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From Retail To Transport: How Artificial Intelligence (AI) Is Changing Every Corner Of The Economy

How A.I. Is Changing The Economy

The high profile race to enhance their search products has underscored the importance of artificial intelligence to Google and Microsoft – and the rest of the economy, too. Two of the world’s largest tech companies announced plans for AI-enhanced search this month, ratcheting up a tussle for supremacy in the artificial intelligence space. However, the debut of Google’s new chatbot, Bard, was scuppered when an error appeared, knocking $163bn (£137bn) off the parent company Alphabet’s share price. The stock’s plunge showed how crucial investors think AI could be to Google’s future.

However, the increasing prominence of AI has implications for every corner of the economy. From retail to transport, here’s how AI promises to usher in a wave of change across industries.


Monitoring weather patterns, managing pests and disease, working out the need for extra irrigation, or even which crops to grow where: many farmers believe agriculture is fertile ground for artificial intelligence.

Many food producers are using AI to collect and analyse data in their efforts to improve productivity and profitability.

AI’s capacity for combining and analysing large datasets is already supplying farmers with real-time information on how to improve the health of their crops and increase yields. Drones and in-ground sensors can play a role in observing growing crops and soil conditions across hundreds of acres of land, including checking whether they need more water, fertiliser or herbicide and whether they are being affected by disease or destroyed by animals.

Ali Capper, who grows apples and hops at her family farm on the border of Herefordshire and Worcestershire, has invested in new technology, including automated orchard sprayers, to use alongside the digital soil mapping she has employed since 2017.

Ali Capper inspects the blossom on her apple trees at Stocks Farm in Suckley, Worcestershire
Ali Capper sees AI advantages for the environment. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

“Many agri-tech innovations will help us to be kinder to the farmed environment as well as more efficient and profitable,” Capper said.

In the face of labour shortages, especially acute since Brexit, farmers have long hoped that advances in robotics – “agribots” – will help to make sure crops get picked on time. A lack of workers led to £60m of food wasted in 2022 alone, according to the National Farmers’ Union.

While four-armed robots, designed for the delicate work of picking soft fruits, are being developed, robots with the dexterity of the human hand, capable of picking at speed without damaging fruit such as raspberries, may be a decade away from widespread use. Nonetheless, automation has already changed some of the most laborious jobs in farming, from drilling seeds to spraying and watering crops.

Media companies have embraced machine learning to boost subscriptions and advertising and to help make decisions about what stories to promote.

News organisations are hiring data scientists on six-figure salaries to pull together data to track customers and guide them towards particular products, while also providing workers with tools to take the grunt work out of finding and writing stories.

Lisa Gibbs, the director of news partnerships at the Associated Press, said in a London School of Economics study that her organisation could “find news faster and break news faster” with the aid of AI.

Media organisations are using data analysts to create targeted content that generates higher subscriptions and advertising revenues.


There are possible AI applications in every corner of the energy industry: from predicting and identifying faults at power plants to using weather forecasts to plan offshore windfarm projects.

With tight margins in a sector where almost 30 companies have gone bust during the energy crisis, retail energy suppliers are expected to increase the use of AI to cut down call times. Chatbots are used to ask basic questions before customers speak to a human adviser.

Ultimately, suppliers envisage AI will play a central role in future “smart grids”, allowing supply and demand to be more closely aligned, with a new generation of devices from smart meters and electric vehicles to solar panels and heat pumps able to improve efficiency. Jobs for engineers, meter readers and supply analysts are most under threat.

AI is also valuable to track carbon emissions. Boston Consulting Group has estimated that applying AI to multinational companies’ sustainability plans could be worth $1.3tn to $2.6tn through additional revenues and cost savings by 2030. Late last year, the government launched a £1.5m programme to study the use of AI to reduce the UK’s carbon emissions.


Manufacturing veterans know all too well how automation can sweep through an industry. In 2019, the UK’s Office for National Statistics said almost two-thirds of metalworking machine operatives were at risk.

An intelligent production base at Great Wall Motors in south-west China.
An intelligent production base at Great Wall Motors in south-west China. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

Part of the automation drive is for efficiency. Machine learning algorithms are already being deployed on the burgeoning piles of data produced within big factories for “predictive maintenance” – replacing parts before they fail and potentially requiring fewer technicians.

But the rapid rise of generative artificial intelligence suggests it will not only be people on factory lines who will be affected. Generative AI is already being used to design products much more quickly, test them virtually as a “digital twin”, and manufacture them much more quickly. Combined with innovations such as 3D printing, this could lower development costs dramatically and would require fewer engineers in aerospace, automotive and consumer electronics.

One logical end is something like the Star Trek replicator, a bot that designs and makes whatever its user desires from a text prompt – without human involvement.


Running the country means the government collects vast amounts of personal and business data, all of which could be plugged into artificial intelligence and machine learning systems to improve the efficiency of policymaking and delivery of services. Everything from bin collections, call centres and analysis of data to prioritise spending could be targeted for improvement. However, it is not without challenges and controversy – not least for how algorithms are held to account.

The former head of the civil service, Mark Sedwill, has said greater use of AI and automation will probably lead to a reduction in headcount.

Some councils are building computer models using personal data to help predict child abuse and intervene before it can happen, while Blackpool council is using AI-powered satellite images to help fix potholes.

There is concern in government that AI systems can build in human biases, risking the perpetuation of stereotypes and discrimination. Meanwhile, relying on computer models has stoked fear in the past that some public priorities are overlooked, including investment in the north of England and green projects.

More use of AI could improve efficiency but authorities will need to carefully check its effects. As the postwar US president Harry Truman said: “When you have an efficient government, you have a dictatorship.”


Transport workers have stubbornly held on to their jobs since the first driverless trains were tested on the tube – a development that was met with “Robots take over” headlines six decades ago. However, they are still regarded as most vulnerable in the long term, according to a 2021 report by PwC for the business department forecasting that proportionately the biggest job losses in the next 20 years would come in the transport sector.

Nonetheless, drivers are far from expendable, and are demanding high salaries whether operating HGVs, buses or trains – even as the first autonomous buses are trialled in Scotland and Milton Keynes. Recent dreams of imminent robotaxis have yet to become widespread reality, and Uber says its London drivers earn £34 an hour. Pilotless planes are technically possible, although few might fancy them after Boeing’s software-led 737 Max disasters.

A National Highways van on a motorway.
A National Highways van films passing vehicles to catch those holding a mobile phone or not wearing a seatbelt. The footage is analysed using AI. Photograph: National Highways/PA

Transport for London uses AI to help traffic flow and forecast disruption, while train operators have used simulators or digital twins to check train paths, platforms and timetables. The Rail Safety and Standards Board is working with academics to use machine learning from high-resolution video to tackle leaves on the line. Similar AI and video projects in Australia could teach driverless trains to recognise a green light – or whether the movement on a remote track is an encroaching human or a nearby kangaroo.

But the next iterations of AI could be profoundly political, as the current rail dispute in Great Britain underlines. Network Rail is hoping to shed more than 1,000 jobs, arguing that automation could create a more efficient and safe inspection regime by using data to predict faults.

Financial services

The financial services sector is at greater risk of job losses from AI than other sectors, according to government forecasts, but experts say this is partly a matter of catch-up.

“Other industries have already made these cuts,” said Sarah Kocianski, an independent fintech consultant.

For example, banks and wealth managers will need fewer staff to onboard new clients as they automate more of their customer background checks and will rely more heavily on AI to detect and flag potential fraud and money-laundering risks.

They will also be able to feed new guidelines from regulators into those machine learning programmes, to flag any potential breaches or shortfalls in the company’s systems, rather than relying on humans to conduct an initial review.

But these systems will still require human oversight, not only to build and programme the technology but also to conduct additional checks and sort out more complex problems.

“A critical risk is that firms succumb to the temptation to trust AI to make smarter lending or insurance decisions without understanding the reasoning process, and over-rely on the AI system without properly stress-testing its fitness for purpose,” said Karishma Brahmbhatt, a data and technology lawyer at Allen & Overy.

Alongside booming demand for tech staff to build and monitor AI programmes, firms will be competing for higher-skilled staff who can do forensic work if they suspect fraud or error, or provide bespoke support to customers. “You need more tailored people but you need fewer people,” Kocianski said.


Almost a third of retail jobs could be displaced by technology by 2030 compared with 2017 levels, as automated tills, warehouse robotics and AI-based planning tools affect the UK’s biggest employer.

A robot and delivery drone working in an automatic warehouse.
A robot and delivery drone working in an automated warehouse. Photograph: Scharfsinn/Alamy

The most obvious change to any shopper is the rise in the use of self-checkouts and self-scanning systems in supermarkets in the last five years. Change was supercharged by the pandemic when labour became more expensive and difficult to find while shoppers became wary of interactions with staff.

Analysts at the advisory firm McKinsey have predicted that the number of cashiers could almost halve between 2017 and 2030 as these technologies are rolled out. Bryan Roberts at the industry body IGD said the majority of sales in most UK supermarkets are now rung up on self-scanning or automated tills.

The rise of labour costs has also led non-food retailers to give the technology a go. The Japanese-owned clothing chain Uniqlo introduced a system linked to radio frequency identification tags a few years ago.

The next step is the checkout-free store, led by Amazon Fresh, where cameras and shelf sensors mean that shoppers’ purchases are automatically registered on an app on their phone enabling them to just walk out and pay later.

Technology doesn’t stop at the till. Retailers are experimenting with robotic or AI-powered systems to spot gaps on shelves – with Marks & Spencer trialling a system that uses fixed cameras. Others have experimented with Dalek-type machines that cruise up and down the aisles.

Electronic labels on shelves, so prices can be changed automatically from head office, alongside AI-led technology to guide buying decisions and more robotics to pick and pack products in warehouses will also affect thousands of jobs.


Is DIY on your list this Bank Holiday weekend? Big Brother winner Craig Phillips gives his five tips for getting the job done

Here, Craig give his top tips for DIY jobs this Bank Holiday weekend…

1. Garden furniture

This time of the year when the weather is starting to change, a lot of people are looking to see what they can revamp in their gardens to bring them back to life.

Throughout the winter the garden furniture has been exposed to all sorts, but it’s easy enough to give them a little makeover with some paint.

Craig give his top tips for DIY jobs this Bank Holiday weekend

Craig give his top tips for DIY jobs this Bank Holiday weekend

If anyone has metal or wooden garden furniture, it might have got a bit rusty or flaky, but you can remove this by jet washing it down and then bringing it indoors to let it dry out.

After it’s completely dry, think about adding any wood treatment on the bare wood to make things last that little bit longer.

Then I would consider using a natural mineral paint, that’s good for the environment and quite inexpensive. They have some great colours.

I really like a daffodil yellow to brighten up the garden. If you have metal furniture, it’s pretty much the same process, but you don’t need to add the wood treatment.

2. Loft space 

Converting your loft space doesn’t always have to be to gain an additional habitat room in your house, you may just need that vital extra storage space.

We find that most of us tend to hold on to too much stuff that we don’t often use or may never really use again.

My wife Laura is still holding onto her wedding dress seven years later which takes up so much space when hanging in our cupboards, she’s probably never going to wear it again however she’s got no plans to get rid of it.

Then you’ve got things like the Christmas tree and decorations, holiday suitcases, old family photo albums that you certainly don’t want to part with that need to be stored somewhere safe and dry – and the loft is the perfect place.

Installing raised loft boards means that you can upgrade the insulation in your loft

Installing raised loft boards means that you can upgrade the insulation in your loft

3. Energy improvements

Additional benefits of installing raised loft boards goes beyond just storage space, it allows you to upgrade your loft insulation to the correct regulations which is going to save on your energy consumption, which is better for the environment as well as savings on your utility bills, a win/win situation for us all.

It can also help when selling your home as an EPC certificate will be required, and having the correct level of loft insulation installed improves your EPC rating.

Having your loft space well insulated will benefit the bedrooms below from unwanted draughts and sound coming from the loft area.

We often have water tanks up there that can be noisy, or sounds coming in from outside.

People don’t often know that many loud sounds from outside can work their way into your home from the loft space. Often our house walls are two courses of brick or blocks thick and will stop air bound noise travelling through.

However, our roof structure may only be felt, batten and have tiles on the surface and have a single layer of plaster boards between the loft and the bedrooms.

This is where the additional loft insulation and raised floor boards will help to absorb and dampen sound traveling though into the bedrooms and hallways.

4. Draught proofing

Adding additional draught proofing around doors and windows frames also make your home more energy efficient and comfortable to be in.

These DIY tasks are very quick and easy to complete yourself and don’t cost much money.

The draught excluders can be fitted with minimal tools and are achieved in just hours.  

I always ask people to go home and place their hands around the inside of your door and window frames, letter boxes, cat or dog flaps to see if they can feel any cold draft entering into their house.

If you can feel the cold air coming in, then you’re also allowing hot air that’s generated from your heating system to escape.

Again, this is costly to both your bank balance and the environment.

5. Energy savings

Bleeding your radiators, changing, and upgrading the thermostat on each radiator and applying an insulated reflective foil to the rear of your radiators can all make great savings to your energy consumption.

Again, these kind of DIY tasks are achievable on a budget and can be done by with little experience.

If you’re attempting to change your own radiator thermostats yourself, it’s certainly worth watching online video demonstrations to follow the step-by-step stages to ensure you are doing correctly and safely.

With the ongoing energy crisis and cost of living increase in the UK, now more than ever, people are looking to save energy in every way possible.

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We need to replace our uPVC double-glazing – should we opt for grey?

Our double-glazing needs replacing in our three-bedroom semi-detached home due to its age. 

We’ve had two quotes for uPVC windows, and have been offered the option of grey anthracite.

On both quotes, grey comes out at around 15 per cent more expensive.

However, I’ve noticed in our local area that many people seem to have gone grey in recent years, rather than the typical white.

Going grey: A This is Money reader wants to know about the pros and cons of grey windows

Going grey: A This is Money reader wants to know about the pros and cons of grey windows 

I do wonder if there is any benefit to going grey, other than them not showing up dirt as much?

Would it add extra value to our home when we come to sell? Or is it simply just an aesthetic choice? 

Jane Denton replies: The ‘greyification’ of home interiors, cars and now windows has been hard to miss in the last few years. 

New-build homes with grey windows can be found springing up all over Britain. 

Plus, buyers purchasing homes which need a fair amount of work doing to them are, in ever growing numbers, opting for grey windows. Some people view grey as chic and contemporary. 

Send us your property question 

We’d love to hear from you if you have a property question and want to find out what the experts have to say on the matter. 

Whether you have neighbour woes, are looking to update or move home, or perhaps you can’t decide how to sort out an extension or make a room look bigger, we want to hear from you.

If you are a prospective first-time buyer or already on the housing ladder and have a property quandary, get in touch.


Please put PROPERTY in the subject line. 

As you suggest, your decision will boil down to personal choice and key factors like price, durability and aesthetics. 

While grey can hide dirt better than white, grey can sometimes look somewhat dull. 

Perhaps it’s also worth considering is grey is just a passing fad and will look dated in a decade or so – though that won’t bother you if you have moved house by that point.

Grey windows still aren’t the norm, meaning they are generally more expensive than white ones. 

The same goes, for example, for black or sage green windows. 

The exact costs involved will vary depending on the supplier used, the material you go for, the size of window required and whether the windows are double or triple glazed. 

Depending what you plump for, you could expect to pay around 10 to 20 per cent more for grey windows than conventional white uPVC ones. 

Timber and aluminum options can be pricier. 

In most circumstances, you wouldn’t need planning permission to change the windows in the manner you suggest. 

Permitted development rights are likely to apply. However, for a listed building, planning permission would be required.

In terms of what it means for property price and whether they are worth the investment in general, I turned to a property expert.  

Alex Harvey, managing director of Alex Harvey Estate Agents, said: I have seen various trends in windows come and go, however the ones that have always stood out from the crowd are the coloured and textured varieties. 

They seem to add an additional dimension to the look and feel of a property. uPVC windows of any colour can be a good low-maintenance choice. 

Grey windows can also be very practical. They do not show the dirt as much and make more of a statement than conventional white windows. 

It is not just the windows themselves you need to consider. 

Estate agency boss Alex Harvey believes grey windows can add value to a property

Estate agency boss Alex Harvey believes grey windows can add value to a property

It’s essential to have the right furniture and handles on them to compliment the age and style of the property. 

An example of this is where people have chosen black wrought iron monkey tail handles, in place of the usual chrome or even white plastic in an older style property.

In newer style homes, anthracite works really well to frame the windows and tie them into the structure of the home, while using chrome handles to help the rest of the framing stand out.

Windows are not just a way to bring natural light into a home these days, they are an opportunity to frame the view from inside the property by having a textured and coloured surround. 

However, there are mistakes that can occur, the main one can being that there can be too much beading in the window itself, which can take away from the view.

We tell clients considering coming to market about the importance of having their windows free of blown panes or any broken elements. 

Buyers notice these things when looking out of windows to understand the views and the surroundings of the property. 

In terms of whether grey windows add value to a property, it all depends on the quality of the windows and doors and the warranty that’s offered. 

We have had clients who have invested more for windows and doors that have had longer warranties for both their peace of mind and as a selling feature for future owners. 

Without doubt, newly installed windows and doors will improve an Energy Performance Certificate rating and will therefore appeal to a wider range of buyers.

It is not easy to assign an uplift value, over what the windows would cost to install. 

However, I can certainly say that for properties that urgently require new windows and doors to be replaced, buyers often have an understanding of the investment required and can be put off from buying a property that requires this level of improvement.

My gut feel would be a circa 10 per cent uplift if the windows and doors have a good balance of the above, based on the initial investment of the installation.

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Five climb the property ladder! Famous Five-style 17th century manor house with secret room, spyhole and fascinating history goes up for sale for £3.2m

A Famous Five-style manor house with a secret 17th Century ‘panic room’ and tiny spy-hole built into the staircase has gone on sale for £3.2million.

The historic seven-bedroom house started life as a coaching inn just after the English Civil War, but has also been visited by royalty and appeared in a children’s novel.

Among its quirkier features is a secret hiding space dating from more than 300 years ago, which can be accessed via a hidden panel under the stairs, leading to a tiny room beneath. 

Owners could monitor who came to their front door through a tiny spy-hole built into the staircase.

The property at Peppard Common, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, has four reception rooms, more than three acres of wraparound gardens and paddocks and is on the edge of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

A Famous Five-style manor house at Peppard Common, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, with a secret 17th Century 'panic room' and spyhole in the staircase has gone on sale for £3.2million

A Famous Five-style manor house at Peppard Common, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, with a secret 17th Century ‘panic room’ and spyhole in the staircase has gone on sale for £3.2million

One of two dining rooms in the property, which was visited in the early 1900s by the future King Edward VII and his wife, Queen Alexandra

One of two dining rooms in the property, which was visited in the early 1900s by the future King Edward VII and his wife, Queen Alexandra

During the early 1900s it was visited by the future King Edward VII with his wife, Queen Alexandra, when they were the Prince and Princess of Wales

The then owner was a lady-in-waiting to the royal family.

It also featured in The White Witch, a 1958 novel by acclaimed children’s writer Elizabeth Goudge. 

In it she describes her character looking out of the house’s south and east windows saying ‘she could see far over the fields to the sunrise’.

The new owners will still have stunning views, which take in local countryside, as well as the village cricket pitch.

Inside, the house is filled with original features, including wooden panelling in the entrance hall, beamed ceilings, flint walls and leaded light windows.

The property has an entrance hall, kitchen, two dining rooms, family room, lounge, utility and laundry room and boot room on the ground floor with a cellar below.

Upstairs is an open-plan study area, seven bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Outside, the property has around 3.2 acres of wraparound gardens and paddocks and a triple garage with courtyard parking area and a gravel drive.

The owner said: ‘The house itself is steeped in history as it originally dates back to 1688, just a few decades after the Civil War, and interestingly it has a 17th century panic room hidden behind a section of the original wood panelling.

‘There are stories of visits from royalty – it was owned by a lady-in-waiting in the early years of the 20th century – and it featured heavily in a historical novel called The White Witch, written by Elizabeth Goudge who, many years ago, lived on the other side of the common.

A secret 'panic' room dating back more than 300 years has a tiny spy-hole built into the staircase of the historic property

A secret ‘panic’ room dating back more than 300 years has a tiny spy-hole built into the staircase of the historic property

The property has four reception rooms, more than three acres of wraparound gardens and paddocks and is on the edge of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

The property has four reception rooms, more than three acres of wraparound gardens and paddocks and is on the edge of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

‘However, for us it was simply a lovely family home, very spacious and bright, and hugely characterful. 

‘My parents made a number of improvements to it over the years, but there’s definitely lots of scope for the new owners to come in and put their own stamp on it.’

Robert Cable, from Fine & Country, who is handling the sale, said the property belonged to a family of five who had bought it 50 years ago.

He said: ‘They have loved living here and raising their family in this house, it is filled with happy memories, but it’s time for them to move on and pass it to new custodians who will appreciate it as much as they have.

‘It would be perfect for a family that wanted their children to grow up in idyllic rural surroundings.

‘Outside there is so much beautiful space to enjoy, or even keep a pony; inside there is so much space and so many nooks and crannies for children to hide, along with the secret room – it’s like something from the Famous Five novels.’

Inside, the house is filled with original features, including wooden panelling in the entrance hall, beamed ceilings, flint walls and leaded light windows

Inside, the house is filled with original features, including wooden panelling in the entrance hall, beamed ceilings, flint walls and leaded light windows

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