There is clear evidence that artificial intelligence (AI) is moving beyond experimentation to implementation in many cases but in which sectors is it impacting most?
To date, it appears to be the customer-facing industries such as finance and retail where it is making the most difference. According to International Data Corporation’s (IDC) European Vertical Markets survey 2018-2019, AI spending in Europe will reach $13.5bn by 2022 and it cites its use in areas such as virtual assistants, product recommendations and visual searches where it is becoming a game-changer by taking customer experience to the next level.
It reports that many European retailers like Sephora, Asos and Zara as well as banks including NatWest and HSBC are already experiencing the benefits of AI, which include increased store visits, higher revenues, reduced costs and more “pleasant and personalised” customer journeys.
Another area where AI is already providing major benefits is in the automation of industry processes. According to Andrea Minonne, senior analyst at IDC, industry-specific use cases related to the automation of processes are “becoming mainstream” and the focus is set to shift towards next-generation use of AI for personalisation or predictive purposes.
The analyst Gartner also highlights the areas of improved customer experience and task automation as key drivers of the use of AI and machine learning (ML) and forecasts the number of AI projects in place to double within the next year.
Thinking and discussion around AI must evolve to keep pace with technological developments
Gartner’s AI and ML Development Strategies study reveals that today the average number of AI projects in place within organisations is four but respondents said they expected to add six more within the next 12 months and another 15 within the next three years. Gartner reports that organisations expect to have an average of 35 AI or ML projects in place by 2022.
Forty per cent of organisations named customer experience as their top motivator to use AI and added that while chatbots and virtual assistants are used to serve external clients, most organisations (56 per cent) use AI to internally support decision-making and give recommendations to employees. Meanwhile, 20 per cent said automating tasks is the biggest driver of AI in their organisations and examples include invoicing and contract validation in finance or automated screening and robotic interviews in HR.
While this represents the take-up of AI today, the future is likely to see an everchanging landscape as its use starts to mature in other areas. For example, IDC cites healthcare as a “big bet” in the long term in Europe. It reckons that by 2022 healthcare will be the fastest growing industry for AI investments, outlining that European healthcare organisations have acknowledged the benefits of AI but will take their time in their full AI implementation journey.
Rialto is encouraging all leaders to keep a close eye on developments within their own sectors and even if they are largely untouched by AI today, this situation could rapidly change. It only takes one disrupter, for instance, to show an entire sector the game-changing impact AI could have.
There are many discussions to be had on this topic in the future, particularly around AI’s impact on jobs in different sectors which is leading some to feel anxious about their future role.
Rialto Consultancy director, Richard Chiumento, sits on the All-Parliamentary Party Group on Artificial Intelligence, which was set up with the aim of exploring the impact and implications of AI and leaders, and he looks forward to helping to advance the thinking and discussion in this crucial area, which must evolve to keep pace with the speed of the technological change.