Philip Carnelley IDC

Philip Carnelley
Research Director, European Software Group

Read full bio  @Pcarnelley

In 2016, artificial intelligence (AI) celebrated 60 years since it was first recognized as an academic discipline of computing science. For most of that 60 years, AI has remained a fascinating topic, but nothing that ‘real IT’ needed to worry about. That reality has changed dramatically.

IDC believes that 2017, and beyond, will see the rise of “AI, Everywhere.” In 2017, all major business application suites will start to include AI functions, all major PaaS platforms will offer it, and all developer teams will at least start to consider it. 75% will have AI in their plans by 2020. IDC forecasts spending on AI technologies and services increasing at around 60% compound growth at least through to 2020 in Europe.

The seeds have already been sown, and 2016 was the watershed year when AI entered the corporate – and consumer – consciousness in a big way. There were almost daily stories in the mainstream as well as specialist media of technical breakthroughs and corporate M&A activity as the excitement grew.

And there was real-world evidence, too. For instance, IDC attended the Kisaco AI for Enterprise conference in London in November 2016, and the state of maturity in evidence was high indeed. Companies who had real, operational AI systems and who could cite real, measurable business benefit from their experiences included Barclays, BT, Telefonica, Ticketmaster and Virgin Trains.

Interestingly, these companies were using a variety of approaches – particularly machine learning (ML), the approach that has above all kick-started this new enthusiasm for AI approaches. But they’re also using graph databases, content analytics, natural language processing and others, to allow pattern matching, Twitter sentiment analysis, shopping recommendations, chatbots for customer service, and more.

So while a generalized ‘artificial intelligence’ is still a pipedream, AI is here, now and real. We believe that its use will be widespread – everywhere, even – within a very few years. Now is the time to start looking at what it can do for your organization – for your competitors almost certainly are, already.

For more on IDC’s Predictions for Cognitive, Big Data and AI in 2017 see document IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Analytics, Cognitive/AI, and Big Data 2017 Predictions — Western Europe Implications. For more commentary on the AI for Enterprise Conference see Lessons from the Front Line: Enterprise AI Conference 2016