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What AI experts see next as the technology expands

AI is a transformational technology impacting organizations across various industries—from providing new insights to improving operational efficiency to enhancing customer experiences. At Microsoft, we’re working to turn meaningful innovation into actionable results. We asked thought leaders inside and outside of Microsoft about the acceleration and impact of AI for businesses. Laura Edell, Chief Data Scientist at Microsoft US; Kirk Borne, Chief Science Officer at DataPrime, Inc.; and Pascal Bornet, Chief Data Officer at Aera Technology, came together to share their perspectives on the top AI themes for businesses in 2022.

How intersecting technologies are fueling AI

One of the fastest-growing uses of AI is in conjunction with the Internet of Things (IoT). Edell refers to this combination as the “AI of Things.” Together, these solutions enable rapid analysis of the vast amounts of data collected by IoT sensors, cameras, and other devices.

“It’s this idea of bringing together two very powerful technologies,” Edell says, explaining that real-time interaction and process automation from AI, combined with rich data, can produce more human-like interactions with smart assistants and other useful devices.

Bornet agrees that pairing AI with other technologies—computer vision, natural language processing, and automation, for example—will continue because of their potential to provide sophisticated solutions for complex tasks.

The rise of automation was already underway, but the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting changes in how we work have accelerated its adoption in response to the needs of customers and employees. Bornet says he sees real opportunities to “create seamless and frictionless interfaces between the technology and people. Getting closer to people is what is needed in 2022.”

Democratizing data and lowering barriers with AI

Reducing technical barriers to developing and deploying AI applications helps enterprises of all sizes adopt the latest digital tools faster and cheaper. Edell says the trend of making data science and AI apps accessible to more users will grow. “So, things like Microsoft Power Apps are a tool that’s been created for the citizen developers to really automate business processes and create different applications,” she says.

Borne also welcomes this development. “That is where the growing low-code, no-code strategies take this idea of the non-data scientists or the citizen data scientists and enables them with the tools to really become that next level of advanced business analysts.”

The greater availability of simplified AI tools assists those who want tackle environmental issues. By developing better technology and partnering with others on the Microsoft AI for Good initiative, Edell and her team are addressing global health, humanitarian actions, accessibility, and the environment.

Overcoming biases in AI

While AI can assist in making decisions and actions, it draws from human training and data, which may contain biases. Borne sees the issue of bias gaining attention and points to new applications that test for fairness in AI and machine learning. Edell adds she’s heartened to see data scientists and companies adopting “responsible AI” practices to make sure fairness and biases are considered when using AI.

“Microsoft has done a great job creating an algorithm called Fairlearn that really takes to the next level the ability to understand your AI models to create that explainability and to help you understand when your data is skewed,” Edell says.

Further tightening cybersecurity in AI

In the wake of continual data breaches and other cybersecurity incidents, efforts to keep data safe and private remain vital in the coming year. Edell predicts more focus on making security understandable to enterprises of all sizes, with an emphasis on smarter solutions, from zero-trust environments to how anomaly detection can contribute to security.

“So, I think we’re going to see a lot more of that democratization of cybersecurity and a much more general, end-to-end understanding of what it means when we’re talking about smart devices and security all up,” Edell says.

The security of systems that use AI and the privacy security of individuals’ data are both issues of extensive discussion, Borne points out. Because AI automates patterns and information, he thinks there’s a way to keep the technology moving forward without compromising people’s privacy.

A breakthrough year: putting AI into action

It’s exciting to see the proliferation of AI. We know putting AI into action requires a delicate balance between the vision for the future with more immediate opportunities to improve and remain competitive.

At Microsoft, we’ve partnered with experts and interviewed leaders in different industries to understand how organizations succeed and take the lead in the age of AI. The AI Business School offers best practices, including frameworks that empower organizations. Let’s all lean in and see how we can achieve more together.