improve products, processes and profits.
It is reported that just under a third of UK SMEs are currently using AI within their operations. It’s a healthy sign, but it’s also a number that should, and will, rise quite rapidly in the coming months and years.
Why all the fuss about AI?
Such is the breadth of its applications, it’s easy to become confused about what is meant by artificial intelligence. In short, AI is all about harnessing computer power, creative thinking and advanced data science algorithms to provide forward-facing insights.
While business intelligence and big data tools in years gone by were primarily focused on helping companies better understand past events, AI has the ability to predict future outcomes, identify potential issues and recommend actions.
By analysing huge amounts of data from a wide range of sources, AI can establish outliers and trends in real-time. Importantly, it can then suggest – or immediately undertake – proactive actions.
Put another way, it helps businesses understand how events are most likely going to play out, and where necessary it enables them to change those results for the better.
Ultimately, AI represents a far more advanced way of working and can provide huge competitive advantage for any organisation able to harness it effectively.
For example, tools available today can generate new hyper-relevant leads for sales teams; streamline R&D for new products; and personalise marketing activities to individual customers, to name but a few of the most common uses.
Businesses must quickly begin to examine how AI could improve their product, service or operational efficiency. Failure to do soon puts them at risk of losing ground to larger competitors.
The challenges facing AI
That is, in brief, the case for adopting AI. However, there remain many challenges facing the AI market both in the UK and internationally – many of which were identified in the House of Lords’ recent report.
Commissioned by the UK Government last year, the study set about collecting evidence from more than 200 witnesses, including companies, tech experts and government officials. Its publication has subsequently offered a series of recommendations as to how the UK can cement itself as a global capital for AI innovation and adoption.
When it comes to adoption, it’s clear that education and awareness will be key. Just look at the stats: a global survey of more than 3,000 executives by the Boston Consulting Group in 2017 revealed that 60% of respondents saw AI as something they urgently needed to embrace, but less than half had a strategy for doing so and only a fifth had already adopted AI in some form.
Evidently, helping organisations move beyond the stage of wanting AI but knowing how to effectively implement the tools will be key for this technology. But as more reputable providers emerge, and a greater number of end users are able to share their success stories, this obstacle will naturally be overcome.
Yet there are other issues facing AI: ethics and regulation. As with most new technologies, the advancements come quicker than the corresponding legislation and regulation.
Within its report, the House of Lords stressed the need for a multitude of governments to work together and collaborate on ensuring AI is safe and controlled – indeed, international cooperation is particularly important in this space, given that the technology and the data it analyses transcend national barriers.
Time to reap the benefits
It has been positive to see the House of Lords make AI a priority within the UK’s renowned tech sector. And finding ways to help organisations harness the potential of these new technological tools is going to be of utmost importance, not just for the organisations themselves but for the country’s wider economy.
With AI now firmly on the radar of both governments and businesses, it’s hopeful that progress will be made in the near future to put the necessary regulatory frameworks in place to protect against AI being used maliciously or carelessly. Ultimately, this process will not overshadow the transformative ability AI and machine learning possess.
The technology is ready and waiting – now is the time for businesses to reap the benefits.