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How much does AI cost in 2024? Well, it depends

By Vitali Likhadzed, ITRex CEO, Andrei Klubnikin, Innovation Analyst
Published on

How much does AI cost?

The ITRex team believes you’d spend at least $50 thousand on an MVP version of an AI solution, with the price of artificial intelligence increasing proportionately with its complexity and supported use cases. It should be noted that the above price only applies to the artificial intelligence component of your system; the efforts required to create custom web and mobile applications supporting its logic will be billed separately.

However, this does not preclude your company from implementing AI on a smaller scale and budget.

There are many ways to implement AI in business, from procuring plug-and-play call center chatbots to building a custom self-service BI solution sourcing data from a multitude of enterprise systems. Artificial intelligence costs will thus vary depending on the approach and solution type you choose.

For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on customized and fully custom AI solutions. As an AI consulting company, ITRex will assist you in determining the factors that influence their development, enhancement, and maintenance costs.

Additionally, our AI developers will give you ballpark estimates for several artificial intelligence projects from our portfolio, along with tips for approaching your AI pilot and maximizing ROI.

Let’s dive right in!

What are the top 5 factors behind AI cost?

  1. The type of software you’re eyeing to build. Artificial intelligence is an umbrella term that refers to any device or application that makes decisions based on the information it consumes, thus mimicking human intelligence. Voice assistants that understand questions uttered in natural language, security cameras that recognize people in live video footage, and expert systems that spot cancerous tumors in CT scans can all be described as artificial intelligence. However, their complexity, performance requirements, and, subsequently, costs vary greatly.

  2. The level of intelligence you’re aiming for. When talking about AI, people tend to envision Boston Dynamics robots and holographic avatars from Blade Runner 2049. In reality, most business AI solutions can be described as narrow artificial intelligence, meaning they’re only programmed to perform a particular task—for example, recognize text in PDF files and convert them into editable documents. To be classified as truly intelligent, AI algorithms should be able to uncover patterns in data with little to no human intervention, assess the probability or improbability of an event, justify their assumptions, continuously process new data, and learn from it.

  3. The amount and quality of data you’re going to feed your system. Artificial intelligence is only as good as the data it’s been trained on, and the more data algorithms consume, the better they get.

    The availability of pre-trained AI application development tools, such as large language models (LLMs), greatly simplifies the training process. Some commercially available solutions, such as ChatGPT or DALL·E 3, can even be used directly without further customization. Still, the best results can be obtained by fine-tuning algorithms on data that is unique to your company. This data can be structured, meaning it is properly organized and stored in relational database management systems (RDBMs), or unstructured, such as emails, images, and videos, which are typically bulk-uploaded to data lakes. As far as AI cost is concerned, it is cheaper to work with structured data, especially if there is a substantial quantity of information to boost your algorithms’ accuracy. With unstructured data, AI experts have to go the extra mile to organize and label it, while software engineers need to set up the complete infrastructure ensuring continuous data flow between the components of your system. In some cases, such as training AI-powered medical imaging solutions, data can be hard to obtain due to privacy or security reasons. To overcome this hurdle, AI engineers may artificially expand the size of a limited dataset, reuse existing classification algorithms, or produce synthetic data for model training using generative AI solutions. Operations like these are bound to eventually increase the cost of building an AI program.

  4. The algorithm accuracy you’re hoping to achieve. The accuracy of your AI solution and its predictions depends directly on the type of application and the requirements you impose on it. A customer support chatbot, for example, is only expected to handle up to 60% of routine user queries; for complex issues, there’s always a human specialist waiting on the other end of the line. A pilotless delivery drone that transports blood and human organs, on the other hand, should be able to maneuver around objects with immaculate precision, relying on advanced computer vision algorithms. Higher accuracy and reliability of artificial intelligence predictions directly affect your project’s lifespan and increase AI development cost. Also, it should be noted that AI algorithms will continue to absorb new data as they work alongside human specialists, which may carry additional training and maintenance expenses.

  5. The complexity of an AI solution you’re working on. Artificial intelligence is the brain of a technology system that pushes data in and out of your business app and presents insights to users, including those who don’t have a technical background. When discussing the cost of artificial intelligence, we should consider the cost of developing actual software. This includes a cloud-based back end, ETL/streaming tools, APIs for internal and external application integration, and some type of user interface, such as a cloud dashboard, mobile app, or voice assistant.

    Lightweight AI, like the customer support chatbots mentioned in the previous section, may live inside a corporate messenger and does not require a complex infrastructure to function. AI-powered data ecosystems providing a 360-degree view into your company’s operations are a whole different story.

    Additional AI implementation challenges will arise when you start scaling your intelligent system from one or several use cases (think predicting customer churn rate or analyzing sales data in a particular brick-and-mortar store) to a company-wide deployment. In fact, that’s the reason why only 53% of enterprise AI projects make it from prototypes to production.

Speaking of failures, it should be noted that only a tiny fraction of AI projects (Gartner believes it’s 20%; VentureBeat is even less optimistic) eventually deliver on their promise. A staggering failure rate can be attributed to several factors, including a lack of collaboration between data scientists and software engineers, limited or low-quality training data, and the absence of a company-wide data strategy.

Most failed AI projects, however, are described as “moonshots”—overly ambitious endeavors led by starry-eyed data scientists and CIOs seeking to “completely change the way our company has been operating for decades.” Such projects may take forever to complete, and it’s only natural that, at some point, a company’s C-suite stops pouring money into the bottomless pit without seeing a glimpse of real value.

How much does AI cost? These examples from the ITRex portfolio might give you a hint

Project 1: AI-powered telemedicine solution

A healthcare technology company approached ITRex to upgrade a telehealth system, which is implemented in multiple hospitals across the USA, with video recording capabilities.

The new version of the system would allow healthcare providers to apply facial recognition and natural language processing technologies to analyze videos filmed during consultations and potentially improve doctor-patient interactions.

cost of ai development

During the discovery phase, we ruled out possible technology barriers and selected the optimum tools for the project—primarily Python and the accompanying frameworks and SDKs for speech recognition and analysis. For the pilot version of the telemedicine system, the client selected the speech-to-text functionality only, with no user-facing components expected to ship. The solution conducts linguistic analysis of video recordings to detect possible changes in the communication style that could shed light on patients’ well-being and help physicians come up with better treatment plans.

A basic version of a video/speech analysis AI platform may cost $36-56 thousand.

Project 2: An intelligent recommendation engine

A technopreneur was looking to add AI capabilities to a B2C platform connecting users with local service providers. Our client’s idea revolved around replacing cumbersome search filters with advanced machine learning algorithms that would analyze input text and come up with a list of service providers that match a user’s query.

artificial intelligence cost

We selected Amazon Personalize as the primary technology stack for the AI part of the project. In addition to providing personalized recommendations based on user inquiries, the recommendation engine comes along with a fully managed cloud infrastructure for training, deploying, and hosting ML models. The system’s back end would be written in Python, while user data would be securely stored in the cloud (Amazon S3).

The development, testing, and deployment of a similar artificial intelligence platform (MVP) would cost you anything between $20 thousand and $35 thousand.

Project 3: An AI-driven art generator

A renowned visual artist turned to ITRex to create a generative AI solution that would produce new paintings based on his works and the works of other authors who inspire him. The client was looking to build a minimum viable product (MVP) version of the system over the course of several weeks to present it at an exhibition.

ai development price

The ITRex team proposed creating a neural network based on Python frameworks (PyTorch, TensorFlow) that would process abstract paintings, learn the artist’s trademark style, generate similar pictures, and display them on the artist’s official website. For the MVP version, we suggested using the Instagram-like 1000 x 1000 image resolution and deploy the AI solution locally, leaving an option to port the system to the cloud in the future.

Depending on the type of training data (e.g., abstract vs. figurative art), image resolution (HD vs. low-resolution output images), and deployment approach, the cost of building an MVP version of an artificial intelligence system like this could reach $19-34 thousand.

For more artificial intelligence cost estimations and expert tips for using the technology in business, consider downloading our AI eBook!

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    If your company is considering developing a generative AI solution, check out our guide on Gen AI costs. The article highlights key approaches to generative AI implementation, including using commercially available tools as is and retraining open-source models. Additionally, we recommend you study our blog post on machine learning implementation costs.

    How to reduce AI costs — and start benefiting from artificial intelligence ASAP

    According to a recent Forbes Technology Council article, developing and deploying an AI solution will ultimately cost your company 15 times more than you anticipated—unless you already have an efficiently built data ecosystem in place.

    Larger AI development costs typically stem from significant infrastructure optimization, data integration, security, and artificial intelligence management and control efforts. However, you can minimize these expenses by thoroughly planning your project and starting small while having a bigger picture in the corner of your mind. You can also use pre-trained foundation AI models to speed up your project or to experiment with artificial intelligence.

    To help you build an artificial intelligence system at a lower cost and start reaping its benefits from day one, the ITRex team prepared a high-level AI development and implementation guide. Its general idea revolves around taking an agile approach, as it might be hard to elicit all the requirements for a custom AI solution or come up with a realistic artificial intelligence cost estimation at the beginning of your journey. Another advantage of this approach is that you start seeing a sizable ROI early on; this, in turn, helps get buy-in from your company’s C-suite and secure further funding.

    Here’s how you should handle your pilot project:

    1. Collect stakeholder feedback. Before you begin developing an AI system, we recommend that you consult with internal and external stakeholders to identify the key processes and decision flows that can be supplemented or automated with AI.

    2. Identify priority use cases. In this step, you should use a product prioritization framework (e.g., MoSCoW, RICE, or Kano) to select business cases that will drive the most value during the interim period and serve as a basis for further AI implementations.

    3. Select the optimum technology stack. To build a vendor-agnostic solution and reduce overall AI development costs, use a combination of custom-made, open-source, and off-the-shelf components (for example, plug-and-play facial recognition engines, API-driven voice assistants, and cloud-based services supporting the creation and training of AI algorithms). Special attention should be paid to UI/UX design: your future AI system should incorporate a user-friendly interface that enables stakeholders to ask artificial intelligence questions, get instant insights, or automate tasks without seeking assistance from your IT department

    4. Prepare data subject to AI-driven analysis. To help algorithms make sense of your business data, it is essential to gather information, assess its quantity and quality, and bring it into a unified format. For this, several data collection, preparation, and normalization techniques can be applied. You can learn more about this in our blog post on data preparation for machine learning. Remember that identifying the right data and thoroughly repairing it for model training is critical to reducing the cost of artificial intelligence while developing a system that produces consistent results.

    5. Create an MVP version of your AI system. Building a minimum viable product supporting the essential use cases is one of AI development best practices. With an MVP at your hands, you’ll be able to check the feasibility of your concept, pinpoint areas for algorithm improvement, and start scaling the system across different use cases and departments. You should not confuse an MVP with an AI proof of concept (PoC) though; the latter serves as a validation of your idea and is meant for internal use only. However, it’s often advisable to begin your AI journey with a proof of concept to test the feasibility of your idea and eliminate technology barriers early on.

    6. Treat AI implementation as a work in progress. Once you put artificial intelligence to work, you may not get perfect results right from the onset; as your AI system consumes new information under the supervision of human specialists, it will deliver more accurate predictions and become more autonomous. It is therefore important to continue gathering feedback from your company’s stakeholders, making the necessary changes to the system, and repeating the steps enumerated above when introducing new features and use cases. This will not only allow you to optimize the AI development cost but also help solve the artificial intelligence scalability problem.

    In the end, how much does artificial intelligence cost?

    Although it’s hard to estimate the cost of creating and implementing an artificial intelligence application without diving into your project’s details, you may easily spend $50 thousand on a very basic version of the custom system you’re looking to build. But you can still get the ball rolling on a smaller budget, especially if you’re eyeing a PoC or thinking of using pre-trained ML models or plug-and-play services.

    Is the game worth the candle?

    By 2030, artificial intelligence could contribute up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy, with increased productivity and automation driving the lion’s share of this sum.

    Currently, the AI revolution is still in its early stages. While some countries, industries, and companies might be better prepared for the disruption (meaning they do have the necessary data and IT infrastructure in place to create and deploy custom AI solutions at scale), the competitive advantage is elusive since there is an opportunity for every business to transform the way they work and lead the AI race. And your company is no exception.

    What are the top 5 factors behind AI cost?How much does AI cost? These examples from the ITRex portfolio might give you a hintProject 1: AI-powered telemedicine solutionProject 2: An intelligent recommendation engineProject 3: An AI-driven art generatorHow to reduce AI costs — and start benefiting from artificial intelligence ASAPIn the end, how much does artificial intelligence cost?
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