Artificial Intelligence

Consumers want AI-enabled smart homes but not smart workplaces

28th October 2020
Lanna Cooper

Consumers are the most positive and excited for AI technologies that benefit their lives outside of work, research from O’Reilly shows. The survey, which delves into the opinions of consumers and compares them to that of AI-creators - those working to develop AI driven solutions including CTOs, data scientists, software engineers, solutions architects and IT Directors - reveals a wider indifference to the potential of AI in a work setting.

The results suggest that while AI may be inserting itself into our lives in more ways than we recognise, to encourage adoption, developers should focus their efforts on leveraging AI to make consumers lives easier, augmenting existing experiences to make them more seamless. Adoption and acceptance outside the office, will ultimately lead to the same in a work setting, alleviating fears of job loss and instead focusing on job enhancement.

Rachel Roumeliotis, Vice President of Data and AI at O’Reilly said: “Consumer conceptions of AI are still very much influenced by popular culture, science fiction and the virtual assistants they use every day. However, there are strong areas of overlap between AI developers and AI users. Both groups appreciate the success of smart home technology and are watching the development of autonomous vehicles very closely. It’s up to these sectors to capitalise on the hype, but the results are also a call for the creators of work-focused AI to make solutions that capture the imagination and generate excitement.”

AI at work

The assessment of AI’s usefulness at work among consumers was more mixed. Automation is the most desired AI work application, but by only 22% of consumers (rising to 31% among those working in financial services and marketing). There was even less appetite for using AI to help make business decisions, with only 11% of consumers in favour. This rose to 28% of IT workers, and bottomed out with only 2% of transport and logistics workers as supportive.

By contrast, the creators of AI solutions believed AI would be most useful in software development and coding environments (45%) - processes not necessarily applicable to the wider workforce.

When asked which work-focused AI applications consumers were most familiar with, the most popular answers were automatic email categorisation (42%), online social media marketing (40%), and team management software (40%). The use of data analysis and business intelligence tools was more popular with workers in engineering, buildings and property management, financial services and advertising.

“While consumers aren’t ready for AI in the workplace just yet, AI-creators also need to expand their ideas of where it can be useful to encourage adoption for processes and teams outside their immediate jobs. There is great potential for AI tools that increase employee productivity and augment their workflows, we just need to be open to its benefits,” continued Roumeliotis.

AI at home

Smart home technology is regarded as the most useful form of AI by more than half (58%) of consumers, followed by home security systems (54%), travel recommendations (52%) and virtual assistants (50%). The least useful application of AI was in dating services, according to 18% of respondents.

The opinions of AI developers were similar. A large majority (85%) believed smart home technology was most useful, closely followed by health and fitness insights (79%) and home security and travel recommendations (78%).

Interestingly, however, these areas were not necessarily the applications consumers most associated with AI. When asked what came to mind when they thought about AI, the top three responses were virtual assistants, robotics and self-driving cars. More tactile uses of the technology enjoyed greater prominence than subtler forms such as fitness insights and online advertising. 

Getting practical

Survey respondents were also asked what application of AI excited them the most in the future. Fraud detection (28%) topped the list as the most exciting area for AI development. It was the most commonly cited use by men. This is despite only 11% of consumers closely associating fraud detection with AI.

While self-driving cars also generated great excitement among 24% of respondents - it was the most popular choice among women, younger consumers, and those working in the AI industry by a significant margin (50%) - fraud detection coming out on top shows the beginning of the shift from fantasy to practical, a trend that AI-creators should leverage to reinforce the practicality of AI within the workforce.

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