AI: the future of businesses


This article appears in the latest edition of Ambition Magazine, an award-winning Northern Ireland business magazine published by NI Chamber, in partnership with the Ulster Tatler Group.


AI (Artificial Intelligence) is one of the biggest technological leaps in history. Since ChatGPT was released in November 2022, there has been an explosive growth of generative AI tools available as well as the number of organisations now adopting AI in their everyday practices.


Northern Ireland is emerging as a potential hub for AI innovation, with the UK Government announcing a £18.9 million investment which will see the creation of a new Cyber-AI Hub at the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) in Belfast. As well as creating jobs this is set to support the research and development of AI-enabled cyber security projects. While many businesses in Northern Ireland are now investing in the adoption of Al, it remains largely in the experimental phase.


AI’s potential is set to impact a range of industries. It promises to improve healthcare outcomes, optimise manufacturing processes, and enhance retail customer service by offering personalised assistance and streamlining shopping experiences. Across all sectors, AI capabilities are revolutionising business processes including automation of repetitive tasks, data analysis, supply chain optimisation, quality control, fraud detection, and improved security.


Different factors have led to a skills gap in many industries and AI adoption could be the answer to bridging this skills gap. By leveraging AI tools, businesses could alleviate this shortage of skilled workers by automating tasks and augmenting human capabilities. This could free up industry professionals to focus on tasks that add value and drive growth.


Al adoption poses several challenges for organisations – a key part of this is fear. From institutional fear of the unknown and resistance to change to employee concerns about adapting to new roles associated with AI. Overcoming these challenges requires a strategic approach to ensure AI is harnessed to best effect. Clear guidance and employee training on the best practices of Al adoption are key as is having a clear plan to safeguard sensitive data.


Where data is concerned, AI can assist employees and organisations in analysing data more efficiently and accurately, leaving less risk for human error. However, this also comes with concerns about the inaccuracy of the data output delivered. AI is only as reliable as the data it is based on and if left unchecked, AI could amplify our own biases as humans. It is an area that must be explored cautiously when it comes to the accuracy and reliability of the information provided by AI. Generative AI workplace tools should be viewed as a complement to human expertise, not a replacement.


Few companies are fully prepared for the widespread use of AI, and it is still in an experimental phase. The widespread use of Al raises several ethical concerns around data privacy, security, policy, and workforce. This introduces potential risks such as misinformation, copyright infringement and harmful content. A well-defined strategy and commitment to responsible AI are crucial to mitigate risks and ensure ethical business practices.


As AI integration evolves into a strategic tool for growth and innovation, business leaders must contemplate the why and how of AI adoption. An initial assessment, such as those offered by Telefónica Tech, accompanied by a well-defined roadmap, can provide a clear direction. While AI and generative AI hold immense potential, its true power and safety lie in its collaboration with human expertise.

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