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AI trends to look out for in 2018

At a glance

  • Artificial intelligence is no longer confined to sci-fi movies – it’s increasingly having an impact on daily life
  • What are the potential benefits for customers and how can AI be applied in different industries?
  • We look at the range of potential applications for AI in 2018

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been hailed by some as a miracle fix with almost limitless potential – from making our roads safer to boosting workplace productivity.

Professional services

Artificial intelligence could fundamentally alter the way people expect to access information and advice. Accountancy firm KPMG says we are almost at the point where clients “expect their first interaction with a professional services company” to be via a mobile phone or other electronic device.

This paves the way for virtual assistants to play a greater role in filtering and responding to queries and freeing up professionals’ time. The ability of AI programmes to make sense of vast quantities of data can also help to provide valuable insights – for example, helping financial services firms to identify investment opportunities, or helping insurance companies to detect possible fraud.


International construction group Mace has predicted that by 2040, a third of construction jobs could be automated, with bricklaying the trade most likely to be affected by the emergence of artificial replacements.

However, AI could also bring about more subtle changes to the sector, such as improving site safety or aiding claims defensibility.

For example, there are AI applications that are capable of sifting through and automatically tagging vast quantities of media files. This could enable a construction site manager to upload photos, videos or other documentation from a site at the start of a construction project, and then quickly access them much further down the line.

This could prove invaluable if, for example, a construction firm was facing a claim relating to the quality of its workmanship, or a failure to follow designs/specifications.


One way in which AI could prove useful to smaller businesses is by turning raw customer data into revenue-generating insights, for example:

  • Spotting correlations in product/sales trends and buyer behaviour
  • Identifying lucrative or emerging markets
  • Identifying individual customer preferences and personalising the customer experience

The importance of AI to smaller businesses is likely to increase in the years ahead. Research suggests that by 2020, nearly half (45%) of UK consumers will expect companies to use AI to automatically purchase or recommend products based on their preferences.

Health and social care

Detecting and preventing illness and injury is an area where AI could have a significant impact.

Many developments in this area relate to wearable technology and other smart devices – from Apple Watches that can detect hypertension to smart toothbrushes that can flag up potential symptoms of heart disease. The NHS has also a trialled a system in parts of north London where virtual assistants – or chat bots – can take details of patients’ conditions and then advise them on the most appropriate course of action – from visiting their GP or a pharmacy to going straight to A&E.

New potential applications for AI in health and social care are constantly emerging. For example, recent suggestions that virtual digital helpers could have a role in combating loneliness among vulnerable elderly people.

Risks associated with artificial intelligence

While there are many advantages, there is also the potential for increasing risks that may be associated with AI. Challenges customers may want to consider include:

  • If you’re using a virtual assistant, who will monitor the quality of the information it gives out?
  • Could you be liable for bad advice given by a chat bot?
  • What would happen if the data your AI system feeds on is lost, stolen or manipulated?
  • How can you be sure this data is accurate and up-to-date?
  • Will reduced human interaction in your processes mean reduced oversight?
  • Is there a danger your will become over-reliant on AI, and you will lose the personal touch when dealing with customers?

To discuss any aspect of this article further, please speak with your local Zurich contact.

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