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Gartner: AI to arrive in 'almost every new software product by 2020'

It was once “cloud washing,” but it’s now “hype” and “AI Washing” that is “creating confusion, obscuring the real benefits of the technology".

Gartner’s Application Architecture, Development & Integration Summit 2017 (#GartnerAADI)  is on in Sydney next week, 24 to 26 July, and the big buzzwords of the moment, AI, machine learning and application trends are clearly going to be high on the list of discussions.

It’s this summit that has brought forth the latest missive from Gartner about how market hype and growing interest in artificial intelligence (AI) are pushing established software vendors to introduce AI into their product strategy, creating considerable confusion in the process.

Despite this confusion, Gartner’s analysts predict that by 2020, AI technologies will be virtually pervasive in almost every new software product and service. Whether we would have reached the singularity by then is another question, I guess, we just have to hope that our artificially intelligent robot vacuum cleaners, in-house heating systems and on-device assistants don’t want to go all “Terminator” on us anytime soon.

In any case, Gartner makes the salient observation that, in January 2016, just 18 months ago, the term "artificial intelligence" was not in the top 100 search terms on gartner.com.

However, by May 2017, the term ranked at No. 7, with Gartner noting this indicated the popularity of the topic and interest from itd clients “in understanding how AI can and should be used as part of their digital business strategy. Gartner predicts that by 2020, AI will be a top five investment priority for more than 30 percent of CIOs".

It also presumably represents a great marketing coup from the Apples, Googles, Amazons and Microsofts of the world who have been relentlessly pushing AI and machine learning of late, but that’s just my own observation.

Jim Hare, research vice-president at Gartner, had a more intelligent observation when he stated that: "As AI accelerates up the Hype Cycle, many software providers are looking to stake their claim in the biggest gold rush in recent years.

"AI offers exciting possibilities, but unfortunately, most vendors are focused on the goal of simply building and marketing an AI-based product rather than first identifying needs, potential uses and the business value to customers."

So, what is AI, according to Gartner?

We’re told that AI “refers to systems that change behaviours without being explicitly programmed, based on data collected, usage analysis and other observations.”

Making a nod towards a dystopian sci-fi Terminator-like scenario, Gartner acknowledges that “while there is a widely held fear that AI will replace humans, the reality is that today's AI and machine learning technologies can and do greatly augment human capabilities. Machines can actually do some things better and faster than humans, once trained; the combination of machines and humans can accomplish more together than separately".

So, how to successfully exploit the AI opportunity?

Gartner says technology providers need to understand how to respond to three key issues:

1) Lack of differentiation is creating confusion and delaying purchase decisions

The huge increase in startups and established vendors all claiming to offer AI products without any real differentiation is confusing buyers. More than 1,000 vendors with applications and platforms describe themselves as AI vendors, or say they employ AI in their products.

Similar to greenwashing, in which companies exaggerate the environmental-friendliness of their products or practices for business benefit, many technology vendors are now "AI washing" by applying the AI label a little too indiscriminately, according to Gartner. This widespread use of "AI washing" is already having real consequences for investment in the technology.

To build trust with end-user organisations vendors should focus on building a collection of case studies with quantifiable results achieved using AI.

"Use the term 'AI' wisely in your sales and marketing materials," Hare said. "Be clear what differentiates your AI offering and what problem it solves."

2) Proven, less complex machine-learning capabilities can address many end-user needs

Advancements in AI, such as deep learning, are getting a lot of buzz but are obfuscating the value of more straightforward, proven approaches. Gartner recommends that vendors use the simplest approach that can do the job over cutting-edge AI techniques.

3) Organisations lack the skills to evaluate, build and deploy AI solutions

More than half the respondents to Gartner's 2017 AI development strategies survey indicated that the lack of necessary staff skills was the top challenge in adopting AI in their organisation.

This was an online survey conducted from 5-21 April 2017 among Gartner Research Circle members, a Gartner-managed panel comprising IT and business leaders comprising of 83 members.

The survey found organisations are currently seeking AI solutions that can improve decision making and process automation. If they had a choice, most organisations would prefer to buy embedded or packaged AI solutions rather than trying to build a custom solution.

"Software vendors need to focus on offering solutions to business problems rather than just cutting-edge technology," said Hare continued.

"Highlight how your AI solution helps address the skills shortage and how it can deliver value faster than trying to build a custom AI solution in-house."

Gartner’s clients can learn more in "How Enterprise Software Providers Should (and Should Not) Exploit the AI Disruption."

For more information, you can visit Gartner's Applications hub for complimentary research and webinars.

Other hot topics at the Gartner’s Application Architecture, Development & Integration Summit 2017 next week include: 

  • Blockchain
  • Chatbots
  • Innovating with Agile
  • Microservices: The Future of SOA and PaaS
  • Reinventing Applications for the Digital World
  • Legacy System Transformation
  • The Postmodern ERP Landscape
  • DevOps
  • API Management
  • Integrating End-to-End IoT Projects
  • Renovating the Application Portfolio to Support Digital Business
  • Selecting Your Next Cloud Platform
  • Preparing for a World Beyond Apps
  • Delivering a Great User Experience Development in the Era of Cognitive Computing
  • Event-Driven Application Strategies
  • Mobile Application Development

You can follow #GartnerAADI for more info online as the summit is underway.


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.