This will be the 'break-out' year for artificial intelligence

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While technologies such as blockchain will see a continued increase in application, artificial intelligence will be the leading transformative technology for enterprises in the next year, according to a new report from consulting firm EY.

This year "could be a breakthrough year for more widespread AI adoption,” said Christopher Mazzei, global chief data and analytics officer at EY. “As companies look to integrate AI into their operations, there is a particular opportunity with regards to robotic process automation [RPA] software. By combining the intelligence of AI with he operational efficiencies RPA offers, this software can be transformed into a value-generating component of business toolkits, applicable across multiple business functions.”

The firm surveyed 126 senior IT professionals from global organizations attending a recent conference in Boston, and found that 40 percent of respondents think the U.S. is leading the race in AI adoption, followed by China (32 percent). With data becoming more readily accessible and governments worldwide taking an active role in investing in innovation, the U.S. and China are starting to feel the heat from other countries, the study said.

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Of those surveyed, 39 percent think machine learning will see the most growth among innovative technologies in 2018. As business leaders increasingly collaborate with IT to achieve comprehensive integration, companies such as airlines and hotels will leverage customer data and AI to improve customer experience.

Stakeholder buy-in (43 percent) and lack of AI talent (57 percent) are the greatest barriers to adopting AI technology, according to the survey.

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