By Prakash Arunachalam, CIO, Servion Global Solutions
The year 2017 saw both techno stalwarts and start-ups jumping into the AI ecosystem.Suffice to say, Artificial Intelligence will begin to permeate every application and service at some level in the year 2018. According to Gartner, “The year 2018 will mark the beginning of a democratization of AI, extending its impact across a much broader swath of companies and governments than previously”. This indicates that AI will be included in the top five investment priorities that CIOs make during the year.
With just a few more days to go before the New Year, let us take a glance at what it holds for the customer experience industry.
Go Cloud, Go Smart
AI technologies, especially machine learning and deep learning, will emerge rapidly to add more power to the cloud. The amalgamation of cloud computing and machine learning will result in ‘the intelligent cloud’. Serving as a self-learning platform, it will be able to perform tasks more accurately and efficiently than ever before. This is likely to be the era of the next-generation cloud’ one that provides scalability at a low cost, for storing and processing large volumes of data.
Talking about conversational interfaces
The past year,many vendors have been successful in applying conversational interfaces in smartphones and other devices.Virtual assistants such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Now are already making waves since they cater to the modern demands of the customer through text or voice. Virtual assistants are moving from being purely proactive to being highly personalized. In the coming year, it is expected that nearly 20% of the citizens belonging to developed countries will use AI-powered assistants to help them with various everyday operational tasks and about 40% of customer-facing employees and government workers will consult an AI virtual support agent for decision/process support. The reason being – better collaboration between humans and machines due to improved interfaces and new AI capabilities.
We have to chat it out
The market for bots, especially chatbots, has been gaining a lot of traction.While a chatbot is a stand-alone conversational interface that uses an app, messaging platform, social network or chat solution for its conversations, a bot is a microservice or app that can operate on other bots, apps or services. In 2018, we will see many channel applications adopt self-learning chatbots as a built-in functionality since it goes hand-in-glove with the big boom of Big Data and Analytics while directly reducing direct labour and other operational costs. It will also be a year of blended AI since human interactions will never wane away but they may emerge as the epicentre that drives AI in the customer service industry.
Welcome to the post-app era
Conversational AI platforms will supersede and push the existing paradigm of ‘cloud first and mobile first’ to the background. These AI platforms will accelerate the growth of AI-related markets. Here is why:
• They move away from fixed commands for communication between people, bots, agents, applications and other services
• Offer a broad range of narrow AI services
• Persists across modalities, devices, contexts while being sensitive to context change
• Makes machines smarter and humans successful in novel situations
This new paradigm shift marks the beginning of a ‘post app’ era.
Building a new safe zone
As more and more devices get connected, there may arise the challenges of new security breaches. Cyber security experts will need all the help they can to meet these threats. AI systems are designed to detect even the smallest of changes in the environment, and they have the potential to act much faster to fix them. AI will be of tremendous help to identify and analyse such exploits and weaknesses to quickly mitigate more attacks. In 2018, AI-based cybersecurity technologies will become more mature.
Let’s get emotional
In 2018, AI will slowly start to further mould the way we interact with daily technologies. Gartner even boldly predicts that in the coming years, personal devices will know more about our emotional state than our own families! As more and more user data is collected and analyzed to create better contexts, it will be a turning point for users to spend more and more time with devices such as smartphones, wearables, and PC. Emotional AI detects emotions (happiness, surprise, anxiousness, sadness, anger, fear and a neutral state) through voice intonations or facial expressions. This will be added to theeducational software, video games, and diagnostic software to provide a much more personalized experience.
A very deep impact
AI is not restricted to the realm of software alone. Thanks to deep learning, a new name for neural networks may ultimately lead to a hardware revolution. Highly parallel Graphic Processing Unit (GPUs) chips which provide the necessary computational power and hardware designed for Deep Neural Networks will be 100 to 1,000 times powerful than those that are available today. A better hardware architecture has the potential to make a big impact on the next generation of applications. We will see more software companies investing in custom hardware to speed up the processing for deep learning.
Automatic for the people
AI in retail and e-commerce is undoubtedly picking up momentum. As AI begins to become more accurate in its predictions of customer needs, automated purchases that are directly delivered to the customer will become a more compelling option. AI-powered product recommendation engines will target and personalize products that are displayed to the customers. Moreover, machine-learning algorithms will alter recommendations based on the stage or channel a customer is shopping in. With improved logistics, customers too will be convinced and more open to engage with this type of purchase.
While the year 2018 is poised for greater impact of Artificial Intelligence not many organizations are still not equipped with the right skills. Technical skills such as deep learning are at a nascent stage. Technology business leaders must understand how to successfully leverage opportunities that AI presents, instead of remaining averse to it as a passing fad. After all, Artificial Intelligence is here to stay.The 2018 will indeed make a stronger case for it.