Smart tech providers need to start preparing for artificial intelligence.
That’s because AI is approaching an inflection point. The technology is about to stop being just a good idea, and to instead become a real tool for business — and a multi-billion-dollar business.
A new survey finds that nearly all (93%) of high-growth companies — those expecting double-digit revenue growth in the next few years — intend to invest in decision-making AI in the next 1 to 3 years. Even among slower-growth companies, nearly two-thirds (64%) say they intend to invest in AI.
The survey, conducted by Microsoft with help from Altimeter Group and Switzerland’s University of St. Gallen, reached 800 business leaders in the U.S. and Europe.
There’s a lot of money at stake, too. This year alone, AI sales worldwide will approach $36 billion, a year-on-year rise of 44%, predicts market-watcher IDC. Looking further ahead, IDC expects global sales of AI systems to increase by an average of 38% a year through 2022, when AI sales will top $79 billion.
Top industries for AI adoption will be retail and banking, IDC predicts. Retailers want AI for applications including automated customer-service agents and expert shopping advisors. Banks are using AI for automated threat intelligence, prevention systems and fraud analysis.
Manufacturing is another sector where big increases in AI spending are expected. A new report from market-intelligence firm Tractica predicts that annual worldwide manufacturing sector investment in AI software, hardware and services will more than quadruple over the next 7 years, rising from $2.9 billion last year to $13.2 billion by 2025.
AI education for business
One new opportunity is helping business leaders make sense of AI and start using it in their operations. That’s the idea behind a new educational program launched today by Microsoft’s corporate VP of AI, Mitra Azizirad, and her team.
Mitra Azizirad of Microsoft:
“There’s a gap between what people want to do…and the reality of whether their organization is ready.”
Called the AI Business School, it’s a new free online master class from Microsoft in AI for business leaders. Course materials include case studies, guides and lecture videos. Microsoft says these materials have been designed to be consumed in small bites, so executives can study whenever they have the time.
The Microsoft program’s learning paths include defining an AI strategy, enabling an AI-ready culture, responsible AI for business, and technology for business leaders.
The program joins two other AI schools Microsoft already offers. One is for software developers looking to get into AI, and the other is for engineers looking to improve their AI skills.
There’s plenty of room for tech providers, too. In Microsoft’s survey, over three-quarters (76%) of high-growth companies said they’d like more support to improve their AI skills. Even among the slower-growth companies, nearly as many (67%) said they need skills support, too.
AI is about to become a big business. For smart tech providers, getting ready now is the intelligent move.