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Top 10 AI stories of 2018

From smart speakers to deep learning and ethics, 2018 has been the year that AI peaked in terms of hype

Following the hype around Christmas 2017, 2018 became the year of the smart speaker – at least from a consumer perspective. With a growing number of Google Assistant and Alexa devices now in people’s homes, industry experts see an opportunity for businesses to use these devices as a new way to connect to their customers.

Building applications for these devices requires a different approach than enterprise IT has been used to. The user interface is voice-based, so the application must be able to cope with the vagaries of human conversation. People who have used these devices have found that the way to get a smart speaker to respond with the right request or take the correct action is hardly intuitive.

Nevertheless, experts agree that it is key for organisations to understand the opportunity these devices offer going forward.

Moving on, in April, the House of Lords select committee report on artificial intelligence (AI) was published. This recommended that the UK needs to take a leading role in AI ethics. The report came out around the time that the Cambridge Analytica/Facebook data exploitation scandal came to light and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force.

Beyond ethics, AI and automation have found a niche within IT operations, enabling administrators to discover anomalous system behaviour by using pattern matching and machine learning. This approach is also being used outside of IT for the management of the industrial internet of things (IIoT), where digital twins simulate real-world machines.

As machine learning find more and more application areas, some experts believe there are certain problem areas that the AI approaches currently in use cannot easily solve. Problems such as modelling climate change show the limits of AI pattern matching. Instead, something is needed that can combine machine learning with physical modelling.

Here are Computer Weekly’s top 10 AI stories of 2018.

1. Why AI must move beyond pattern-matching

AI practitioners are reaping the rewards of finely tuned image recognition based on the volume of images of data readily available on the internet. Without too much effort, it is possible to train the machine to identify cats or almost any new image using pattern-matching with a high degree of confidence. AI and deep learning have revolutionised applications such as computer vision, but more complex problems require a different approach.

2. How artificial intelligence is fuelling engine maintenance innovation at Rolls-Royce

The engine maker has established an innovation centre to enable the company to deliver analytics and AI-powered services to airlines using Rolls-Royce engines. To support greater numbers of airline passengers, the IntelligentEngine strategy wraps a service around the engine, supported by intelligent sensors. Rolls-Royce says this offers a wealth of opportunities to improve the way it provides power to its customers.

3. CW500: The advent of AI

For better or worse, AI is one of the most talked-about technologies today, and it is here to stay. In fact, AI is nothing new. More than half a century has gone since Alan Turing presented the Turing Test, so the technology has been around for quite a while. So why has the phrase “artificial intelligence” suddenly become such a buzzword? What exactly is AI, and what opportunities does it bring? The latest CW500 Club investigated what AI actually is and the opportunities it can offer.

4. Smart speakers open new windows into customer behaviour for CRM

Voice recognition has become a new frontier for customer relationship management. According to Gartner, worldwide spending on virtual personal assistants, or smart speakers, will reach $3.5bn by 2021, up from $720m in 2016. The question for retailers and other consumer-facing organisations is what this new voice channel means for their understanding of customers and how voice data will integrate with existing investments in customer intelligence.

5. Digital twins: Revolutionising product businesses

Among the technological drivers in industrial firms are IoT platforms that implement the concept of a digital twin. Analyst Forrester defines a digital twin as an instantiation of a real, physical object in an abstracted, digital form that acts as a proxy for all communication to an actual device. We explore the benefits.

6. Streamline infrastructure management through robotic automation

The IT world is ablaze with automation, as organisations strive for improved productivity and accuracy at a significantly lower cost. In line with this, a lot of companies are experimenting with the use of robotic automation tools, but adoption is still in its infancy. However,  robotic automation promises to change the infrastructure management game, helping IT departments make fewer mistakes and boost their productivity.

7. Security Think Tank: Counter application layer attacks with automation

Application layer attacks have been with us since the first internet-facing applications. However, a recent survey showed 89% of respondents admitted to an application attack in the past year. What should organisations be doing to address application layer attacks and reduce the likelihood of a breach?

8. AI: Black boxes and the boardroom

From Elon Musk claiming that the unchecked growth of AI could spawn “an immortal dictator”, to the news that a major bank has started using the technology to detect money laundering, AI is seldom out of the headlines. Computers can and do make mistakes and AI is only as good its training, so relying purely on machine intelligence to make critical decisions is risky.

9. Smart speakers: How to give apps a voice

While being able to speak to a device offers a lot of convenience, there are personal boundaries in what people will ask. This is one of the challenges businesses need to take into account when assessing how to go about developing a voice assistant app. We spoke to several experts about how to go about creating compelling voice-enabled user interfaces for smart speakers.

10. Automation key to unravelling mysteries of the universe at CERN

CERN has grown so big that it needs automation. It already uses Infor’s enterprise asset management software EAM to help keep track of about 2.1 billion assets, including the 100 million components that make up the collider. We look at how CERN is ramping up the use of Infor to plumb the depths of the universe.

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