Artificial Intelligence (AI) is set to transform the North American economy to the tune of a $3.7 trillion gain by 2030, according to a recent study from PwC that examines the impact this emerging technology will have on the economy, jobs and skills.

It suggests 45% of these total gains globally will come from product enhancements within the next 12 years, with AI driving increased product personalisation, attractiveness and affordability. 

The research also points to the rapid transformation of a number of sectors. In automation it envisages autonomous fleets of vehicles giving drivers access to a vehicle right at the moment they need it, rather than having to pay for a car and the maintenance and insurance while it sits on the driveway.

In manufacturing, as well as making use of the vast amounts of data generated in production processes, self-learning monitoring will make manufacturing process more predictable and controllable.

These changes require a vast reimaging of business models and the processes that run them.

Often these pieces of research can focus very heavily on the headline-garnering “doom and gloom” rather than the positives. However, this piece predicts a net gain in job creation, and a boost to overall economic performance – chiming very much with my own sentiments around the positive impact this will have on the workforce.

With this in mind, here are three key developments that I envisage happening over the next five years as we start to see the true benefits of AI emerge.

  1. The rise of the ‘robo-worker’

We already see numerous brands taking advantage of chatbots in their customer service workflows. But there is a much wider opportunity for a new computer-generated workforce to automate simple computational tasks. We can see this happening already in workflow automation, with Ricoh Expense Management as a great example.

  1. Enhanced decision making in business processes

The advantage of AI over a human brain is its ability to crunch almost unimaginable amounts of data instantaneously. As machine learning algorithms advance this creates opportunities to bring AIs into a decision-making process. Ultimately, this should still be a human who makes the final call – but this could be aided by information sorted and analysed by the machine. This augmentation of man and machine will see the AIs aiding workers, enabling them to do more and make better informed decisions. Expect to see this coming into force by the mid-2020s.

  1. Automation in information exchange

Advances in AI will significantly impact the way in which information moves around an organisation. Combining AI with robotics technology will mean routine tasks such as filling in forms will allow for the physical transfer of information from paper to digital to become automated. This has implications for a business’s workflows, but the growing complexity of AI algorithms will mean those processes are streamlined to levels currently unimaginable. I believe it will spell the dawn of a new age of efficiency.

It’s clear to me that businesses need to consider the impact of AI on their sector, and also consider how this will challenge existing business.

One area that is particularly interesting to me is how this could be applied for small and medium sized businesses. PWC argues that AI allows an organisation to offer or replicate propositions but in a more cost-effective way, reducing barriers to entry.

If you haven’t started thinking about how AI is going to impact and enhance your business, perhaps the time is now.

By Edward Gower-Isaac
Ricoh UK – Vice President, Business Process & Application Services

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