In the 24-hour news cycle, fads come and go. What is hot news one day is quickly forgotten the next- think hover-boards, virtual reality, selfie sticks, even 3D printing- the list goes on, but you get the point. With this being said, one might understandably develop the assumption that AI will equally meet the same fate, fading into obscurity as unhelpful voice assistants are quickly forgotten about.
But that would be a mistake- most current applications of AI can hardly be considered AI at all. As we discussed in the previous installment of IMAGR Weekly, narrow AI is only AI in name. Truthfully, most of the products which feature “AI” do so in the hopes of leveraging off the hype surrounding the term. While this generates interest in the technology, repeated instances of disappointing results serve to dilute confidence in AI.
However, keen observers would know to look past the noise. Companies such as IMAGR are currently in the development phase of AGI, or the “actually smart” variety of AI. As this technology gradually comes online, we will begin to see truly impressive and exponential increases in technological capability, far surpassing what Narrow AI could ever offer.
All this leads us to the topic of numbers- what sort of figures and timeframes are we talking about? Below, we have gathered an assortment of interesting statistics surrounding the business of AI, highlighting the enormous investment and potential this industry holds.
At the beginning of 2018, only 15% of businesses reported interest in using AI, but as we near years end, this number is projected to grow to 31%. This increase represents a doubling in AI adoption during the span of a single year, an increase driven by increased awareness and acceptance of AI’s potential in revolutionizing the way businesses operate. A similar trend can be found in the retail industry specifically, with more and more retailers realizing the importance of AI in competing against online players. Physical retailers will always have the experiential edge over Amazon and Alibaba, and it is this very advantage that needs to be fully leveraged. Bricks and Mortar will continue to thrive, but only if it embraces change. Through the use of advanced machine learning and computer vision, companies like IMAGR strive to enable a smooth transition of traditional retailers into this exciting new age.
Further on retail front, global spending on artificial intelligence will grow to $7.3 billion per year by 2022, up from an estimated $2 billion in 2018, according to a study from Juniper Research. The research states “retailers will heavily invest in AI tools that allow them to differentiate and improve the services they offer customers. These range from automated marketing platforms that generate tailored, timely offers, to chatbots that provide instant customer service.” In addition to these applications, we believe products including our SMARTCART will see great interest from leading global retailers, many of whom have already expressed a desire to implement our technology in their stores.
The number of jobs requiring AI has grown over 4.5 times since 2013. Job listing platform Indeed conducted a survey which found high levels of demand for people with experience in Artificial Intelligence related fields, which is reinforced by our own experiences. IMAGR is constantly on the lookout for talented AI engineers to join our expanding team and have looked into numerus overseas markets when recruiting.
While there is a lot of fear that AI will spell the end of jobs for human workers, this is simply not the case. According to the Enterprise Project, 1.8 million jobs will have been eliminated by AI come 2020, but at the same time, 2.3 million new jobs would have been created. This is a net increase of 500K jobs as a result of artificial intelligence. It is easy to get caught up in the belief that technology will have negative implications for human employment- this is an issue which has existed for many decades. The reason we are all still in employment today, despite advancements such as automation, is because the type of workers required has changed, not the fundamental need for workers. IMAGR faces frequent questions, or even accusations, that our SMARTCART technology will cause job losses in retail. We do not see this happening, because it is not in the best interests of the retailers themselves to cut staff upon implementing SMARTCART. While it is true that the need for checkout operators will decrease once a store installs our technology, this opens up massive opportunities for enhancements to the customer experience. In order to compete with online only retailers, traditional stores must offer a superior customer experience, and having most of their staff tied up at the checkout simply does not deliver on this need. Once these staff are freed up, they are able to perform more meaningful duties such as helping with customer inquiries, restocking shelves, and cleaning the store.
Going forward, shopping will become less of a chore, and more of an experience. Those who do not want this experience will jump to online retail, but those who do will have high expectations. In an industry filled with options, retailers are increasingly asking the question of “how do we provide value to our customers in order to keep them happy”? The answer to this question is hardly ever going be to cut staff, but rather to have more of the right kind of staff. We believe checkouts are frustrating and outdated. They contribute nothing to a positive shopping experience, and as a result, we have created SMARTCART. We are incredibly excited to begin the rollout process for this game changing technology before the end of 2018 and will continue to share updates as we approach the release date. Change in the retail industry is inevitable, and competition will only heat up further. For customers, any competition leads to better products, and as such, it could be argued any competition is good competition. For retailers, this means adapting as opposed to panicking- the customers are not going away- they will just look for a better experience.