Artificial Intelligence – Technology of the Future

27 December 2017

One of the key topics addressed at the JLT Canada Public Sector Summit was the future of Canada. Emerging technologies and the reliance on the Internet of Things play a large role in shaping the next 30 to 50 years. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a developing technology that is increasing in use and popularity across all industries. According to the Canadian Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC), AI enables machines or built-in software to behave like human beings; allowing the devices to perceive, analyse data, reason, talk, make decisions and act. AI has become a part of daily life for people around the world in the form of voice assistance, online recommendations, predictive and prescriptive insights, and recognition applications. AI has already been in use by several sectors including banking, transportation, retail, robotics, health informatics, bioinformatics, analytics (big data) and e-commerce.

Economic Impact of AI:

By 2025, the global economic impact of AI is expected to be between USD7.1Tn and USD13.1Tn.1 Investments in AI are growing significantly and globally, with tech giants spending USD20Bn to USD 30Bn in 2016. Ninety percent of this amount was spent on research and development and the deployment of AI, and ten percent was spent on AI related acquisitions.2  Most of the private and public sector organizations have increased their interest in AI and are planning to invest heavily in the future. In March 2017, the Canadian federal government and the provincial government of Ontario planned to team up with a group of businesses to invest about CAD200Mn (USD150Mn) to fund an artificial intelligence institute at the University of Toronto.  Among private companies, Google has announced that it plans to start an AI lab in Toronto, and is also helping fund a public-private partnership with the University of Toronto3 to develop and commercialize AI talent and ideas to strengthen AI capability throughout Canada.

Key Applications:

Artificial Intelligence is a diverse field and is used in various forms across different technologies. Although AI is still in an early stage of development, it is rapidly transforming global industries with the cutting edge digital solutions that it provides. Some of the key AI based technology applications presently used are:

Machine Learning: A widely used AI-based application, involves machines that learn from data, and simplify and make decisions to act in certain ways. Some of the examples are natural language processing, search engines and game playing.

Transportation: AI is applied in developing automated vehicles, driver assistance systems and safety systems for the transport sector.

Finance: AI is used by the financial sector in banking, capital markets and insurance fields for customer services applications, such as chat-bots, robo-advisory and claims processing.

E-commerce: AI is helping online shopping websites in providing virtual assistance to customers for better advice and recommends products based on historical behaviours.

Automation: In heavy industries highly autonomous robots are used to replace humans for effectiveness, precision and accuracy, especially in repetitive or dangerous tasks.

Healthcare: AI in healthcare includes advance analytics, use of algorithms to analyse complex medical data and making decisions for treatment techniques.

Bioinformatics: AI is increasingly gaining attention in bioinformatics research and computational molecular biology. AI helps in discovering data patterns and modelling through machine learning, artificial neural network and genetic algorithms.

Smart computer games: AI in computer games covers the behaviour and decision-making process of non-player character (NPC).


All the areas listed above use big data analysis in combination with AI to make informative and effective decisions, as AI expands the amount of data that can be analysed and the way it can be used. The increased reliance on the internet is further fuelling the growth of AI usage around the world. “Smart” devices sense their internal or external environment, communicate and send critical data to make final decisions.

AI in the Insurance Industry:

Artificial Intelligence in the Insurance industry is gaining momentum with several insurance market stakeholders using it to manage operations more efficiently. AI enables insurers and brokers to engage with customers in a quicker and more reliable manner by providing personalized customer service and digital advisory. Additionally, insurers and brokers can use AI based cognitive technology and customer data to underwrite risk more effectively. For example, within claims management, AI and machine learning techniques can be used in different stages of the claim handling process to help reduce overall time, handle costs and assess severity of damages with enhanced customer experience. Furthermore, algorithm based AI systems can effectively identify trends in the data and recognize fraudulent claims.

Some insurers are already deploying AI to enhance their business:

  • In May 2017, Zurich Insurance announced deployment of artificial intelligence in deciding personal injury claims. Since using AI they have witnessed reduced processing time following a trial; work that previously took an hour is now completed in seconds (saved ~40,000 work hours)4
  • In May 2017, the UK based P&C insurers, Ageas, partnered with Tractable to use artificial intelligence across its motor claims management5
  • Insurers like Allianz, RBC Insurance and Credit Agricole have introduced chatbots to provide human like experience to customers while attaining greater cost benefits in customer servicing AI in the Canadian Public Sector: In Canada, academic institutions and private sector organizations are the major users of artificial intelligence services. However, application of AI in the Canadian public sector is rising as several public sector agencies have started using AI applications for public services.6

AI in the Canadian Public Sector:

In Canada, academic institutions and private sector organizations are the major users of artificial intelligence services. However, application of AI in the Canadian public sector is rising as several public sector agencies have started using AI applications for public services.

  • In 2016, Purple Forge developed an app for the City of Surrey in British Columbia, to create AI research assistants that help residents obtain information for various government services such as recycling schedules, job opportunities and recreational activities
  • In 2017, a start-up named EMAGIN, announced that it is working with two Ontario municipalities to help them operate drinking water and wastewater systems using AI-driven optimization and an analytics platform

Challenges with AI:

Currently, AI is only designed to perform narrow tasks (recognition, searches and analysis). However, many researchers are looking to create general AI (AGI) in the future. AGI technology is said to outperform humans at nearly every cognitive task and could inadvertently harm people and alter societies around the world. For example, researchers believe that AGI could help in developing autonomous weapons that could easily lead to violence. Moreover, with lack of effective control mechanisms currently in place, there is risk of misjudgement that could lead to significant complications. Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, described AI as “the greatest risk we face as civilization” and asked there to be proactive regulations to reduce potentially devastating impacts from AI technology on humanity. Additionally, AI based applications are more prone to cyber attacks since they rely on cognitive technology and big data to function, easily exposing them to social engineering attacks. Such cyber attacks could increase the attack surface that hackers target leading to a massive spread of automated computer viruses.

Overcoming the challenges:

Experts believe that AI enabled cyber attacks can only be stopped by using AI. As a result, AI is being used to implement automated processes for remediation actions and to fix any gaps in AI systems. As a result, several start-ups and large organizations are investing in building AI systems to bolster defence by analysing vast amounts of data using machine learning to mitigate cyber threats. In April 2016, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced that they developed an AI system that detected malware. According to MIT, the system detects 85% of attacks; roughly three times better than previous benchmarks.

What’s next for AI?

Recently, AI has made significant advances. AI technologies have been highly adopted by various sectors through providing helpful functions such as machine learning, automation, and collaborative systems. Increasing investment in the research and development of AI in Canada and globally, demonstrate the capability of AI to revolutionize the future of the world. According to Accenture, AI-integration in Canada could add an additional USD636.1Bn to the economy by 2035, increasing the annual growth rate of gross value from 2.1 to 3.5 per cent.7 Though AI is positively received, there are still various obstacles to overcome to get to this reality, including the development of skills and knowledge pertaining to AI systems among the upcoming generation, and the ethics and governance framework to monitor the use of AI in the future.

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