FirstSignals® – The Emancipation of Artificial Intelligence

5 minutes reading time

Artificial Intelligence – a hype and an underrated scientific, economic and social topic. For the prmagazin March issue pressrelations, with the help of the FirstSignals® research method, has analysed the development of the trends ‘digitisation’ and ‘AI’ from 2004 until now, and the success rate of issue positioning within these trends by big companies in Germany.

The gap between media presence and search interest

The currently dominating tech-trend of digitisation shows a typical life cycle of a hype: after a long period of slow but steady growth of the media coverage, the number of articles soared in the second half of 2014. The highest peak is right at the start of the progressive development, as is typical for budding hype-trends. With just 4,700 articles in the second half of 2013 the number of publications grew to 18,400 in just two years, and at this rate of growth we can already count 63,000 articles in the second half of 2018. It is safe to assume that this trend is past its peak at this point, and we are looking at an imminent downturn.

Digitisation will probably give way to a related trend which has also been part of the whole digitisation wave – Artificial Intelligence. Recently, however, it has been taking on a new form outside of the digitisation context and becoming a dominating technological mega-trend in its own right. AI generated its first progressive growth, albeit a small one, from 79 articles in the second half of 2004 to 353 articles a year later. It then maintained this similarly slow growth rate until 2013. Meanwhile, the media coverage of this topic increased exponentially in the context of digitisation: from 440 articles in the second half of 2013 to 816 in half a year, and to 15,000 articles today.

Compared to its importance as a technology in science, economy and society, AI seems to be underrepresented in the media. In terms of the number of Google search queries since 2004, AI and digitisation appear to have been equally popular. Let’s see if media coverage can catch up with google searches.

Artificial Intelligence in the context of other top trends

If we look at other top tech-trends which are often mentioned in connection with AI, we can clearly see four areas which are big trends in their own right: Autonomous Driving with 1,755 articles, Industry 4.0/IoT with 1,557 articles, Robotics with 1,195 articles and Cloud Computing with 1,118 articles. In this context AI reaches the presence values of 10-20% and rising.

AI is mentioned in connection with drones in 433 articles: along with the application of autonomous delivery drones, which are currently being researched and developed by such companies as Amazon, there are also critical reports about the application of autonomous weapon systems, the so-called slaughterbots, which are able to form swarms with the help of AI and head for their targets thanks to the highly developed AI object recognition.

A high number of publications – 457 articles – about AI in connection with 3D printing is a result of a considerable rise in popularity of the latter due to an advanced 3D printing process, which is already past its experimental stage and is about to revolutionise industrial production.

Even more exciting is the connection between AI and the DNA scissors CRISPR – a revolutionary new technology in genetic engineering. It is a technological development that is still in its infancy, dubbed throughout the Silicon Valley as ‘convergence’ – a merger of two entirely different technological disciplines, in this case AI and biotech. In Germany it is called computational or synthetic biotechnology, i.e. analysis and design of complex protein structures for various medical and agricultural applications with the help of AI software.

A big surprise in this ranking is XAI or Explainable Artificial Intelligence – transparency and comprehensibility of AI-based decisions. With 840 articles XAI is ahead of other popular topics such as e-mobility which currently counts 545 articles in connection with AI. XAI is used to identify and eliminate any personal and possibly discriminatory bias of the AI programmer. There is also a question of liability, for example, if an AI-controlled vehicle causes damage. In the US, it has been a subject of a heated discussion for quite some time. All top US publications from Wired to the New York Times and the Economist have already published some strong opinions about this. The issue has also started to gain traction in Germany: in just two years the number of articles increased almost sevenfold from 123 to 840 as of the second half of 2018. In view of the ever growing criticism of tech giants like Google or Facebook and the social implications of AI and digitisation, this topic could see exponential growth of media presence in the foreseeable future.

VW, BMW, Daimler, Siemens and SAP dominate the AI coverage in the media

To no-one’s surprise, the three biggest German car makers as well as Siemens and SAP dominate the media coverage of AI. VW, BMW and Daimler are mentioned in connection with autonomous driving in half of all articles about Artificial Intelligence, which represents a rather formidable Share of Voice. Especially, e-mobility in connection with AI is dominated by these three car makers. One third of all articles about the Internet of Things in connection with AI mentions at least one of Germany’s Top 5 tech companies. The winner here is Siemens with 204 articles, which indicate its impressive technological supremacy in this field. What is surprising, however, is that when it comes to Smart Cities and AI, it is SAP and not Siemens that is in the lead, albeit with only 12 articles. An even bigger surprise is the weak position of Allianz with such topics as Blockchain and cryptocurrency in connection with AI, even though it has been one of the hot topics of the financial and insurance industries for a while now. Also surprising is the weak participation of Adidas in the conversations about IoT and Robotics in connection with AI, given that Adidas is regarded as a pioneer for connected intelligent production for B2C thanks to the company’s highly innovative Speed Factory for robot-controlled realtime on-demand production, which is part of the High-Tech Strategy 2020. And another surprise is how Deutsche Telekom compares to Top 5 industrial companies in terms of media presence: it is mentioned in only 7 of 387 articles about consumer-relevant Augmented Reality and AI.

You can find more information in our FirstSignals® analysis report for prmagazin: AI becomes independent – the analysis.

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