Machine learning can open up new insights and possibilities for industries of all stripes. Many companies are looking for ways to leverage the technology to boost productivity, improve customer relations and more. Still, even though ML has wide-ranging potential, there are certain industries and functions that are poised to see big changes from the tech within the next five years.

From advances in healthcare to more personalized shopping experiences, experts say businesses and consumers alike will see significant changes powered by ML soon. Below, 16 members of Forbes Technology Council discuss the industries they believe will be most affected by machine learning in the near term, and why.

Members of Forbes Technology Council predict industries and functions that will soon be revolutionized by ML.

Photos courtesy of the individual members.

1. Manufacturing

As of 2020, less than 10% of manufacturers were using ML in their business processes. ML tools in manufacturing will increase substantially for a variety of purposes, including monitoring equipment performance and health, predicting product quality and predicting energy consumption. The use of ML in manufacturing can reduce costs, improve quality control and optimize supply chain management. – Renaldo Arciola, Fonicom

2. Medical Therapeutics And Diagnostics

Combining ML with datasets will allow researchers to reliably reproduce disease mechanisms and develop therapeutics. ML will also be impactful in advancing diagnostics by leveraging imaging and biological markers. Subtleties that the trained human eye cannot discern could be identified early and at a reduced cost. – Rena Christina Tabata, ShareSmart (Think Tank Innovations Ltd.)


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3. Disease Prediction

In the healthcare industry, machine learning can be used to predict diseases. For example, IBM’s Watson cognitive computing platform can be used to analyze patient data to detect patterns that could indicate the onset of a disease. This could help doctors catch diseases early on, before they have a chance to spread and become more difficult to treat. – Patrick Zhang, Protecht Inc

4. Medical Research And Pharmaceuticals

The healthcare and life sciences industries will be greatly affected by machine learning. Drug discovery is already being upended by ML, with 2020 marking the first clinical trial of an “AI-designed drug.” Using real-world evidence to understand the long-term effects of Covid-19 and evaluating vaccines are both ML problems. While healthcare progress may happen in decades, big changes are coming fast. – David Talby, John Snow Labs

5. High-End Consumer Brands And Experiences

I think the high-end consumer marketplace, including premium brands and high-dollar experiences, will be fundamentally transformed through better data collection (biometric, psychometric and behavioral data), predictive analytics and pattern matching. The great concierge organizations have done this much more manually for years, and the space can really benefit from AI and machine learning. – Terrance Berland, Violet Defense

6. Customer Experience

The customer experience focus could be the most affected. Machine learning, applied in the right way, can help a business create a new vision about its customers’ behaviors and understand their pain points. ML can provide significant insights into proactive actions that can strengthen the relationship between customers and brands. – Eduardo Balseiros Villas-Boas, Majorel

7. Insurance

The insurance sector will be greatly disrupted by machine learning and its ability to digitize operating models, automate stagnant processes, provide insights and recommendations based on real-time data, integrate customer touchpoints, embed and personalize policies, provide instant claim payments, and enable outside players to enter the market. – Dave Brune, Cover Genius

8. Supply Chain Management

2021 is arguably the year when discussions about the supply chain broke out of nerddom and into the mainstream. I expect to see a ton of startups diving into this space; it’s a massive market that is wildly inefficient and one that is at no loss for data on which to train and test models. From better route optimizations to more precise demand predictions, even small changes will lead to big wins. – Lindsay Pettingill, Iggy

9. Energy/Utilities

Almost all industries can benefit from machine learning in terms of trends. However, one of the most affected will be the energy/utilities sector, where ML can make an impact in terms of analyzing the data and predicting growth trends in terms of usage as well as supply-to-demand peaks based on the behavior of certain customers and demographics. Additionally, ML can help identify any failures or fraud that might occur through the supply chain. – Vivek Ahuja, rSTAR Technologies LLC

10. Service Industry

The increased usage of Internet of Things sensors will enable the service industry to become more proactive than reactive in the coming years. Machine learning systems use data collected from IoT sensors, allowing them to make analytical predictions on asset performance and efficiency. Technicians can then perform any needed maintenance before the machine breaks. – Cindy Jaudon, IFS

11. Education

Education will benefit worldwide from machine learning and artificial intelligence. With big improvements in cognitive AI and deep learning, interactions between “digital teachers” or “digital tutors” and students will enable the system to adapt and to determine and deliver the best ways to teach a particular student. Access, adaptations for students with disabilities and multilingual delivery will all be possible 24/7. – John Walsh, Red Summit Global

12. Investing

Augmented trading and the utilization of machine learning have already begun to impact markets globally. Advancements in machine learning will potentially disrupt resource allocation, impacting many organizations and industries. This has the potential to create opportunities for markets and individuals but could also further concentrate wealth in a few areas. – Len Covello, Engage People Inc.

13. Government

Any sector that has not already been radically transformed by leveraging machine learning will be. Government is the first that comes to mind. The wheels of government turn slowly. Governments have access to huge data sets; hopefully, they will figure out how to use such power to better help people. There’s potential for huge societal benefits. – Jason Jantz, ReadyMode

14. Climatology And Meteorology

An industry that’s utilizing more ML and continues to find ways to influence a variety of sectors is climate and weather science. We are learning more about the complexity of the cause-and-effect relationships in areas including terrain, logistics and urban planning, and ML is contributing to how we analyze and predict with more data across a longer horizon. – Chitra Sivanandam, Reinventing Geospatial, Inc. (RGi)

15. Contact Centers

With more communication channels than ever and a digitally literate and ultra-demanding population to serve, contact center workers are under intense and growing pressure to field questions quickly, from every angle. AI technology is already more than up to the task of dealing with most FAQ-style dialogues, freeing up the humans to deal with complex queries requiring decisions and empathy. – Martin Taylor, Content Guru

16. E-Commerce

The e-commerce industry will see the biggest impact from machine learning. The space faces a cookie-less future that is going to force the industry to approach personalization differently. Machine learning will be critical in allowing a retail business to create recommendations based on the real-time movements that online shoppers take once they reach its site. – Bernadette Nixon, Algolia