Artificial intelligence is the current buzzword and businesses like Walmart and Allianz have proven how to take advantage of the latest AI trends in order to stay ahead of the competition. Sam Forsdick was in the audience to hear more lessons from tech-savvy firms at GTC Europe in Munich
Data was once described as the new oil but only a few big companies like Google and Facebook have benefited from the use of data for advertising – yet a look at the latest AI trends presents numerous opportunities for everyone else.
As records amount of data are collected every day, AI algorithms can learn to predict functions and make lives easier through automation.
And while Andreas Braun, head of data at global consultancy Accenture, warns about the need for cyber protection when saying “if we are not careful, then personal data might be the next asbestos”, he believes the millions invested in data science teams has not gone to waste with the introduction of data regulation like GDPR.
Instead, AI could be the “icing on the cake” for businesses looking to boost profitability.
Speaking at the GTC Europe technology conference in Munich today (10 October), Mr Braun says: “There is a lot of fear and discussion about how AI might kill jobs but we are totally neglecting the huge potential that AI offers.
“AI is a technical revolution but what CEOs really struggle with is how to apply it to the business.”
A study by McKinsey found that a third of activities within two-thirds of companies can be automated by 2030, with accommodation and food services industries having the most potential for automation – affecting 73% of tasks.
Companies need to have the confidence to transform how they work and become data-driven, according to Mr Braun.
He said the technology should be used to speed-up certain processes. For example, insurance companies could use AI to process invoices and conduct administrative tasks, while reinvesting the time and money into more strategic problems.
Companies that are embracing the latest AI trends
German financial services company Allianz is one such company that has witnessed the benefits of using AI.
By using the technology to identify the more complex cases, the firm was able to prioritise these more difficult tasks and in doing so improved efficiency by 20%.
It was also able to streamline its customers by using AI to identify low-risk customers and reduce the amount of documentation they need to fill out from 20 pages to two -without affecting the end result.
Similarly, Walmart has begun using AI to help manage the amount of food waste it produces.
Some $260m (£197m) of food is wasted in the US every year as perishable goods go out of date in supermarkets.
By implementing AI into its inventory management for ordering stock Walmart was able to reduce this figure, bringing benefits to its bottom line and to customers.
By using AI to analyse dozens of data sources on the weather, expiration dates and purchasing patterns and forecast how much of each perishable good to stock.
The speed of AI and modern computational power means this process can be used regularly to improve the forecast every week.
Jeremy King, CTO of Walmart, says: “Software has immensely improved how we use data – enabling the most complex models to run at a scale and deliver even more accurate forecasting.”
Why aren’t more companies staying up to date with the latest AI trends?
Despite clear benefits, only 23% of companies currently employ AI and apply it to their current services, according to Applied AI managing director Andreas Liebl.
There are several challenges currently preventing AI from being implemented by companies on a larger scale.
Firstly, Mr Liebl says that the perception of AI needs to change. European countries tend to be more concerned about the prospect of AI, with more than 45% of people surveyed in France, Germany and Spain exhibiting concern about the technology.
In contrast, China has been much more receptive, with 94% of people citing at least one positive feeling about the potential for AI.
Mr Liebl says this has been because China has been able to more effectively communicate the benefits and has changed the perception.
Similarly, AI adopters must trust the technology. For example, forklift drivers who use some automated features to do their job don’t necessarily have an understanding of how they work but they can see the benefits from testing and using the tech.
Another challenge faced by European nations is around data protection and GDPR rules – something that US and Chinese companies do not have to deal with unless they are using the data of EU nationals.
Mr Liebl explains: “The really interesting use cases involve sharing data between companies.
“If you change the purpose of how you use data then you will need to get consent from every person you collected the data from again.”
New roles created by latest AI trends
A lot of discussion surrounding AI focuses on the jobs that will be lost to automation, but Mr Liebl foresees three new jobs being created by the technology.
They are AI software engineers who need to know how to apply the tech, AI ambassadors to help communicate its potential throughout a business and AI strategists, who develop the strategic uses of automation and how to stay ahead of the competition.
However, there is currently a lack of talent in the AI specialism and Mr Leibl believes companies should instead look at forming partnerships.
“What we did was select the best start-ups who are working in AI and publish them so other companies can work with these start-ups,” he adds.
“The only way you as a company can succeed is by applying these use cases and that is not somehting you can do on your own.”