The last five years have seen a massive surge in patent applications for devices and machines powered by artificial intelligence (AI), suggesting that the technology could soon revolutionise all areas of daily life, according to a new study.
The first Technology Trends report from the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) says that, since AI emerged in the 1950s, innovators and researchers have filed applications for nearly 340,000 AI-related inventions – more than half of these since 2013.
WIPO Director General Francis Gurry described the increase in recent years as “striking”.
“Patenting activity in the artificial intelligence realm is rising at a rapid pace, meaning we can expect a very significant number of new AI-based products, applications and techniques that will alter our daily lives – and also shape future human interaction with the machines we created,” he said.
One in five (19%) of all identified patent documents between 2013 and 2016 were related to the transportation sector. Over this period, transport-related applications grew by 33% every year on average.
Rapidly emerging within this sector are aerospace/avionics (67% average annual growth) and autonomous vehicles (42% annual growth).
By 2016, transportation accounted for one-third of all patent applications.
Other industrial sectors with an increase in AI patent applications include telecommunications (23% annual growth); life and medical sciences, where AI can be applied to robotic surgery and drug personalisation (12% annual growth); and personal devices, computing and human-computer interaction (11% annual growth).
The report quotes Dr Kai-Fu Lee, the chairman and CEO of Sinovation Ventures, who predicts: “In the next five years, probably internet and financial and e-commerce are the biggest industries that will be affected – those where there are immediate transactions of money. After that we will see areas such as retail, healthcare, manufacturing, transportation and automotive, and logistics, including warehousing/transportation/delivery. Eventually AI will penetrate everything.”
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