Billions of pieces of data that have previously been beyond reach can be processed by artificial intelligence, the Festival of Media Global 2017 heard. The result will not just help brands better serve consumers, but also make the world a better place.

Hugo Pinto, Chief Innovation Officer at IBM, explained that AI tools are now capable of not only understanding people's words, but also colloquialisms, euphemisms and sarcasm. That sort of capability, built into a chat-based user interface, can result in effectively having a product expert standing beside every consumer. At the same time, AI promises to do much of the legwork that currently occupies marketers, and free them up to focus on bigger, more strategic questions.

According to IBM, 81% of C-suite executives anticipate more digital and virtual engagement by 2020, and 66% are seeking to deliver on higher expectations with a stronger focus on treating customers as individuals. Achieving that at scale, however, is incredibly difficult, not because of a shortage of data but because so much of the data that is available has not been able to be processed by computers.