Predictions for AI and ML in 2020

There have been concerns surrounding the prospective security of human jobs as AI and ML become more advanced, but do experts believe that this kind of tech will overhaul workplaces entirely, and what will the AI evolution in 2020 mean for other developing technologies, like 5G?

AI developments will be closer to home than some may realise

For some, it’s important not to get carried away by the idea that AI will take over all aspects of culture anytime soon, and we should instead prepare for more subtle but nevertheless practical uses of it within our immediate environment.

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Data scientist at Hitachi Vantara, Dr Anya Rumyantseva, said: “Artificial intelligence isn’t just something debated by techies or sci-fi writers anymore – it’s increasingly creeping into our collective cultural consciousness, but there’s a lot of emphasis on the negative.

“While those big picture questions around ethics cannot and should not be ignored, in the near-term we won’t be dealing with the super-AI you see in the movies.

“If we can use AI to synchronise traffic lights to impact traffic flow and reduce the amount of time cars spend idling, that doesn’t just make inner city travel less of a headache for drivers – it can have a tangible impact on emissions. That’s just one example.

“In the next few years, we’ll see AI applied in new, creative ways to solve the biggest problems we’re facing as a species right now – from climate change to mass urbanisation.”

AI will begin to be explainable

The digital skills gap present within workforces has meant that employees are unsure about how to unleash AI’s full potential. But according to SnapLogic CTO, Craig Stewart, this problem could take a step towards being solved next year.

“Transparency remains a hot topic and will continue into 2020 as companies aim to ensure transparency, visibility, and trust of AI and AI-assisted decisions,” said Stewart.

“We’ll see further development and expansion of the ‘explainable AI movement,’ and efforts like it.

“This level of transparency and trust will also reassure workers that the best of AI is here to augment and not replace human capability, making workers more productive and freeing them up to apply their well-honed skills to higher value activities.”

Augmented analytics will rise in usage

With big data being another hot topic in regards to digital development within companies, it may only be a matter of time until augmentation becomes a regular occurrence within this space.

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“By merging AI, machine learning (ML), and natural language processing (NLP) techniques, augmented analytics is a new way of creating, developing, and consuming analytics that is going to be increasingly utilised in 2020,” continued Stewart.

“An augmented analytics engine can identify, clean, and analyse data, and then recommend actionable next steps, often without the help of IT or data science teams.

“By leveraging these technologies without the user even having to ask a question, contextual analytics and data-driven insights will be accessible to a much larger set of workers.”

AI will augment the workforce, not replace it

Even though there are aforementioned worries regarding AI and ML possibly replacing human workers, some experts in digital innovation believe that the gradual inclusion of the technology will end up being a much more collaborative process.

“Despite fears that it will replace human employees, in 2020 AI and machine learning will increasingly be used to aid and augment them,” said Felix Gerdes, Insight UK‘s director of digital innovation services.

“For instance, customer service workers need to be certain they are giving customers the right advice. AI can analyse complex customer queries with high numbers of variables, then present solutions to the employee – speeding up the process and increasing employee confidence.

Lufthansa for one is already using this method, and — with a faster, more accurate and ultimately more satisfying customer experience acting as a significant differentiator — more will follow.”

AI will improve vendor-customer relationships

For some tech strategists, the improvements that AI could make within company practices should not be limited to internal matters.

According to Geoff Webb, VP of strategy at PROS, “AI will be central to transforming the business and customer relationship in the next year because it is the only technology that can extract insight and intelligence from behaviour at scale and speed. This means that as businesses shift to more in-depth engagement with customers, they will need to place AI at the heart of that process.

“Customers, meanwhile, will continue to shape the focus of data science research and development initiatives by taking AI solutions out of the lab and into production.”

Webb went on to suggest that key performance indicators (KPIs) will play a big role in nurturing AI-aided vendor-customer relationships.

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“In implementing AI solutions to solve their real-world business cases, like e-commerce, customers can measure the impact of these solutions through KPIs rather than having to rely only on theoretical or simulation-based assessments.

“The learnings from tracking these KPIs can be used to directly inform the AI system on how to adjust in order to better achieve the targeted KPIs, and provide a general sense of how the AI system is performing and how much value it is driving for the business,” he said.

5G will catalyse the development of AI

While AI could enhance certain aspects of digital business strategies, it is going to need support of its own.

“If we’re all to enjoy the benefits of AI, we need an infrastructure technology that will enable end users to live, work and interact in the cloud,” said global head of AI and automation at Infosys Consulting, John Gikopoulos.

“Future AI applications — and indeed current ones — require vastly increased speeds together with location-agnostic access and minimal latency, which is exactly what 5G will bring.

“It’s not hyperbole to suggest that 5G will be the key catalyst for a revolution in the way we experience reality.

“Truly connected homes and workspaces, such as advanced, telematics-enabled healthcare services, and “almost real” (VR / AR) interactive experiences, are only a few of the ways where 5G could easily become the highway to the adoption of AI technologies from all industries, functions, and users.”

The emergence of AI-as-a-Service

Gikopoulos continued: “It had to come, didn’t it? Today it seems like everything is available as-a-Service.

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“But let’s not mock, because this model has genuinely revolutionised the way that organisations procure technology, bringing enterprise-grade tech within the ambit of even the smallest company.

“What’s so exciting about AI-as-a-service is not just that the huge economies of scale will make the technology available to every organisation that wants to use it. It will also give us the much-missed ability to harness all the infrastructure, platforms and knowledge towards creating real and sustainable value.

“By packaging AI as part of a solution, we’ll make it much easier to identify valuable new use cases while providing a platform with end-to-end responsibility for delivering them.”

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.