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How AI trends will deliver business value in 2019

By Marcus Lambert

Whether you digest your daily news from your Facebook timeline, a 24-hour news channel or traditional newspaper in 2018, it was impossible to avoid stories about artificial intelligence (AI). Cliché images of robots with red eyes rising up against their human masters and leading us to a dystopian future began to fade as the year progressed.

In many ways, 2018 felt a lot like watching the Kubler-Ross change curve in real time as journalists documented their shock, denial, anger and fears around AI technology. Many believe that 2019 will be the year people continue this journey by moving on to the Acceptance stage of the change curve.

Fighting any form of technological change and swimming against the tide is only going to end one way—and nobody wants to be the next Kodak, Polaroid or Blockbuster video. With this in mind, 2019 will be the year businesses begin to actively explore how a combination of AI and machine learning can deliver both a competitive edge and value to their business by riding the “wave” of change.

Creating a single view of data

Over the last few years, we have seen businesses embark on their respective journeys to centralised data—aiming to put all of their information in one place. However, in 2019 we can expect a slight pivot, as providing a single view of all of an enterprise’s data becomes crucial to their key objectives.

With the rise of always-connected IoT devices, data is now coming thick and fast from a myriad of locations. All of this information is being transferred in a variety of speeds and formats, which creates both challenges and opportunities when leveraging the valuable insights hidden inside big data.

Thankfully, vendors are working together to standardise data models. These subtle changes will provide game-changing capabilities for early adopters who ensure their data from all sources will fit these emerging standards.

In particular, cloud-based data sources that have consistent formats will begin removing the data silos and governance issues that have plagued businesses for the last five to ten years. Imagine the possibilities of adding AI and machine learning capabilities to a single view of an entire organisation’s data. We are only just beginning to explore the art of the possible.

The convergence of 5G, IoT, Blockchain and AI

In 2018, many were guilty of over-exaggerating the capabilities of a new set of buzzwords that promise to transform the world of business. Rather than focus on one particular technology in 2019, we will begin to zoom out and see the bigger picture.

Next year, broadband speeds look set to hit mobile devices with 5G and IoT sensors in cities all over the world. AI and machine learning will be tasked with leveraging invaluable insights from real-time data that can then be stored securely on blockchains.

Together, these emerging technologies will begin improving efficiency, driving down costs and providing early adopting business with a competitive advantage. But, it’s not just about smart cities and autonomous vehicles that are already connected to the internet.

Imagine if activity could be tracked and improved from the moment you open your eyes. The routine commute to the office or planning of your day or night out will no longer be left to chance. We will quickly become several moves ahead of the game when the smartphones in our pockets know precisely what is waiting for us around every corner.

In 2019, each of these new technologies will begin to leverage each other and reveal the bigger picture for businesses. A brave new digital world where almost every device can securely communicate with each other on 5G and storing information on the Blockchain. But, it will be AI and machine learning that deliver the promise of a single view of data.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) for small businesses

Don’t be fooled into thinking these high-tech tools are only available to the world’s biggest businesses with huge budgets at their disposal. Small businesses that adopt AI to improve business process efficiencies could quickly step up to slay the slow-moving and sluggish goliaths of their respective industries.

It’s not all about the technology either. Embracing exponential change in your business and bravely stepping away from legacy systems mark the first steps towards success for any SME. We will continue to see companies of all sizes remove the burden of IT by working closely with cloud services providers.

Speeding up business agility by providing access to apps and desktops on any device or location is a destination everyone has been chasing.

But then what?

Robotic process automation (RPA) offers software and machine learning capabilities that can dramatically increase efficiencies of small businesses to give them the competitive edge. This form of business processing technology can now perform the repeatable and mundane tasks that have prevented your staff from working on projects that deliver value to the business. This not only improves efficiencies, but also reduces human errors and cuts operational costs. It also removes the headache of training and retraining staff members.

These are all pain points that resonate with every business leader. Repeatable queries, calculations and/or the painful process of maintaining records and transactions can all be automated. Successful companies of the future will not replace staff, but rather allow them to work alongside the latest technologies.

AI skills will be in short supply

As traditional roles begin to disappear, there will continue to be a spike in demand for a new set of skills fit for a digital age. Unsurprisingly blockchain and artificial intelligence are LinkedIn’s fastest-growing job categories. But, it’s not all about turning everyone into techies.

Human skills such as communication, leadership and time management will be needed to help businesses bring technologies such as blockchain and AI to life. Once again, essential operational functions will require humans to work alongside technology and not be replaced by it.

Contrary to the AI job-killing headlines, leaders recognise that humans will need to work alongside AI technologies to progress forward. Both have strengths and weaknesses, but together, that is where the real magic will happen.

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