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4 AI Innovations That Made a Splash in 2020

Liz Alton
December 22, 2020

3 minute read

From advances in the medical world to empowering digital CX, AI helped organizations and individuals adapt to significant changes over the last 12 months. As 2020 draws to a close and we look forward to the renewed possibilities of 2021, let’s take a look back at this year’s biggest AI innovations.

Here’s a closer look at the key innovations in AI that made a splash in 2020 and set the stage for future innovation in 2021 and beyond.

AI helps fight a pandemic

AI innovations and machine learning made significant leaps forward in the healthcare industry during 2020. With a pandemic unfolding in real-time, organizations developed AI-powered tools to strengthen the global community’s ability to fight disease.

For example, as worldwide studies mounted, CovidScholar, a search engine powered by an NLP algorithm of all COVID-19 studies, helped researchers and healthcare workers to sift through information faster. The World Economic Forum notes that AI assists in a variety of applications, from chatbots that connect patients to government resources to powering mathematical models that help us better understand, and ultimately, combat the spread. The AI medical innovations launched in 2020 will lay the foundation for innovation in healthcare applications and how we handle virus outbreaks in the future.

Machine learning and AI improve cybersecurity

2020 was a tough year on the cybersecurity front. Microsoft reports attack volume increased by 35% in the first half of 2020 compared to the second half of 2019. Global spending on security is expected to reach $145 billion, notes The Washington Post. A variety of tools automate best practices, secure access, protect data in transit, and detect and defend against breaches. Often, these tools work in tandem with experienced talent. A Synack report finds that cybersecurity specialists and AI working together is 20x more effective than either working alone. In a field with a pervasive talent gap (1.5 million unfilled jobs, notes PwC) this could be a gamechanger for businesses working to fight an increasingly diverse threat landscape.

Empowering a digital-first customer experience

Changes in the business environment drove companies online in record numbers. Brands developed their digital sales, marketing, and customer support capabilities with AI tools. There’s been a significant push to develop CX platforms that offer personalized marketing, with Daniel Newman writing in a Forbes article, “AI needs data. Marketing needs data. Put those two together, and you open up a world of possibilities.”

AI tools are also making us smarter about what to sell: Faire is one example that connects local retailers with wholesale products that will benefit from using machine learning.

Helping improve the way we communicate

As more communication becomes digital, AI is playing a bigger role in language. Harvard Business Review predicts that the next big breakthrough area for AI will be language, and 2020 saw impressive launches and product-scaling that already point the way. Last year we discussed GPT-2 by Open AI, an AI powered tool that produces writing. This year saw the launch of GPT-3 and GPT-as-a-service. As quality improves, automated writing solutions will help generate basic content, product descriptions, and much more. But AI innovation in language doesn’t stop there. AI providers like Persado help brands find the marketing language that’s likely to resonate best with a customer. And as brands work to develop more inclusive language, solutions like Content Moderator use AI to flag discriminatory and biased language.

Want to compare with last year’s AI innovations? Check out “4 Key AI Innovations That Made a Splash in 2019.”

Liz Alton
Liz Alton
Liz Alton is a writer and content strategist specializing in B2B technology, digital marketing, and the customer experience. Her clients include creative agencies, Fortune 500 brands, and venture-backed startups.
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