Predictions 2018: How AI, Machine Learning Will Impact Us

At 2018 knocks on our doors, we present some ideas from various industry executives about what impact they believe AI and machine learning will be making on the IT business and our lives in general.

We keep hammering away at this point here in eWEEK, and we'll do it again today: We are at an important convergence of technology here in this, the first quadrant of the 21st century.

It's all here now: High connectivity bandwidths, super high-quality code and code libraries, unprecedentedly powerful processors that use less power than previous models, unlimited storage capacities, ingeniously designed mobile and stationary connected devices, a zillion types of cloud services--we could go on. What is next?

We're already seeing it: the introduction of more functionality through artificial intelligence. We're seeing more AI in more apps in more places than we've ever seen before: wearables, cars, productivity apps, military, health care, home entertainment--the list is lengthy.  

At 2018 knocks on our doors, we present some ideas from various industry executives about what impact they believe AI and machine learning will be making on the IT business and our lives in general.

(Editor’s note: We have a lot of material in this category, so you might expect to see a followup on this topic in the next few weeks.)

Here are 12 cogent predictions regarding AI and machine learning in 2018:

Jason Andersen, Strategic Lead on Industrial IoT and Artificial Intelligence, Stratus Technologies:
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are both a journey. “It’s difficult to say definitively what’s on the 'horizon' for AI and machine learning. Operations beginning to invest in next-gen analytics and other AI technologies will signal that a greater number of companies are ready to begin that journey. Getting these foundational pieces in place is a major part of the battle, but this coming year we’ll also begin to see AI become more of a business-level discussion, one where business leaders can begin more productively discussing the benefits, pitfalls and business impact of AI for their company. These conversations are currently lagging behind the technology today.”

Sam Elliott, Director of Security Product Management at Bomgar:
AI distractions: “AI has its place in sifting through the data, making sense of all the false positives, and surfacing the real, meaningful alerts so that a human can do something about it. I think AI will be important moving forward, but it can be a distraction. There are other things that probably take precedence that don’t include AI assisting me in my threat intelligence.”

Ketan Karkhanis, GM & SVP of Salesforce Analytics:
Analytics will be revolutionized by predictive intelligence. "This will invigorate every stage of the decision-making process with actionable insights. With predictive intelligence like AI and machine learning driving better decisions, analytics is no longer a reflection tool, it’s a guidance system that will shape winning behaviors. Furthermore, we should aspire to an intelligent analytics experience for an entire company or organization—for sales, service, marketing and communities, in order to provide true global visibility. This is the analytics of the future.”

Bruce Milne, VP and CMO of Pivot3:
Artificial intelligence is the next frontier for IT: “AI has become the next major battleground in a wide range of software and service markets, including aspects of ERP. Augmented analytics is a particularly strategic growing area that uses machine learning for automating data preparation, insight discovery and insight sharing for a broad range of business users, operational workers and citizen data scientists.

Tiago Paiva, CEO of Talkdesk:
AI won’t replace humans for at least the next decade. “No matter how customers evolve, they will still run into high-emotion situations that require the empathy only a human can provide. New AI-based tools will certainly help customers with a handful of basic tasks, but that same intelligence can be used to help agents too. For complex support interactions that involve a high degree of emotion, an AI-enhanced agent can solve a customer problem faster than that customer could self serve. Using new tools to provide context to the agents, AI can assist both sides of a support call, delivering a quicker, more satisfying experience for everyone.”

Leah Pope, CMO of Datorama:
AI will be a creativity enabler: “The role of the data analyst is changing thanks to artificial intelligence. AI is allowing marketers to focus once again on the creative art of marketing — the days of data wrangling are coming to an end. With studies indicating that up to 80 percent of an analyst’s daily routine was relegated to data cleansing and preparation, 2018 will be the year where that 80/20 rule gets flipped upside down. The new AI-based approach to marketing technology will effectively create a win/win for both analysts and marketers alike.”

Mark Sher, Vice President Product and Marketing, Cloud Voice, Intermedia:
AI will have a pivotal role in communication: “With new modes of communication attempting to stake a claim in the workforce, expect to see a significant change in the traditional work dynamic. Artificial intelligence, for example, is going to transform and customize the way people communicate. Pattern and location recognition will be deployed to streamline meetings and calls for each individual employee. Further, employees will shift from communicating through their devices to having their devices communicate for them.”

Jim Somers, VP of Marketing, Collaboration at LogMeIn:
Artificial intelligence, emotional intelligence and conventional intelligence will merge to facilitate improved workplace relationships and more successful business outcomes. “It’s been proven that face-to-face interactions improve relationships – both in business and personal life. In 2018 and beyond, we’ll start to see artificial intelligence play a larger role in the process of relationship building among colleagues, customers and partners. Facial recognition technology will be built into remote collaboration tools to read visual cues. Why does this matter? It will enable a meeting host to pivot their conversation if needed, and inform more effective post-meeting follow-up. For instance, a salesperson will know the likelihood that they closed a deal or an advertising executive will be informed that the idea they are presenting to clients is falling flat. This ‘meta meeting,’ which focuses more on the feeling of the meeting (body language, tone, etc.) rather than the actual conversation, will gather insights and learnings that help the meeting host facilitate better human connections and drive positive results.”

Roman Stanek, CEO of GoodData:
Digital transformation and GDPR will push artificial Intelligence further into widespread implementation. “With the massive rise of digital transformation, businesses are simply not operating how they were 10 years ago. We are collecting more data, which we not only need to keep safe, but leverage for competitive advantage quickly. GDPR and digital transformation are two facets of the same coin; digital efforts will drive the growth of your data and needs to be better protected.  The business driver is customer experience, and there’s no better way to improve customer experience than through AI. Robotic advisors, chatbots, active notifications and production recommendations are all examples of how AI has improved the customer experience.”

Robert Weideman, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Enterprise Division, Nuance Communications:
You will use a virtual assistant (VA) for customer service, and it will work. “Conversational AI breakthroughs have led to a new generation of VAs specific to your bank, your telco and your pizza ordering, all providing personalized, concierge-like service. In 2018, this generation of VAs will be made even more effective, through technology called HAVA (Human Assisted Virtual Assistant). HAVA adds a human-in-the-loop capability, first to help answer new questions the VA may not know, but more importantly to provide a learning loop that updates the VA’s ‘brain’ in real time.”

Matei Zaharia, Chief Technologist at Databricks:
AI will find more business use cases, starting with verticals. “Generic machine learning platforms are difficult for organizations to use, but vertical-specific solutions to common business problems will start to incorporate the newest ML techniques and transform the standard business processes.”

Craig Zawada, Chief Visionary Officer, PROS:
In 2018, we are going to see a variety of industries implement more AI-powered solutions in the B2B sales process. “Machine-guided algorithms will play a prominent role in automating and analyzing opportunity detection, which is a better and faster way of uncovering previously hidden opportunities. This will enable sales teams to more quickly and intelligently identify hidden growth opportunities across their accounts, alert them to potential customer churn to avoid potential losses, and personalize recommendations for prospects. We also anticipate a spike in customer demand for interactive, personalized, self-service experiences, which will drive the adoption of AI-powered pricing and sales tools in the year ahead.” 

Be sure to save the time/date for our next #eWEEKchat on Wednesday, Dec. 13, at 11am Pacific/2pm Eastern. The topic is one of our favorites: “Predictions and Wild Guesses for IT in 2018.” Bookmark #eWEEKchat for starters; check here for further details.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...