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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 the image of Epinal around this technology, close to a science fiction film, really disappeared?

Feared as a grim 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 daily lives.

With natural language processing, image recognition and machine learning (machine Where deep learning), it appears to be an asset in order to automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks for employees so that they can concentrate on more creative work. And by focusing on activities with higher added value, these employees allow their company to increase in productivity.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, which pushed companies to accelerate their digital transformation, artificial intelligence had already been greatly democratized. In 2019, Gartner reported that the adoption of AI had tripled over the past year, with 37% of companies using AI technology in one form or another. At the time, this percentage was even higher for telecom companies, 52% of which had launched AI-powered chatbots to improve their 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 North American firm. What we see here is an important step in the transition to the third age of computing, the digital age.”

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

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

A new dimension with telework

Gartner analysts did not think so well because in 2020, the spread of Covid-19 to the four corners of the world has brought digital – and all the technologies that result from it – into a new dimension. With teleworking which has been deployed at full speed during the various confinements around the world, companies have 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 for facilitating remote work.

In 2021, a KPMG study 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 small firm bosses and 80% of large company managers, surveyed by KPMG, had assured that AI had been of great help during the health crisis. “Covid-19 has been the great Chief Digital Officer of the past two years. This has forced all sectors to carry out a strong modernization and digitalization of their activities”explains Alexandra Ruez, VP & 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 grown. This is illustrated by an IBM study, carried out with Morning Consult from March 30 to April 12, 2022 with a sample of more than 7,500 business decision-makers around the world. It shows that 35% of companies say they use AI in their business and an additional 42% say they are exploring it, which means that 77% of companies are interested in it from near or far.

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

Data is the fuel of AI.

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

But for AI to be deployable within a company, it needs an essential element, otherwise it will be completely useless: data. “Data is the fuel of AI. Without data, it is relatively lowsummarizes Alexandra Ruez. The AI ​​is still far from being able to take over from you on any subject. It’s a bit like a child. There is a strong potential for intelligence, but it has to be learned, educated, and that’s the whole role of data. If you don’t put anything into it, it won’t give you anything back.” In IBM’s report, 63% of IT professionals surveyed say that at least a quarter of their staff need access to business data to make decisions. The same goes for artificial intelligence so that 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-based education solutions to increase employee learning and training, their AI often shows significant gaps. A majority of organizations have not taken key steps to ensure their AI is trustworthy and accountable, including reducing bias (74%), tracking performance variations/drift of the model (68%) and the guarantee of being able to explain the decisions made by the AI ​​(61%).

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These errors are attributable to “a mix between ignorance and a lack of maturityin the eyes of Alexandra Ruez, because these companies are often still in an exploratory phase”. Additionally, around 60% of IT professionals report in the IBM study that the lack of skills and training to develop and manage reliable AI, as well as governance and management tools that do not work. in all data environments, are obstacles to the development of explainable and trustworthy AI.

Chinese and Indian companies in the lead

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

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IBM’s study reveals that nearly 60% of IT professionals in India (57%) and China (58%) say their company has actively deployed it as part of their business operations. This percentage drops to 25% in the United States, while France reaches 31%. This is slightly less 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 AI for Business 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 in this innovative sector, which arouses more and more desire, constitute a particularly powerful lever to multiply the capacities of an AI. Because by multiplying the computing power, it will become possible to train models on gigantic learning bases. Consequently, algorithms will be able to solve particularly complex problems.

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

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To date, China (43%) and the Netherlands (42%) are the nations with the largest 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%. For its part, France (23%), just ahead of the United States (22%) for 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 it, and the pharmaceutical and energy sectors have real needs in relation to quantum. What will make the difference is the power of the machines that will be offered.”

IBM is also well placed to know since this US giant has developed a 127-qubit quantum processor. But before fully shifting into the quantum era, other changes could upset the digital transformation of companies. “What I see happening are also NFTs and metaverse. It will also move the market a lot, because through these virtual worlds, we will be able to offer new products, new services, and perhaps 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 racing in the lead. in artificial intelligence.

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