By Chirag Dekate, Gartner, Inc.

As advances in virtual assistants and deep learning will foster adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and the coming year will mark the beginning of the democratization of AI. In other words, a much broader range of companies and government departments will use AI.

Throughout 2018, AI performance will continue to improve. The increased availability of AI capabilities embedded in applications and platforms like cloud office suites and deep neural network (DNN)-based virtual assistants, such as Alexa and Siri, will boost intelligent conversational interfaces to products and services.

CIOs view making progress with AI initiatives as one of their top-five priorities for 2018. Gartner’s latest CIO survey of 3,160 CIOs from 98 countries, found that 21 per cent of CIOs are already piloting AI initiatives or have short-term plans for them. Another 25 per cent have medium- or long-term plans.

In 2018, organizations will strive to improve their understanding of what AI is best suited to, and how to deploy it. By 2020, 85 per cent of CIOs will be piloting AI programs through a combination of buy, build and outsource efforts.

However, CIOs will have to overcome challenges. Many are dealing with data of poor or uncertain quality. Their organizations often have minimal AI skills. Some CIOs are struggling to understand the capabilities of new AI techniques, and how to identify use cases to which AI may be applied productively.

Seizing fresh AI opportunities

DNNs are opening up new opportunities for AI. Many early DNN adopters are aggressively prototyping and openly sharing their techniques, providing enterprises with templates for replicating AI success stories. Over the next three years, more software companies and cloud providers will integrate DNN capabilities into their products, further reducing the complexity and barriers associated with AI projects.

For example, an AI-powered advanced analytics platform helped a B2B company analyze all its customer data, locate inefficiencies in internal processes and understand where it could improve the customer experience. The platform ingested the data and interpreted the patterns it discovered, which enabled the company to identify six processes for improvement and automation.

Gartner expects that cloud service providers, including big names like Amazon, Google, IBM and Microsoft, will introduce robust machine-learning environments and API-driven services in the near future. These will enable organizations to rapidly integrate machine-learning capabilities for key use cases such as fraud detection, customer churn prediction and precision marketing.

Lack of available skills remains the greatest challenge for CIOs in terms of AI deployment. However, Gartner expects that the skills gap will shrink dramatically over the next three years as more universities offer and expand AI courses.

CIOs who have begun experimenting with AI technologies will continue to make sense of machine learning and other AI technologies, figure out their roles in digital business, and launch the internal pilots that will test their knowledge and insight on AI.

Chirag Dekate, Ph.D., is a research director at Gartner, where his research focus is on providing strategic advice to CIOs and IT leaders on infrastructure agility and emerging trends, with an emphasis on servers, high-performance computing, cloud, big data, machine learning, deep learning and artificial intelligence.



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