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One thing that’s been true in the field of AI is that advances are being made faster than we’ve historically predicted. We’ve seen a combination of accessibility to large amounts of data, new techniques and the speed at which these techniques can be adapted and combined thanks to freely available knowledge repositories like arxiv.org – never has standing on the shoulders of giants been so easy.

Predicting the changes in AI for 2018 is therefore difficult.

AI is already very pervasive in our lives even if it’s behind the scenes. My smartphone not only remembers where I’ve parked my car but also predicts where I’m travelling to and tells me the traffic conditions so I can leave in time – even when I don’t have a calendar reminder.  

Companies have been focussed on the improvement of experiences rather than shouting about clever new AI – it’s just another option in the toolbox when creating a service.

AI In The Home

I am seeing smart home devices becoming more prevalent as AI meets the Internet of Things.  Voice recognition is being used to drive our entertainment, adaptive lighting and heating and security. Some people already have aspects of this in their homes but in 2018 this will start becoming mainstream and this will be driven by the older generation.

The AI assistant in their home that will save them money on their heating and lighting, record and play their TV programs without having to use a fiddly remote control, and be a companion. It’s not just for young people any more.

AI On The Road

While self-driving cars are still a novelty in the UK I predict that 2018 will see more of these pilot schemes rolled out across the country. As more of us get to experience this technology, we will start to become more comfortable with “hands-off” driving, where vehicles can drive themselves for a few minutes before requiring driving control. This a gentle step towards fully autonomous vehicles that is essential while we have a hybrid of human and AI vehicles.  

I think it will be nearer to 2028 before this transition is complete. If your child is 5 or under today then when they’re adults, they’ll be amused at your desire to drive manually and laugh when you attempt to argue that it’s safer…

AI In Business

A big way in which AI will start to impact business, particularly marketing, is in the area of micro personalisation; AI has great power at looking at large amounts of varied data and gathering insights.  

There’ll be movement away from traditional demographic segmentation and towards understanding each and every customer; allowing brands to interact with customers in way that actually appeals to them rather than assuming their interests based on age, gender or location.

AI can comb through considerable amounts of visual content (particularly social media), finding hidden customer insights and offering a new approach to audience segmentation. It’s already happening (see Social Tribes), and I see many more brands adopting the technology next year.

AI Regulation

2018 will also be the year that governments around the world will start to legislate for accountability, use and ethics of AI; determining the transparency of the algorithms and where/when they can be used either directly or as an aid to human decision making.  

Private industry will storm ahead here but public sector bodies will need to prove that the AI is more accurate than humans and less biased.  

Expect to hear far more about the “Robot Tax” too – next year the number of people who will lose their jobs due to AI will increase to the point that it will start to make headlines. New jobs will be created in different areas, but the displaced workforce may not have the correct skills.

How the UK government chooses to deal with these changes will have long term implications on our economy.

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Janet heads up the Artificial Intelligence division at StoryStream and has extensive experience in leading teams and building AI systems. With over 10 years experience at C-level, she has taken abstract concepts to innovative saleable products at multiple companies.

A STEM polymath, Janet brings multidisciplinary ideas to the departments she leads, forming cutting edge research teams with an eye on delivery that is rarely seen outside of academia. Janet is a founder of the Tech Women London Meetup Group, Treasurer of the IEEE STEM strategy committee and regularly speaks and writes on various technical subjects.