Why artificial intelligence no longer scares companies… and employees

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The adoption of artificial intelligence in companies has accelerated with the Covid-19 pandemic. But has Epinal’s image around this technology, close to a sci-fi movie, really disappeared?

Feared as a reaper for millions of jobs around the world just 10 years ago, artificial intelligence (AI) has seen its perception evolve considerably in recent years. On the contrary, more and more companies consider it as a tool to support employees in their day-to-day.

With natural language processing, image recognition and machine learning (machine Where deep learning), appears to be an asset to automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks so employees can focus on more creative work. And by focusing on higher value-added activities, these employees allow your company to increase its productivity.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, which led companies to accelerate their digital transformation, artificial intelligence had already been quite democratized. In 2019, Gartner reported that AI adoption tripled in the past year, with 37% of companies using AI technology in one form or another. At the time, that percentage was even higher for telecom companies, of which 52% had launched AI-powered chatbots to improve customer experience and various services.

“We are still a long way from artificial general intelligence that can fully take on complex tasks, but we have now entered the era of augmented work and scientifically made decisions.then explained the US Cabinet. What we see here is an important step in the transition to the third age of computing, the digital age.”

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Covid-19 has been the great Chief Digital Officer of the last two years.

Alexandra Ruez, VP and Senior Partner, Leader of Business Transformation Services at IBM

A new dimension with teleworking

Gartner analysts didn’t think so well because, in 2020, the spread of Covid-19 to the four corners of the world brought digital – and all the technologies that result from it – to a new dimension. With teleworking deployed at full speed during the various lockdowns around the world, companies had no choice but to equip themselves with new digital solutions to continue their activities. In this context, AI has been particularly popular for putting oil in the wheels, as well as the cloud to facilitate remote work.

In 2021, a study by KPMG thus highlighted that the deployment of artificial intelligence had accelerated in all sectors, and more particularly in financial services and retail. Proof that AI was seen as a key lever to overcome this difficult period, 88% of heads of small companies and 80% of managers of large companies, surveyed by KPMG, assured that AI was of great importance during the crisis of health. “Covid-19 has been the great Chief Digital Officer of the last two years. This forced all sectors to carry out a strong modernization and digitalization of their activities”explains Alexandra Ruez, VP and Senior Partner, Business Transformation Services Leader at IBM.

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Two years after the start of the pandemic, the enthusiasm around artificial intelligence has only increased. This is illustrated by an IBM study conducted with Morning Consult from March 30 to April 12, 2022 with a sample of over 7,500 business decision makers worldwide. It shows that 35% of companies say they use AI in their business and another 42% say they are exploring it, meaning 77% of companies are interested in it from near or far.

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IBM thus notes that AI is constantly growing with a five-point increase compared to 2021. An increase attributable in particular to its progress making it more accessible to businesses, up to 43%, and the need to reduce costs and automate your key processes (42%). Competition (31%), the Covid-19 pandemic (31%) and consumer pressure (25%) are also among the top factors that have helped drive AI adoption. “AI is a reality around the world, in all business formats. Everyone has an AI project. Now what will differentiate is maturity”says Alexandra Ruez.

Data is the fuel of AI.

Alexandra Ruez, VP and Senior Partner, Leader of Business Transformation Services at IBM

But for AI to be deployable within an enterprise, it needs one essential element, otherwise it will be completely useless: data. “Data is the fuel of AI. No data, it’s relatively lowsums up Alexandra Ruez. AI is still far from being able to replace you in any matter. It’s a bit like a child. There is strong potential for intelligence, but it needs to be learned, educated, and that’s the whole role of data. If you don’t put anything in it, it won’t give you anything back.” In the IBM report, 63% of IT professionals surveyed say that at least a quarter of their staff needs access to business data to make decisions. The same goes for artificial intelligence so it can support employees.

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While just under two-thirds (66%) of IT professionals surveyed by IBM say their organization uses automation tools to reduce manual or repetitive tasks, half (50%) say their organization uses AI-powered education solutions to increase employee learning and training. your AI often shows significant gaps. Most organizations have not taken important steps to ensure their AI is credible and accountable, including reducing bias (74%), tracking performance variances/model deviation (68%), and ensuring they can explain decisions taken by the AI ​​(61%).

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These errors are attributed to “a mixture of ignorance and lack of maturityin the eyes of Alexandra Ruez, because these companies are often still in the exploratory phase”. Additionally, nearly 60% of IT professionals report in the IBM study that a lack of skills and training to develop and manage reliable AI, as well as governance and management tools that don’t work in all data environments, are obstacles to the development of explainable and reliable AI.

Chinese and Indian companies in the lead

In this ecosystem that still lacks sustainable benchmarks, some countries have stood out for investing heavily. This is particularly the case in the United States, which invested twenty times more than Europe between 2012 and 2018 in AI and big data, according to PitchBook data. But surprisingly, it’s not in Uncle Sam’s country that AI adoption is strongest in companies.

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The IBM study reveals that nearly 60% of IT professionals in India (57%) and China (58%) say their company has actively implemented it as part of their business operations. This percentage drops to 25% in the United States, while France reaches 31%. This is slightly lower than the world average (34%). The best European student in this area is neither Germany (34%) nor the United Kingdom (26%), but Italy (42%).

IBM Business AI Adoption Study 2022

Quantum computing, the next step in artificial intelligence

The most mature companies in artificial intelligence should logically be among the first to venture into quantum computing. “Companies that have already passed the milestone of exploring AI are now in an exploratory phase of quantum computing”, notes IBM’s Alexandra Ruez. And for good reason, the technologies of this innovative sector, which is increasingly arousing desire, constitute a particularly powerful lever for multiplying the capabilities of an AI. Because by multiplying computational power, it will be possible to train models on gigantic learning bases. Consequently, the algorithms will be able to solve particularly complex problems.

Today, 23% of companies worldwide are working or planning to work on exploring next-generation quantum technologies, according to a study by the Capgemini Research Center. Among these companies, 43% expect new quantum technologies to lead to first commercial uses within three to five years. The companies that most like these technologies evolve mainly in telecommunications (41%), aerospace and automotive (36%), in addition to life sciences (30%).

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To date, China (43%) and the Netherlands (42%) are the nations with the highest share of companies working or planning to work on next-generation quantum technologies, far ahead of Germany and the UK (26% each ), compared to the global average of 23%. In turn, France (23%), just ahead of the United States (22%) at the moment, adopted a roadmap in January 2021 to position itself among the world leaders in IT. quantum. “The first concrete use cases will arrive within a year or two in Francebelieves Alexandra Ruez. Banks and insurance companies are interested in this, and the pharmaceutical and energy sectors have real needs around quantum. What will make the difference is the power of the machines that will be offered.”

IBM is also well positioned to know, as this US giant has developed a 127-qubit quantum processor. But before fully shifting to the quantum age, other changes could get in the way of companies’ digital transformation. “What I see happening is also NFTs and metaverses. It will also move the market a lot, because through these virtual worlds we will be able to offer new products, new services and maybe even change consumption patterns”, assures Alexandra Ruez. In quantum computing as in the metaverse, the challenge for France and the EU will be not to be left behind once again by the United States and China, where Gafam and BATX are leading the way in artificial intelligence.

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