Artificial Intelligence

US lags behind Asia in AI, robotics adoption, putting businesses at risk

Korea is the leading nation for AI adoption, followed by Singapore, Thailand, China, and Taiwan, according to an ITIF report.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming a necessity for businesses today, providing some of the most transformative value for organizations. However, the US lags significantly behind when it comes to AI adoption compared to other countries, particularly those in Asia, according to a recent report from Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF).

The use of robotics, in particular, have bolstered productivity and efficiency across industries, the ITIF report found. Manufacturing led robotics adoption previously, but robots are starting to gain ground in other areas like agriculture, logistics, and hospitality, the report found. Additionally, robotics are helpful in completing back-office processes—like extracting data from an Excel spreadsheet—and other low-level data-entry tasks. By failing to adopt these technologies, US companies risk falling further behind their global peers.

"Robots are key to boosting productivity and improving living standards, but there is a dangerous misperception that they will lead to mass unemployment," ITIF president and report author Rob Atkinson said in a press release. "Policymakers shouldn't let fear of job losses discourage robot adoption. The evidence is clear: using robots makes economies more competitive, which helps them grow and create jobs."

SEE: Machine automation policy guidelines (Tech Pro Research)

The report uses data from the International Federation of Robots to rank industrial robot adoption rates for 27 countries. However, it adjusted the rankings to account for variances in manufacturing worker compensation, as the decision to use robots typically relies on the cost of funding the technology versus funding a human worker's salary.

On a compensation-adjusted scale, the report found Southeast Asian nations to be at the forefront of robot adoption, with Korea leading and Singapore, Thailand, China, and Taiwan following, in that order. The US, however, lags behind significantly, ranking 16th worldwide, with adoption rates 49% lower than expected. Even prior to controlling for wages, the US only ranked 7th, with an adoption rate of less than 30% that of South Korea, according to the report.

The reason why the US is lagging behind in robotics adoption isn't completely clear, but there are many theories, according to ITIF. For example, some of the leading countries have national goals and strategies established that support robotics innovation, the report noted. Additionally, leaders in areas like Korea, Taiwan, and Japan have many public policies and institutes meant to help manufacturing companies adopt robotics. Culture also plays a big hand in the rankings, as many of the top nations have more positive overall views of robots.

"Asia is sprinting ahead in robot adoption, while the United States is lagging behind," Atkinson said in the release. "If the United States wants to remain globally competitive, it must adopt policies that spur faster, deeper, and wider adoption of robots throughout its economy."

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • The US ranks 16th out of 27 countries in AI adoption, with Korea as the leader in robotics, and the US plummeting down. — ITIF, 2018
  • Many people attribute high robot adoption rates to a positive culture surrounding the topic, as well as national and public strategies toward the tech. — ITIF, 2018

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/ipopba

About Macy Bayern

Macy Bayern is an Associate Staff Writer for TechRepublic. A recent graduate from the University of Texas at Austin's Liberal Arts Honors Program, Macy covers tech news and trends.

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