Vendors are over-egging the artificial intelligence capabilities of their products to cash in on the “gold rush” around the technology, Gartner has claimed today.
The introduction of AI into the product strategies of many vendors has created “considerable confusion” in the market, the research firm said.
"As AI accelerates up the hype cycle, many software providers are looking to stake their claim in the biggest gold rush in recent years," said Jim Hare, research vice president at Gartner. "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."
The result was an ‘AI-washing’ of products, whereby vendors tag products with an AI label “a little too indiscriminately”. The phenomenon is similar to the ‘greenwashing’ when companies exaggerate the environmental-friendliness of their products or practices for business benefit or the more recent ‘cloud-washing’, Gartner said.
Spike in AInterest
The vendors’ play is in response to a huge spike in interest from the market. Using the top 100 searched terms on the Gartner website as a barometer, AI did not feature at all in January 2016, but by May this year ranked seventh.
Gartner clients have also been expressing their interest in the technology recently, leading the firm to predict that by 2020, AI technologies will be virtually pervasive in almost every new software product and service.
More than 1,000 vendors with applications and platforms describe themselves as AI vendors, or say they employ AI in their products, according to research. Businesses, in many cases, are simply not buying it.
“The huge increase in startups and established vendors all claiming to offer AI products without any real differentiation is confusing buyers,” Hare warned vendors. "Use the term 'AI' wisely in your sales and marketing materials. Be clear what differentiates your AI offering and what problem it solves."
In many cases the buzz around AI was “obfuscating the value” of more straightforward, proven approaches, Gartner said. Businesses were also wary as they believe they lack the skills to evaluate and deploy AI solutions.
More than half the respondents to a small AI development strategies Gartner survey in April indicated that the lack of necessary staff skills was the top challenge to adopting AI in their organisation.
"Software vendors need to focus on offering solutions to business problems rather than just cutting-edge technology," Hare said. "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 predicts that by 2020, AI will be a top five investment priority for more than 30 per cent of CIOs.
According to the State of the CIO 2017 survey conducted by CIO Australia and published this month, 47 per cent of chief information officers will be piloting or deploying artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies over the next 12 months. That is more than any other emerging technology including blockchain, augmented reality or wearables.
As one respondent to the survey put it: “Artificial intelligence is coming in under the covers. There’s a lot of market buzz about it but there are no practical examples.”
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