2018: All about AI


, January 31, 2018


2018 will be the year of artificial intelligence (AI). Not that it wasn’t making itself felt in 2017, but this year AI will loom larger and grow to underpin almost every other technology development we can think of, from man-machine interaction to business IT to security. And so, with that context in mind, these are some of the key trends we see for 2018.

  1. Enterprise adoption of AI continues to grow as algorithms become more sophisticated

Trained by the massive amount of data that is now available, AI algorithms for supervised, unsupervised and reinforced learning will become more sophisticated, and more enterprises will be trying to understand and leverage these new capabilities in the coming year.

According to a 2017 Gartner survey, over 40 per cent of organisations were already making progress in piloting or adopting AI. The growth will continue especially in the area of “narrow AI” where algorithms are optimised for certain tasks. For example, in NCS’ essential tech watch list for 2017, we highlighted the growing use of chat bots by businesses to complement their existing call centre capabilities.

Gartner expects that the use of AI to “enhance decision making, reinvent business models and ecosystems, and remake the customer experience” will continue to grow through 2018 and beyond and underpin many of the digital transformation initiatives across different industries.

  1. Smart things start to permeate mainstream but there will be limitations

As AI systems start to learn from, and interact more naturally with their surroundings, more real world applications for intelligent things will emerge. Gartner cited the examples of autonomous vehicles, robots and drones which are not totally free from human control, but are able to “operate unsupervised for a defined period to complete a task”.

It predicts that the use of autonomous vehicles will become more common in controlled settings such as farming, mining and warehousing. By 2022, it is also likely that they will be used on the roads but in “limited, well defined, geofenced and controlled areas”. Free-ranging driverless cars are not going to become a reality anytime soon. Instead, there will be a greater likelihood of “semi-autonomous” scenarios which will require a person in the driver’s seat.

  1. Physical objects take on a digital twin to facilitate monitoring, interaction and response

Real-world entities and systems will start to take on a digital twin – a software model that mirrors the physical object and is linked to it, potentially in real time, to enable interaction and “what if” simulation.

With the application of advanced big data analytics and AI, these digital twins will help enterprises to understand the state of their physical counterparts and respond accordingly to improve operations. In the short term, Gartner sees digital twins starting to deliver benefits in asset monitoring, optimisation and improving the user experience. For example, it enables the shift from preventive to predictive maintenance, which can help reduce downtime and lower operating and maintenance costs.

  1. Man-machine interaction evolves with the rise of conversational technologies

In its AI predictions for 2018, Forbes magazine said conversational technologies will get it right this year, achieving greater emotional sensitivity in speech recognition and incorporating translational capabilities that will enable seamless communication between languages.

Conversational platforms are already making their way mainstream with the growing use of virtual personal assistants such as Apple's Siri, Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft's Cortana, and this is just the beginning. In Gartner’s view, the incorporation of AI into everyday things which incorporate speakers or text input options will trigger a shift in the human-machine interaction model “from technology-literate people to people-literate technology”.

  1. Real-time awareness and response capabilities will lead to a rise in event-driven business models

“Event-thinking” will become the new buzzword as businesses learn to sense significant events in their operating environment and respond to them more dynamically in order to pre-empt potential problems or seize new opportunities.

Gartner predicts that by 2020, event-sourced, real-time situational awareness will be a required characteristic for 80 per cent of digital business solutions. To support event processing, enterprises will require an event-driven architecture that is optimised for agility, resiliency, extensibility, lower cost of change, open-ended design and web scale. It will involve technologies such as event brokers, the Internt of Things, cloud computing and AI which will enable continuous monitoring and assessment for real-time decision making.

  1. Security learns to deal with the unknown with CARTA

Trust and risk will become more dynamic and have to be assessed continuously in real time as interactions take place and additional data and context are gained.

In our 2017 tech watch list, we noted that AI and machine learning will play a growing role in helping enterprises to detect exploits such as advanced persistent threats, insider threats and data breach malware.

This year, we see more of this dovetailing with the continuous adaptive risk and trust assessment (CARTA) strategic approach which will help enterprises to make – and act on – risk and trust-based decisions in real time.

This approach is necessary as the use of mobile devices and cloud-based services grows, and more enterprises open up their application programming interfaces to customers and partners. The complexity of this new business environment shows up the inadequacies of perimeter defences and rule-based security, and compels enterprises to focus also on threat detection and response.

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