The distance between digital and physical worlds will “collapse” over the next 10 years, with the adoption of generative artificial intelligence (AI) accelerating change, according to Accenture’s latest report.
A study of nearly 5,000 senior executives across the globe, part of Accenture’s technology vision report, When atoms meet bits: The foundations of our new reality, revealed 96% believe the convergence of the digital and physical world – which Accenture describes as the coming together of atoms and bits – will transform business in the next 10 years.
Technology-wise, generative AI headlined the report. The study revealed that 98% of senior executives believe AI will spark significant creativity and innovation, and 95% said it will usher in a new era of enterprise intelligence.
Paul Daugherty, group chief executive of Accenture Technology, said IT leaders need to act fast if they are to achieve what generative AI promises. “While generative AI will have a far-reaching impact, leaders must dive in now to achieve its full promise, as it will require significant investments in data, people and customising foundation models to meet organisations’ unique needs,” he said.
To this end, Accenture has established a company-wide team, the Generative AI and Large Language Model (LLM) Center of Excellence. It has also published its A new era of generative AI for everyone study of generative AI/LLM, advising businesses on the use of the technology.
Alongside generative AI, three other trends will combine to “unlock a new shared reality”, said Accenture. These are digital identity, data, and the closer integration of science and technology.
A total of 85% of executives see digital identity, the ability to authenticate digital users and assets, as a strategic business imperative rather than just a technical issue. This will act as a “foundation for traversing digital and physical worlds”, said Accenture.
Accenture also said businesses must get their data strategies right if they are to benefit from AI. “AI cannot reach its full potential until companies figure out data,” it said. “That means breaking down data silos and modernising their data foundations.”
The study found that 90% of executives believe data is becoming a key competitive differentiator.
The digital and physical science worlds are also coming together, which 75% of survey respondents believe could begin to unlock the world’s grand challenges.
During the presentation of Accenture’s report, Melanie Kalmar, chief information officer and chief digital officer at chemicals giant Dow, gave some perspective on what this could mean for business. “Our digital strategy revolves around serving our customers better, making work more intuitive for our employees and increasing the speed at which we work,” she said.
“We are digitising our manufacturing footprint and blurring the lines between traditional IT processes and our operational processes,” added Kalmar. “The IT/ST [science technology] space is where we are focused on sustainability challenges, not only for Dow, but for the world.”
The company is also using AI to analyse customer reviews of products to enable the company to spot trends, which is then fed back to partners that use its products in manufacturing.
Kalmer gave the example of customer reviews of mattresses being analysed by AI. “We can quickly identify trends in those reviews and develop new materials for the brand owners that the brands we work with can use if improvements are required,” she said, adding that the company is using the metaverse to train employees on procedures and repetitive maintenance tasks.