Artificial intelligence is still the new kid on the block in terms of technology tools, but its use is growing quickly - and the coronavirus pandemic catapulted it forwarded. If you've been relying on manual processes, you've been putting the brakes on your competitiveness for years, but in the new normal it can quickly lead to a full-on crash.
Luckily there are hundreds of new AI developments every year, and the pandemic has provided an extra impetus for innovation. Unlike this time last year, it's not just about survival - thanks to the work of tech professionals, plenty of companies have been able to turn their attention back towards growth.
We launched the AI & Machine Learning Awards two years ago to recognise the outstanding work being done to push the technology industry forwards, and this year the entries have been on another level of creativity.
From private and public sector success to healthcare and climate science, there are so many projects, tools and people using and winning with AI that we couldn't possibly include all of them. The entries that made the shortlist are the absolute cream of the AI crop, and each one would be a worthy winner.
The pandemic delayed last year's awards, but we still stopped accepting entries early on in lockdown. That meant we saw very little about the pandemic, but this year it's been the story that everyone wants to tell. With that in mine, we've added a new category dedicated to these accounts: a one-time special award for pandemic performance.
We've also added categories dedicated to business transformation - the evolution of digital transformation - and marketing automation, a new key tool in marketers' arsenals.
Once again, we're announcing this year's winners through a dedicated microsite, including category breakdowns, shortlists, judges' quotes and videos explaining why and how we chose each winner.
A huge congratulations to all who made it the shortlist, and even more so to our winners - you deserve it.