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It's no mystery that artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly becoming a key enterprise technology. Recent research from Gartner, CIO Agenda 2019: Digital Maturity Reaches a Tipping Point, shows just how much ground AI has made over the past four years.

Results showed that organizations across all industries use AI in a variety of applications, but struggle with acute talent shortages. The purpose of the Gartner study is to help CIOs and other IT leaders set and validate their management agendas. Gartner gathered data from more than 3,000 CIO respondents in 89 countries across major industries, representing $15 trillion in revenue and public-sector budgets and $284 billion in IT spending.

According to the study, the number of enterprises implementing AI grew 270 percent in the past four years and tripled in the past year alone. The reason for this big jump is that AI capabilities have matured significantly making enterprises more willing to implement the technology. But is that really what's driving adoption? 

Why Use AI?

The objective of adopting AI is to improve the quality of services, which, depending on the domain of application, may imply an improvement in our quality of life, in the user experience, in the cost of the service or in its accessibility, in addition to many other benefits, according to Sophie Miles, co-founder of elMejorTrato.com. But people tend to have a certain resentment when we are presented with something that we do not understand.

She explained that AI is when we take the phone to take a picture and the yellow box recognizes the faces, when we search the internet, when Netflix recommends a movie according to our tastes, when we use Google Maps to choose the best route or when Facebook shows you certain updates of your friends.

It is that invisible AI that really has an impact on our lives, not those futurist film robots that set out to dominate the world as people are made to imagine.

The most difficult thing to understand for the average citizen, who wakes up with a phone in their hands and sets the alarm clock on the same device before they go to bed, is to see how the data connects with other data and provides more information than what one infers from each operation separately. AI seeks patterns and sometimes such patterns are not obvious to the naked eye, which is what generates surprise.

Related Article: 7 Ways Artificial Intelligence is Reinventing Human Resources

AI for Accurate Metrics

Kosta Popov is the founder and CEO of Cappasity. He points out that as business decision-making becomes steadily more data-driven, demand for measurable metrics is higher than ever and pushing enterprises towards AI. Conversion rates, website traffic and customer engagement levels are important guides for marketers in all industries, yet some don't even realize they need previously nonexistent data that is now available.

AI analytics tools in 2019 are already tracking the way potential customers interact with product imagery embedded into retailers' websites, whether 2D or 3D images, and present the most telling metrics on a heat map. Apart from dwell time, the tool will highlight points of customer interest and the best angles for thumbnail product positioning.

With the insights gathered by AI, ecommerce merchants will be able to improve product visualization, choose winning color combinations, and put bestsellers at the forefront of their offerings.

Related Article: 6 Ways Artificial Intelligence Will Impact the Future Workplace

Other Forces Driving AI

There are three other trends driving the business adoption of AI, according to Sudhanshu Ahuja, the co-founder and CEO of Impress.ai, which produces AI chatbot for recruiters.

1. Tech Maturity

Decision-makers at companies have become increasingly comfortable with the maturity of the technology because they can experience it in the palm of their hands every day. They can see how Google ads target them “intelligently,” and they want to target customers in the same way.

2. Rising Labor Costs

This is a global trend around the world. Outsourcing hubs like India are no longer the “low-cost” providers they once used to be. The market is burgeoning with opportunities for people, which is increasing the cost of labor. Chinese manufacturing is no longer as cost-effective as it used to be because Chinese workers demand a higher standard of living.

As labor costs rise and businesses need room to grow, humans need to become more productive, and AI-driven augmentation is an obvious way to do it e.g. automated email drip systems that follow up with the addressee until a response is received and take appropriate actions to assist the salesperson based on whether the response is positive or negative.

3. Sputtering Economic Growth

When the top-line isn’t increasing as fast as you want, the only other way to please your investors is to grow the bottom-line by reducing cost. Turning to AI-powered automation is enabling businesses to increase earnings per share even in challenging business environments.

The pressures of the business are still the same as they've always been. AI has emerged with robust use cases that some business are adopting. Competitors won’t survive long unless they follow suit. “Entire industries are adopting very fast. This is in comparison to Blockchain, which had similar or more hype, but has so far failed to produce robust enough use-cases for mission-critical business adoption. In essence, key elements in the universe of AI have been proven,” he said.

Joshua Kail, a tech public relations pro who has worked with AI clients across multiple markets, warns that AI still has some way to go. While the capabilities of AI have grown and many of the companies that received investments on claims alone are finally starting to show evidence of that in their product line, those truly impactful instances of AI are few and far between, he said.

This coupled with a very soft definition of what can be called AI or not, means the marketing department gets to take the wheel. Fundamentally, the AI solutions on the market today run on similar machine learning or neural network foundations, the inference that one is closer to "true AI" over another is more about presentation. The result is a market flooded with claims than can turn an important tech advancement into modern day snake oil. But like any snake oil, because it's based in some form of reality and because the potential of impact is so strong, the churn creates interest.

“The real turning point in AI adoption will be when the tech catches up to the marketing,” he said. “Unlike snake oil, the potential for AI to become that ‘set-it and forget-it’ solution is entirely real and well on its way. Until then it's the seductive promises of creative descriptions with that fear that if you don't incorporate AI today you will be behind your competitors tomorrow.