With job automation, driverless cars and facial recognition hacks topping last year’s headlines, artificial intelligence and machine learning have evolved from futuristic sci-fi to mainstream enterprise adoption, seizing a sizable portion of VC dollars in 2017 and pushing the federal government to define and regulate the technology.

Everyone -- from investors to mainstream consumers -- is speculating about AI’s role in our future as 2018 opens a realm of possibilities for new applications. But exactly how that technology will influence the enterprise sector remains to be seen. Fiery public debates have swirled in the tech community around whether new advancements involve tactical adoptions for enterprise, like a personalized, improved retail experience, or whether these developments signal the coming of the robot apocalypse.

When it comes to business forecasts, though, I’m bullish about the potential that AI has for enterprise. Here are my predictions for how we’ll see enterprises employ AI in 2018:

Consumer AI is Flourishing, but Enterprise is Lacking

While chatbots and voice technology like Siri and Alexa have significantly impacted consumers, the tech has yet to reach its full potential for businesses. In 2018, I predict we’ll see new industries, including insurance, government and retail, implement AI in ways that haven’t been explored before.

The insurance landscape is being reshaped by the application of technology to monitor and control processing, claims and damage analysis. Historically, insurance claims have been handled on a first-come, first-served basis because of limited human capital. But in 2017, extreme weather events caused $306 billion in damage in the United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

After a natural disaster, such as the devastating hurricanes we saw in 2017, businesses and residents generally begin an arduous process involving cataloging claims, note taking, documentation of damages through photographs and logs, receipt collection — and, oftentimes — chasing the claims they’re owed. Furthermore, fraud is a common and growing problem in claims processing and has both manual and financial resource implications.

AI can drastically simplify these onerous processes by streamlining certain tasks and data collection, such as automating the analysis and categorization of claims through image recognition technology with the added benefit of improving identifying fraudulent claims.

AI Mobile SDKs, for example, can empower adjusters and inspectors in the field with a mobile device that can capture the damage and process information in real-time without relying on a network connection. Yet despite these innovations, the insurance industry has barely made a dent in AI adoption.

Like the insurance industry, government organizations are typically slow to innovate. However, change is underway, as we've witnessed AI at the forefront of many government conversations this year. A new bill, drafted by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), asks the Department of Commerce to set up a committee on AI, which would advise the federal government on AI implementation and application. If the bill passes, the Secretary of Commerce will be required to release guidelines for AI legislation within a year and a half -- signaling the influence that AI will wield on our economy.

For example, retail, one of the largest markets for innovation in 2018, has already begun to implement a wide array of AI technology. Sephora’s Color IQ, for example, can scan someone’s skin to find the right shade of makeup, and the Virtual Artist feature within Sephora’s app uses facial recognition for shoppers to virtually try on products. Last year, West Elm, together with Clarifai, rolled out an AI tool to offer tailored recommendations for furniture and decor options, based on user’s Pinterest boards.

Another focus for retailers and e-commerce platforms is moderating user-generated content (UGC) posted to their sites, and AI offers significant potential to help with this process. For example, food ordering and review platforms like Yelp, OpenTable, GrubHub and Seamless can use AI tools to categorize UGC automatically and manage photo libraries submitted by restaurants and users. Additionally, consumer brands can use AI to provide deeper insights into what dishes are most popularly photographed and shared by customers.

Fragmentation of AI Platforms

While these industries will see significant AI adoption in 2018, the AI platforms and products that scale to mainstream adoption won’t necessarily be the household names you may expect.

As the “Frightful Five” (Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft, as the New York Times coined them) continue to grow and expand their reach across industries, they have designed powerful AI products. However, these platforms present challenges for smaller companies looking to implement AI solutions, as well as larger companies in competitive industries such as retail, online gaming, shipping, and travel to name a few.

How can an advertiser on Facebook feel comfortable entrusting its data to a tech behemoth that may sell a product that competes with its business? Should a big data company using a Google AI feature be concerned about the privacy of its data?

These risks are very real, yet businesses have options. They can instead choose to host data on independent platforms with independent providers, guarding their intellectual property while also supercharging the advancement of AI technology.

While AI has already begun to saturate markets and industries, the far-reaching, personal effects of the tech have yet to be felt by every consumer. As 2018 brings a deeper, significant evolution to the insurance, government and retail industries, we’ll continue to see increasing fragmentation of AI platforms. Overall, enterprises will look for the right business partner to implement these AI solutions, using companies they can trust.

Oh, and as for the robot revolution? I don’t think we’re there just yet.

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