Deloitte’s second annual “State of AI in the Enterprise” survey has revealed that early AI adopters are ramping up investments to great success, although cybersecurity risk remains a chief concern.

The AI market is already estimated to be worth a staggering $19.1 billion worldwide, with firms representing all corners of the industry spectrum optimistic about AI’s potential to improve customer experience and streamline operations.

And according to Deloitte’s latest “State of AI in the Enterprise” report, which surveyed 1,100 US-based firms, 82 per cent of companies say they have seen a financial return from their AI investments.

Industries that are faring best are industrial products and services, professional services, technology and telecommunications. Technology, media and entertainment, and telecommunications companies all received a sizeable 20% median ROI from their projects.

Tech companies primarily deploy AI technologies to improve customer experience, while firms such as GE and Siemens are leveraging their “digital twins” data to predict failures and optimise their manufacturing processes.

Life sciences and healthcare received large investments, but have so far delivered low returns, largely as a result of some high-profile project failures. Deloitte says that while promising innovation is taking place in the lab these use cases ‘will take time before entering clinical practice’.

“Despite the hype AI generates, many executives are excited—not wallowing in a trough of disillusionment. That’s translating into investment,” reads the report.

Risks

Despite this ‘rational exuberance’, firms highlighted an array of risks surrounding AI technology that are causing concern, including algorithms making the wrong decisions, the legal ramifications of their decisions, the consequences of system failure, and regulatory risk.

Topping firms’ concerns are the cyber risks that AI brings to the table. 23 percent of respondents ranked “cybersecurity vulnerabilities” as their no. 1 overall risk concern, with 32% reporting suffering an AI-related cybersecurity breach in the past two years.

The fear of breaches is so strong that 30% of firms have slowed down an AI project to curb infiltration risk and 16% have completely halted an initiative due to cybersecurity concerns.

“They fear that both the algorithms that deliver insights and the data that fuels those algorithms are vulnerable to attack,” the report reads.

Deloitte says end-to-end cybersecurity has to be built into to AI projects from the beginning to prevent the worst-case scenario attacks, such as those involving autonomous vehicles in life-critical situations.

“No cybersecurity efforts can prevent every attack, but early adopters can improve their defences by incorporating security from the beginning of the process, and making it a higher priority.”