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AI skills and explainable data models are top concerns for 2020

New research from IBM finds that 2020 is the year when executives want to deploy real-world artificial intelligence applications

Lack of skills in artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the biggest reasons holding business leaders back from deploying the technology, a new report has found.

A roadblock to scale: the global sprint towards AI, a study of 4,514 senior business decision-makers with some knowledge/influence over their company’s IT decisions, reported that there is a skills gap that represents a significant roadblock to broad business deployment of AI. The executives also said data silos hinder progress in AI projects.

The study, conducted by Morning Consult for IBM, showed that 37% of the executives surveyed are concerned that limited AI expertise or knowledge is hindering successful AI adoption at their businesses. Other barriers cited include increasing data complexities and silos (31%) and lack of tools for developing AI models (26%).

Globally, 22% of the survey’s respondents said they are not currently using or exploring the use of AI. But professionals whose companies are currently deploying AI are much more likely to report investment across the board.

The survey also found that large companies are leading AI adoption, with 45% of firms with more than 1,000 employees citing adoption of AI, compared with 29% of companies with fewer than 1,000 staff. Of those companies currently deploying AI, 40% are developing proof of concepts for specific AI-based or AI- assisted projects and 40% are using pre-built AI applications, such as chatbots.

IBM’s research found that companies currently deploying AI technologies are more likely to use a hybrid cloud (38% adopted) or hybrid multicloud (17% adopted). Also, companies currently deploying AI are more likely to use a cloud provider for their AI application than those who are just piloting AI projects.

Interestingly, among the companies that are deploying AI, data security was rated as the the most popular application area (36%), and just under one-third of executives (31%) said they are deploying AI to  automate business processes.

The third most popular AI application area cited by the executives was the use of virtual assistants/chatbots, with just over a quarter (26%) saying they are deploying such technologies. Other application areas included business process optimisation (24%) and sensor data analysis for internet of things applications (24%).

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Globally, 78% of the executives surveyed said it is very or critically important that they can trust that their AI’s output is fair, safe and reliable. Explainable AI was high on the agenda for 83% of global respondents.

Rob Thomas, general manager at IBM Data and AI, said: “Based on our interactions and the results of this study, we expect to see organisations not only adopt AI, but scale it across their enterprises, by building/developing their own AI, or putting ready-made AI applications to work.

“For example, according to the survey, 40% of respondents currently deploying AI said they are developing proof of concepts for specific AI-based or AI-assisted projects, and 40% are using pre-built AI applications, such as chatbots and virtual agents.”

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