There’s a lot of buzz around artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), but is it all just marketing hype? Or are AI and ML real cornerstones of a new era of information technology?
SADA Systems, a cloud solutions partner and managed services provider, sought to answer this question through a survey of 500 IT professionals, and released its findings Thursday.
Survey respondents sent a clear message: While AI and ML are still in the early days, they are the bedrock of the future of technology.
“There are real-world solutions that the market is starting to ask for,” SADA Systems CEO Tony Safoian told Channel Futures. “I think it’s very indicative of the survey — early stage, but something companies can directly take and apply from what’s available in the market that just a few years ago seemed like science fiction.”
SADA Systems’ Tony Safoian will deliver the opening keynote, “Investing Ahead of Technology Demand: Seeing the Future and Making Bold Decisions,” at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo, April 17.
The SADA Systems survey focused on a half-dozen hot technologies. In addition to AI and ML, the survey took a look at augmented reality, blockchain, edge computing, the Internet of Things (IoT) and virtual reality. Time and again, AI and ML took the spotlight. Here are five key findings:
- Thirty-eight percent of respondents said they would invest the most in AI and ML over the next two years, followed by IoT at 31 percent and blockchain at 10 percent.
- Forty percent said AI and ML would have the biggest impact on their businesses over the next two years, followed by IoT at 23 percent and virtual reality at 12 percent.
- Forty-one percent said AI and ML would have the biggest impact on society over the next two years, followed by IoT at 21 percent and virtual reality at 13 percent.
- Sixty percent said they currently are using AI and ML, slightly behind IoT at 67 percent and well ahead of edge computing at 37 percent.
- Thirty percent said they budget between $500,000 and $1 million annually for the use of newer technologies, while 25 percent budget between $1 million and $5 million annually.
All of this paints a picture of AI and ML on the verge of breaking out. Use cases crop up daily in practically every industry, every company and every department. For instance, SADA Systems recently submitted an RFP to a fast-food company suggesting an AI solution for taking drive-through orders at thousands of its restaurants.
“The way AI is going to reveal itself is that it’ll be invisible,” Safoian says. “When AI is working, we’re not going to be able to tell we’re interfacing with a non-human.”
AI and ML are becoming core tool kits in SADA Systems’ application development and digital-transformation practices. Channel partners with similar practices better be bringing in AI expertise. IDC says 40 percent of digital-transformation initiatives will use AI by 2019, and a whopping 75 percent of enterprise applications will use it by 2021.
But AI and ML complexity requires special talent, which has become a barrier of entry. In the SADA Systems survey, 44 percent of respondents said that AI and ML are the most difficult skill sets to find among IT professionals today, followed by blockchain at 16 percent and IoT at 12 percent.
“We’re proposing really sophisticated, new technologies that we need engineering teams within our customers to embrace,” Safoian says. “This is where IT plays a significant role in being the gatekeeper” to the next generation of technologies.