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Vendors shooting themselves in the foot with ‘AI washing’

Virtually every new software product and service will feature artificial intelligence by 2020, as interest in the technology rises.

Gartner analysts have said that the increasing hype around AI is pushing software vendors to introduce the technology into their product strategies. Many companies are developing their own branches of AI, with more than 1,000 describing themselves as ‘AI vendors’.

In January last year, the term ‘artificial intelligence’ did not appear in Gartner’s top 100 search terms; by May this year, it was number seven.

While interest in AI is strong now, companies should be wary of using it where it isn’t needed, Gartner warned. “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,” said research VP Jim Hare.

Many firms are applying the AI label too liberally to their products, which Gartner refers to as ‘AI washing’. Like greenwashing (where companies inflate the environmental friendliness of their products), this is creating confusion in the market and affecting consumers’ perceptions of the tech.

To build trust in AI with end-user organisations, Gartner recommends that vendors focus on collating case studies with quantifiable results achieved using the technology.

Gartner also found that organisations ‘lack the skills to evaluate, build and deploy AI solutions,’ instead preferring to use embedded or packaged solutions. The Royal Society warned that the UK was suffering an AI skills shortage in April.

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