A survey of tech companies across the South West has revealed that artificial intelligence is the most widely anticipated business tech trend of 2020.
Looking at technological innovations that will have the most impact on shaping business strategies over the coming year, AI was by far the most popular response, with 44.7% of the vote, according to the survey of over 100 tech businesses by Tech South West.
Toby Parkins, Chairman and Co-founder of Tech South West, who also runs software company Headforwards in Cornwall, said: “It’s really no surprise that artificial intelligence scored so highly. Across the South West and beyond we are seeing great examples of businesses harnessing the power of AI to increase efficiency, boost productivity and ultimately deliver a better service to customers.
“AI can improve business performance in a whole range of areas, from the most basic administrative tasks to complex data analysis and communications. It is an industry that is growing extremely rapidly and used well, can free people up to focus on the more important and useful parts of their work.”
AI has now topped the poll three years in a row. The next top tech trends were automation and cloud software, which both scored 15.8%.
‘Eco-innovation’, including technology that is environmentally friendly or contributes to sustainable development, also featured strongly, with 13.2%. The Internet of Things, which includes interconnected devices like smart meters, voice-controlled virtual assistants and smart watches, came fifth with 10.5% of the vote.
The survey was carried out to investigate how the business technology landscape is changing in the South West, and to provide insight for organisations to ensure their strategies and methods are future-proofed against the challenges of new and developing technology.
Marty Reid, Head of Engine Shed in Bristol and Tech South West steering group member, said: “AI can improve productivity across all fields from professional services to manufacturing, as repetitive tasks and the mining of unstructured information can be carried out without the need for human intervention. These capabilities open the door for startups and SMEs to play in fields which they couldn’t before.
“In Bristol we have a particular opportunity to take advantage of this trend due to our strength and depth of talent in ‘deep tech’, including data science and engineering technologies, alongside a strong professional services sector. A culture of collaboration will also be important to any business wanting to succeed in this new environment.”
This year’s Tech South West Top Ten Tech Barometer (last year’s positions in brackets):
1. Artificial Intelligence (1)
2. Cloud Software (new)
3. Automation (2)
4. Eco Innovations (new)
5. Internet of Things (6)
6. Cyber Security (10)
7. Data (4)
8. Virtual Reality (3)
9. 5G (new)
10. Smart Home (new)
Tech South West has around 1500 members across the region including a range of AI specialists.
Anthony Peake, CEO of Exeter-based data science and artificial intelligence specialists Agile Datum, said: “It is really interesting to see AI coming out on top. That aligns with our own finding from a recent national survey we have run. Businesses have been spending far too long dealing with low value, high volume administrative tasks and not focusing enough on productivity and customer engagement.
“Companies large and small are looking at ways to automate admin, develop new products and improve customer service, and we are seeing AI as a powerful tool to achieve these aims. For a few years now people have said that every business needs to become a digital business. I would go one step further and say that every business will need to become an AI enabled business to thrive, compete and meet customer expectations.”
Dan Pritchard, Co-founder of Tech South West, added: “AI has consistently topped our poll for three years. This trend is showing no signs of slowing down. Businesses really need to understand AI and build it into their strategies, making sure they are clear on how it can be used to realise the full potential of their people to help their organisation thrive.”