Australia Falling Behind in the Race to Artificial Intelligence

25th August 2017

The last few years have seen huge amounts of research and development invested in machine learning and AI. This will continue to be a focus for businesses of all sizes- from emerging startups to major IT companies. More and more of these early adopters will bring this technology into use for their consumer-facing services.

While AI is being used by thousands of companies worldwide, most big opportunities haven’t yet been recognised. We can expect to see the effects of AI over the next decade, as insurance, advertising, law, health care, transportation, retail, finance, education, and almost every other industry transform their business models and core processes and embrace machine learning.

The countries that prioritise artificial intelligence will see their economies benefit accordingly. And those that don’t? They’ll become increasingly uncompetitive as globalisation makes it easier for international businesses to steal their market share.

How Australian Businesses are Using Artificial Intelligence

Ubank, a division of National Australia Bank, offers online banking services. The bank is using Watson, IBM’s supercomputer to combine artificial intelligence and banking, calling it “cognitive banking.”

Watson can analyse text and voice conversations and identify the characteristics and tone of a customer. It then creates a customer profile, so the right team member can be assigned based on their needs.

Telstra, a big name in the Australian media and telecommunications industries, has announced plans to introduce AI into its operations. During a speech at AMCHAM, CEO Andrew Penn called the technology “perhaps the most significant driver of technology innovation”. He also said that artificial intelligence will be the company’s highest priority.

Artificial intelligence is also hard at work within Australia’s healthcare industry.

Every six hours, an Australian dies of melanoma. But IBM is working with the NSW Department of Health, MoleMap, and the Melanoma Institute so Watson can identify melanomas. With early detection, survival rates can be as high as 98%.

In June this year, Icon Group announced that it’s now using Watson to support clinical oncology decision making. The tool helps identify options for cancer treatment and drugs, using information from more than 15 million pages of text, 200 textbooks, and 300 medical journals.

By 2020, medical information will be doubling every 73 days. No human can keep up with all the information available. But AI can, and we can expect this technology to have life-changing (and life-saving) results.

Australian Businesses Slow to Adopt AI

Unfortunately, while some Australian businesses have seen the huge potential in AI, Australia has been slow to adopt and implement the technology.

Infosys surveyed business leaders in China, France, Germany India, The United States, The United Kingdom, and Australia. The report found that Australia is the least likely to have plans to implement artificial intelligence within business. 100% of the Chinese respondents had plans to deploy AI, while Australia scored just 20%.

Professor Toby Walsh is a Data61 and University of South Wales AI professor. He expects Australian businesses to be using robot advisors and autonomous trucks, buses, and cars within 5-10 years. But Mr Walsh says he’s concerned that Australia is falling behind. He believes the country needs more tax incentives which would encourage research and development in this area.

Andrew Charlton, economist and director of consulting firm AlphaBeta agrees. A report by the firm found that Australia needs to double its pace of robotics automation and AI. This would allow the country to take advantage of $2.2 trillion worth of opportunities by 2030.

Mr Charlton also believes Australia is lagging. The report found that only 1 in 10 Australian businesses have embraced automation, which is approximately half the rate of the same sized companies around the world.

While Australia has a long way to go before it truly reaps the rewards of AI, this is great news for tech-savvy businesses. The field is clear for companies in a variety of industries to be first on the scene and implement artificial intelligence- before their competitors.

Wondering where to begin? Get in touch today and we’ll give you the guidance you need.