People hold the power to shape and apply technology to create positive change, improve lives, and transform business and society. This is according to Accenture Technology Vision 2017, the annual technology report from Accenture, which predicts the most significant technology trends that will disrupt business over the next three years.

As part of the Technology Vision, Accenture surveyed business and IT executives worldwide, including 52 Irish CIOs and IT Directors. The Technology Vision details how – with advances in artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things and big data analytics – humans can now design technology that’s capable of learning to think more like people and help advance their wants and needs.

The research shows that Irish companies are acutely aware of the potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in particular, with 75% of Irish businesses surveyed maintaining that AI will have a major impact on their industry, and a quarter (25%) predicting that it will completely transform it. Almost three quarters (70%) indicate that AI is capable of becoming the face of their organisation or brand.

When it comes to AI investment over the next three years, the most significant areas where Irish businesses plan to invest capabilities are: Natural Language Processing (40%); Computer Vision (35%);Machine Learning (32%); Deep Learning (31%); and Embedded AI solutions (27%) e.g., IPsoft’s Amelia embedded into call centre services; IBM’s Watson embedded in healthcare diagnostics.

The main benefit that Irish businesses see from AI is enhanced customer interactions – 71% believe that AI will revolutionise the way they gain information from and interact with customers while 72% believe that AI interfaces could become their primary interface for interacting with customers over the next three years. However, integrating AI comes with challenges largely relating to privacy and integration concerns, including: compatibility issues between AI and current IT infrastructure (41%); Privacy issues (38%); insufficient usable data (38%) and technology not being mature enough (30%).

Commenting on the report, David Kirwan, Head of Technology at Accenture Ireland said, “Every business is digital. But today, our biggest innovations will not be in the technology tools themselves, but in how we design them with people in mind. The theme of this year’s report, “Technology for People,” is a call to action for business and technology leaders to actively design and direct technology to enhance human capabilities. The digital revolution we’re part of today isn’t a cold, dystopian future of robots controlling the world. Rather, it’s an age of human empowerment.”

“As technology transforms the way we work and live, it raises important societal challenges and creates new opportunities. Ultimately, people are in control of creating the changes that will affect our lives, and we’re optimistic that responsive and responsible leaders will ensure the positive impact of new technologies,” Kirwan continued.

The five emerging technology trends highlighted in the report are:

· AI is the new UI. Moving beyond a back-end tool, Artificial Intelligence will take on a more sophisticated role within companies. 72% of Irish businesses agree that AI will revolutionise the way they gain information from and interact with customers.

· Workforce Marketplace. The number of on-demand labour platforms and online work-management solutions is surging. As a result, leading companies are dissolving traditional hierarchies and replacing them with talent marketplaces, which in turn are driving the most profound economic transformation since the Industrial Revolution. Case in point: Almost nine in ten Irish companies surveyed say they plan to increase their organisation’s use of independent freelance workers over the next year.

· The Uncharted. To succeed in today’s digital economy; businesses must delve into uncharted territory. Instead of focusing solely on introducing new products and services, they should think much bigger — seizing opportunities to establish rules and standards for entirely new industries. In fact, 77 percent of Irish executives surveyed said that their organisation is entering entirely new digital industries that have yet to be defined.

· Design for Humans. Technology design decisions are being made by humans, for humans. Almost three quarters of Irish tech professionals (73%) believe that organisations need to understand not only where people are today, but also where they want to be — and shape technology around the desired outcomes.

· Ecosystems as Macrocosms: Unleash the power of us. Companies are increasingly integrating their core business functionalities with third parties and their platforms. Platform companies that provide a single point of access to multiple services have completely broken the rules for how companies operate and compete. Forward-thinking leaders leverage these relationships to build their role in new digital ‘ecosystems.’ This is already impacting Irish business, with 73% of Irish companies maintaining that their competitive advantage will not be determined by their organisation alone, but by the strength of their partners and ‘ecosystems.’

The research found that Irish organisations are racing to keep up with rapid advances in technology, with one in five (20.9%) of Irish companies surveyed indicate that their industry is facing ‘complete disruption,’ and a further 48% experiencing ‘moderate disruption.’ 75% of companies feel that they need to innovate at a rapid pace just to keep a competitive edge, with most investing in digital technologies to some degree (77%).

For more information on this year’s report, visit www.accenture.com/technologyvision