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Alexa, robots no longer just mascots

Firms told to ‘raise’ AIs more attuned to society’s demands
By: - Reporter / @neltayao
/ 05:03 AM February 26, 2018

Artificial intelligence technology as responsible “citizens”; the end of distance, thanks to virtual and augmented reality; the importance of data veracity; “frictionless” business; and the internet of thinking.

These are the five key trends likely to disrupt businesses, says global professional services firm Accenture in the latest edition of its annual Technology Vision. In the 2018 edition developed by Accenture Labs and Accenture Research, the report includes a global online survey of over 6,300 business and IT executives across 25 countries and 18 industries to capture insights into the adoption of emerging technologies. The respondents are mostly C-level executives and directors, with some functional and line-of-business leads, at companies with annual revenues ranging from $500 million up to about $6 billion.

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Titled “Intelligent Enterprise Unleashed: Redefine Your Company Based on the Company You Keep,” the report highlights how rapid tech advancements in businesses are “driving unprecedented changes” in society, particularly how we work and live.

“Companies are blurring the lines between business and personal—and blazing a new trail for their own future growth. Technology is now firmly embedded throughout our everyday activities, but its reach is larger than that: It’s reshaping pieces of our society,” the report reads. According to Accenture’s research, 84 percent of executives surveyed agree that through tech, companies are “weaving themselves seamlessly into the fabric of how people live today.”

It cites for example Amazon’s efforts to integrate its products and services into consumer households, specifically the development of the handsfree, voice-controlled speaker Echo and AI assistant Alexa. “Amazon is managing not just shopping needs, but also the daily demands of busy lives,” states the report.

The report further notes that while society have reworked their lives around technological disruption many times in the past, the case, this time, is different: now it’s a two-way street, as people not only use businesses’ products and services, but also feed information and allow these access to their lives.

As such, people expect partnerships with these companies, based not just on what products they can offer, but also their goals and values.

Consider the case of Uber, which the report cites: Years ago, Uber pioneered a new model for working with drivers, upending transit and transportation models. Now, as it has evolved its business model and relationships with local communities, the company is working to address corporate responsibility in its interactions with drivers, customers, and regulatory organizations.

Thus, the corporate social contract is changing, too, the report states, with companies needing to create a consistent set of principles focused on their relationships with their customers, employees, government and the public.

“As companies build and extend their ecosystems, individuals and organizations with goals and ideals that match their own will be natural partners,” reads the report.

Given this kind of business environment, Accenture recommends that companies keep an eye on these five tech trends:

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Citizen AI: “Raising” AI to benefit business and society. As AI grows in its capabilities, so does its impact on people’s lives. Businesses looking to capitalize on AI’s potential must acknowledge this impact, “raising” AI to act as responsible representatives of their business.

Extended Reality: The end of distance. Virtual and augmented reality technologies are transforming the ways people live and work by removing the distance to people, information and experiences.

Data Veracity: The importance of trust. By transforming themselves to run on data, businesses now face a new kind of vulnerability—inaccurate, manipulated and biased data that leads to corrupted business insights and skewed decisions. To address this challenge, companies must follow a dual mandate to maximize veracity and minimize incentives for data manipulation.

Frictionless Business: Built to partner at scale. Businesses depend on technology-based partnerships for growth, but their own legacy systems aren’t designed to support partnerships at scale. To fully power the connected intelligent enterprise, companies must first redesign themselves.

Internet of Thinking: Creating intelligent distributed systems. Businesses are making big bets on intelligent environments via robotics, AI and immersive experiences, but bringing these intelligent environments to life will require not only adding key skills and workforce capabilities, but also modernizing current enterprise technology infrastructures.

“Just as cities developed around ports and then railroads, or people rebuilt their lives around electricity, the world today is reimagining itself around digital innovation —and, by extension, the companies that provide those services. This requires a new type of relationship, built on trust and the sharing of large amounts of personal information,” says Paul Daugherty, Accenture’s chief technology and innovation officer. “Through these new partnerships with customers, employees and business collaborators, companies are building greater trust and further integrating themselves into society, becoming more indispensable and fueling their own growth.”

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