3 reasons why 2021 will be AI’s time to shine

16 Dec 2020

Image: © LizFoster/Stock.adobe.com

Forrester’s Srividya Sridharan looks at how AI is changing and what we can expect in 2021.

AI is transformational. AI is exciting. AI is mysterious. AI is scary. AI is omnipresent.

We’ve heard this oscillating narrative over the last few years and will continue to in the future, but in this unprecedented year, one thing became clear – enterprises need to find a way to safely, creatively and boldly apply AI to emerge stronger both in the short term and in the long term.

2020 gave leaders the impetus, born out of necessity and confidence, to embrace AI with all its blemishes. The kinks in AI still remain: lack of trust, poor data quality, data paucity for some and a dearth of the right type of tools and talent.

2021 will see companies and C-level leaders tackle some of these challenges head on, not because they want to but because they have to. Here’s why it’s time for AI to shine.

1. AI will permeate new use cases

In 2021, the grittiest of companies will push AI to new frontiers, such as holographic meetings for remote work and on-demand, personalised manufacturing. They will gamify strategic planning, build simulations in the boardroom and move into intelligent edge experiences.

Coupled with this, lucky laggards will use no-code automated machine learning to implement five, 50, or 500 AI use cases faster, leapfrogging their competitors with capable, entrenched data science teams that take a traditional, code-first approach to machine learning.

2. Workplace AI will boost automation needs

In 2021, more than a third of companies in adaptive and growth mode will look to AI to help with workplace disruption for both location-based, physical or human-touch workers and knowledge workers working from home.

This will include applying AI for intelligent document extraction, customer service agent augmentation, return-to-work health tracking or semiautonomous robots for social separation.

3. More progress toward trusted data for AI

2021 will showcase the good, the bad and the ugly of artificial data, which comes in two forms: synthetic data that allows users to create datasets for training AI, and fake data that does the opposite; it perturbs training data to deliberately throw off AI.

Companies are also facing increasing pressure from consumer interest groups and regulators to prove data’s lineage for AI, including data audit trails to ensure compliance and ethical use.

In 2021, blockchain and AI will start joining forces more seriously to support data provenance, integrity and usage tracking.

By Srividya Sridharan

Srividya Sridharan is a vice-president and research director at Forrester. A version of this article originally appeared on the Forrester blog.