(TNS) — Artificial Intelligence, an enigmatic term for technologies that make gadgets and software "smart," is expected to become a bigger part of our lives thanks to advances in computing power, data storage and high-speed networks such as 5G.
San Diego is in a strong position to benefit from the expansion of artificial intelligence, according to a study "Measuring the Future: AI and San Diego's Economy" released last week from the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp.
While the study did not pinpoint a specific number of artificial intelligence jobs in the region, it did highlight industries with above-average employment in AI fields.
They include telecommunications, information technology, software and transportation. Large companies with operations in San Diego such as Booz Allen Hamilton, Northrop Grumman and ResMed — as well as smaller businesses such as Lytx, Lockton and Semantic AI — are among the firms developing artificial intelligence technology in the region. These industries support an estimated 175,680 local jobs, or roughly 10 percent of total employment in the region. The average salary in this cluster is $127,960, which is 3.9 percent above the national average for these industries and more than 70 percent above San Diego's average worker salary, according to the study.
Based on a survey of local firms, 62 percent expect to see the number of employees engaged in AI-related work grow over the next 12 months, according to the report.
"Our biggest takeaway from the study is AI adoption is creating more jobs in the region rather than eliminating them," said Joe Rohner, head of the analytics practice at consulting firm Booz Allen, which was the underwriter of the study. "We believe San Diego can lead this capability globally, attracting new talent to the region, driving economic growth and fueling new jobs in San Diego."
For most people, artificial intelligence isn't easy to define. It is generally thought of in futuristic terms around things such as self-driving cars. A recent survey by the Center of the Governance of Artificial Intelligence found that 60 percent of Americans were either neutral, opposed or unsure about AI, while 40 percent support it.
"Automation in general tends to be cast in a pretty dim light," said Nate Kelley, senior research manager with the San Diego Regional EDC. "That's why it was really good news" that San Diego firms don't appear to be shedding jobs because of AI.
Artificial intelligence is already more common than it might appear, however. Smartphones rely on it to power things like voice assistants, or to enhance photo quality or deliver directions in navigation apps. Qualcomm has included AI engines in its smartphone processors for several years. One of the first pattern-recognition algorithms used by banks to spot credit card fraud came out of San Diego's HNC Software, which was acquired by FICO in the 1990s.
According to the survey, San Diego's artificial intelligence expertise is centered on machine or deep learning, with 82 percent of employers working in AI involved in the specialty that's fundamental to predictive analytics.
But local firms also are developing AI tools in image, speech or video recognition (46 percent,) natural language processing (46 percent,) robotics (24 percent) and autonomous vehicles (21 percent.)
"The proliferation of artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies promises to be a transformative force for businesses worldwide," said Mark Cafferty, president and chief executive of San Diego Regional EDC. "With this report, the EDC Research Bureau helps paint a picture of the impact of AI, proving its potential to grow jobs and even help narrow gender and racial wage gaps."
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