The last five years has seen a historic shift in digitalisation, with it now permeating almost every aspect of modern life. Breakthroughs in machine learning, supported by the huge explosion of data is fuelling the rapid rate of growth and development of artificial intelligence (AI).

Currently, the general consensus within the digital economy is that AI will be the next big step in the digital revolution, with the industry’s biggest businesses – Facebook, Google, Amazon and Microsoft – find themselves locked in an artificial intelligence arms race.

At a recent technology demonstration, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, said that AI is going to have a bigger impact than many of the world’s greatest innovations. He proclaimed AI to be even more profound than electricity or fire. This echoes comments made by the likes of Tesla’s Elon Musk, Y Combinator President Sam Altman and Stephen Hawking.

It’s clear that the scope for AI is huge. But what most concerns people is its future role in the economy. How will it be utilised by businesses and corporations? How likely is it to disrupt and reshape traditional industries and sectors? How severe is the threat to job security? And will it really transform the future of business?

Although many of these questions still remain unanswered, what we do know is that AI is already being employed, in various forms, by a wide range of businesses. There are many low-paying, entry-level jobs that have already been replaced by artificially intelligent systems. If you go to a drive-thru today, you’re more likely to be greeted by an interactive screen than a person. In banks, there are less clerks and more smart ATMs. At the supermarket, there are rows of self-service checkouts.

Next, we’ll see AI work its way into the word of business, with organisations using it to sift through huge data pools, process applications, spot anomalies, draw conclusions and make informed decisions. The result is an increase to service quality and improved service delivery – all while reducing cost.

One of the early adopters is the financial services industry –  with AI proving to be a huge advantage to banks, credit card companies, insurance brokers and investment firms. As is often the case, FinTech has historically been a driver of new business models (when a technology succeeds in the finance arena, it’s often implemented by other industries).

Another area which is already benefiting from AI is policing and other public sector and commercial security teams, who are using AI and deep learning algorithms to identify elements of interest in large amounts of CCTV video footage.

With one CCTV camera generating 168 hours of footage per week, the data volumes are vast and the manual analysis of video is very inefficient and time consuming, and the risk of human error high. By using video analytics, organisations can radically improve accuracy and reduce the time needed to review large amounts of video data.

As we adapt and embrace AI and as it redefines our economies, change is inevitable, but with change comes opportunity. To fully embrace these opportunities, organisations will need to develop a better understanding of how AI will impact their industry and business and what they need to do to ensure that they don’t get left behind.

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