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Businesses that have adopted artificial intelligence (AI) technologies expect their revenues to increase by 39% and costs to drop by 37% by 2020, according to research, and 64% say their future growth depends on large-scale AI adoption.
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But despite the positive predictions, there are hurdles to overcome if AI is to have the positive impact that businesses expect.
The survey of 1,600 businesses in China, Australia, the US, India, Germany, France and the UK, by Vanson Bourne for Infosys, shows that only 10% of the businesses that are using AI are taking advantage of all its benefits. Implementation times, usability and interoperability with other systems and platforms are the areas of AI that require the most improvement.
Other concerns expressed by respondents relating to the adoption of AI include the safety of data (43%), job security (40%) and pay rates (30%).
Ethical concerns were felt by 53% of businesses, including fears over handing over control and meeting industry regulations, which could limit AI’s effectiveness.
One major ethical problem concerns what happens to the employees replaced by AI software.
According to the survey, in 80% of cases where companies are replacing staff roles with AI, they are redeploying or retraining employees to keep them in the business, with 53% specifically investing in skills development.
But a report published in advance of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, warned that the expansion of AI was likely to destroy traditional white-collar jobs at a faster rate than new jobs are created, unless governments and the private sector collaborate to manage the problem.
According to the Infosys survey, two-thirds of the businesses questioned have not fully considered the ethical issues of AI.
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Japanese insurance company Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance recently announced a plan to replace 34 members of its claims assessment team with IBM Watson. The software will read medical documents that are used to assess payments. The robots will calculate payment amounts, but final decisions will still be made by humans. The company expects to cut costs by almost £1m through a 30% cut in department staff.
The financial services sector is traditionally cautious about adopting technology because of the sensitive and highly regulated nature of its business, but AI is increasingly seen in the sector.
In October 2016, SEB in Sweden became the first bank to use IPsoft’s cognitive technology, known as Amelia, for customer services after the software robot proved successful in an internal IT service desk project.
In the UK, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is using IBM Watson technology to provide a robot that will answer customer questions and pass requests on to the right agents. The Luvo cognitive chat bot, which uses IBM’s cloud-based Watson Conversation service, was made available to about 10% of RBS’s customers in Scotland in December 2016 as part of its first customer pilot.
Near-human customer care
Meanwhile, challenger bank Atom Bank announced it was offering customer support through machine learning software on its mobile app, which it said would provide near-human customer care, and Mastercard is using AI in its global network to provide more effective transaction approval.
Demand for customer services-focused AI is likely to increase. Research from Accenture revealed that it is not just businesses that are warming to AI, but their customers too, with 68% of UK consumers prepared to use software robots for banking services.
Sandeep Dadlani, president at Infosys, said: “As we are seeing AI mature and gain momentum, our research shows that the next four years will witness further spikes in interest, and general bullishness about the significant value and benefits that can be obtained through AI adoption. As an industry, therefore, we must take the necessary steps to ensure AI is developed morally and ethically across every part of society and that employees are actively engaged and provided with the necessary training to be central to this journey.”
According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2017, AI biotech and robotics have among the highest benefits to society, but they also require the most legislation. The WEF warned that governance of emerging technologies was patchy. Some are regulated heavily, but others hardly at all because they do not fit within the remit of any existing regulatory body.