10 Artificial Intelligence Trends to Watch in 2017Look for chatbots, intelligent things and AI-powered medical research to capture headlines next year.
1. AI Chatbots
A 2016 survey conducted by TechEmergence asked AI executives and startup founders which AI applications were likely to take off in the next five years. Their top pick with 37 percent of the vote was virtual agents and chatbots. These software programs are able to understand natural language and communicate with people through messaging services or email. Several companies, including IBM and Facebook, have announced platforms to help developers create chatbots, and those platforms appear to be growing in popularity. Last summer, Facebook announced that more than 11,000 bots were live on its Messenger service. And according to IBM, 65 percent of millennials prefer interacting with bots to talking to live agents.
Image Source: TechEmergence
2. App Development
Creating chatbots isn't the only way that developers are using AI. Many enterprises are incorporating artificial intelligence and deep learning capabilities into their Web apps, mobile apps and internal enterprise applications. AI is enabling recommendation engines, scheduling meetings, prioritizing to-do-lists, finding hidden insights in big data and much more. In its list of Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017, Gartner lists intelligent apps in second place. It says, "By 2018, Gartner expects most of the world’s largest 200 companies to exploit intelligent apps and utilize the full toolkit of big data and analytics tools to refine their offers and improve customer experience."
3. Intelligent Things
Artificial intelligence also intersects with the Internet of Things (IoT) trend, and "intelligent things" comes in at number three on Gartner's list of Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017. It says, "Existing things including IoT devices will become intelligent things delivering the power of AI enabled systems everywhere, including the home, office, factory floor, and medical facility." For example, the next generation of fitness trackers may not only monitor your health information, they may have machine learning and analytics capabilities that allow them to make recommendations for improving your health based on your personal health history and past tracker data.
Image Source: Gartner and Statista
4. Medical Research
One of the hottest areas of artificial intelligence centers on the healthcare industry. In its Worldwide Semiannual Cognitive/Artificial Intelligence Systems Spending Guide, IDC lists diagnosis and treatment systems as one of the areas attracting the most investment in 2016, and it says that the use cases experiencing the most growth over the next five years will include pharmaceutical research and discovery as well as diagnosis and treatment systems. Over a five-year period, it forecasts a compound annual growth rate of 69.3 percent for investment in healthcare AI. Similarly, CBInsights lists healthcare as the hottest area within AI for startup deals this year.
Image Source: CBInsights
5. Biological Models
The relationship between artificial intelligence and health sciences goes two ways: not only are health researchers turning to artificial intelligence to help them answer healthcare questions, computer science researchers are turning to biological models to help them create better AI software. MIT and Google have both recently been in the news for creating neural networks that function similarly to the human brain, and this area of research is likely to continue for some time. Futurist Ray Kurzweil has even predicted that by the 2030s we'll be able to merge human brains and computer networks to create a hybrid form of AI.
Image Source: Intel
6. AI Hardware
While software gets much of the attention in the artificial intelligence industry, hardware is also a very important part of the equation. Intel recently detailed its efforts build AI capabilities into its chips in an attempt to make AI "available for all." Other developers are working on AI-powered autonomous vehicles, robots and drones. IDC forecasted that AI hardware revenues will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 60 percent over the next five years. And Boston Consulting Group has estimated that the autonomous vehicle market alone could be worth $42 billion by 2025.
Image Source: Google
7. AI Startups
With so much opportunity available, founders are rushing to start new companies focused on artificial intelligence. In its most recent report on AI startups, Venture Scanner identified 1500 AI startups from 73 different countries with more than $9.1 billion in total funding. Recently, many large tech companies like Intel, Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft have been on a buying spree, snapping up a lot of small AI startups. Look for that trend to continue in 2017, as well as for startups to attract more venture capital.
Image Source: Venture Scanner
8. AI Workforce Impacts
With so much artificial intelligence available, will companies even need human workers any more? In a June 2016 report, Forrester predicted, "Cognitive technologies such as robots, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and automation will replace 7 percent of US jobs by 2025." It got to that number by estimating that 16 percent of U.S. workers would be replaced by AI systems and by estimating that AI could create new jobs equal to 9 percent of the workforce. Whether AI is good or bad for you will depend on the type of job you have: office support staff could see a big reduction in available positions while data scientists, automation specialists and robot monitoring professionals could see more jobs available.
Potential backlash against artificial intelligence could come from several directions. First, if, as Forrester predicts, AI begins taking over some human jobs, it seems quite likely that some of those displaced workers will object, which could have political implications. In addition, many scientists, such as those associated with the Future of Life Institute have expressed concerns about the potential risks associated with artificial intelligence. Finally, enterprises and consumers may become dissatisfied with AI technology if it doesn't live up to the current hype. In its 2016 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, Gartner places smart robots, cognitive expert advisors, machine learning and autonomous vehicles near the "peak of inflated expectations," meaning that several areas of AI are likely to enter a phase of disillusionment in the very near future.
Image Source: Gartner, July 2016
10. Improved Prediction Capabilities
One area where artificial intelligence is already having an impact is in improving predictive capabilities. In many ways, the shift toward AI is a natural evolution of investments and research into big data analytics, and for organizations that have already begun to see value with other types of analytics tools, predictive analytics based on machine learning is a natural next step.
Days before the most recent U.S. presidential election, CNBC reported that an AI developed by an Indian startup predicted that Donald Trump would win the election, despite the fact that most polls at that time put Hillary Clinton in the lead. Perhaps next year, the follow up to this slideshow will be created by an AI with great predictive abilities.
2016 has seen a dramatic increase in interest in artificial intelligence (AI), and that trend seems likely to continue in the coming year. In its Worldwide Semiannual Cognitive/Artificial Intelligence Systems Spending Guide IDC predicted that AI revenues will grow from $8.0 billion this year to $47 billion in 2020, for a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 55.1 percent.
"Software developers and end user organizations have already begun the process of embedding and deploying cognitive/artificial intelligence into almost every kind of enterprise application or process," said David Schubmehl, research director, Cognitive Systems and Content Analytics at IDC. "Recent announcements by several large technology vendors and the booming venture capital market for AI startups illustrate the need for organizations to be planning and undertaking strategies that incorporate these wide-ranging technologies."
But AI is a wide and diverse field. Which areas should organizations be paying attention to?
This slideshow highlights ten artificial intelligence trends that seem likely to continue into 2017, and they all could be significant for enterprise IT teams. Many of these AI trends are already well underway but, like the AI field as a whole, will probably become more important as time goes on. For enterprises and technology vendors, AI represents a significant opportunity — but could also present some significant risks.
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