One hallmark of the Age of Technology that we find ourselves in now is the tendency of disparate technologies to intersect with each other and produce new hybrid uses.
And new issues.
Think of cellphones meeting up with the internet to engender mobile ecommerce, as just one by-now old-hat example.
On the horizon, however, artificial intelligence (AI) applications and the internet of things (IoT) could come together. The blending could take the related trends of personalization and improved customer experience to the next level.
Who’s spotting convergence?
To date it takes a somewhat sharpened eye to discern the growing AI-IoT relationship—but there certainly are people out there who have done so. Here are some examples where the two technologies are mentioned in the same breath:
• Ovum, in a recent report, lists this as one of its IoT predictions for 2017:
“Big data and machine learning unlock new IoT opportunities—A shift toward the delivery of IoT data analytics at the edge (closer to where data is collected/aggregated), and the development of new tools for streaming data analytics, are important steps toward enabling the use of IoT data to feed machine-learning engines and other artificial intelligence operations.”
• Aite Group, in a recent report, says:
“The next iteration of the internet will be the connection of billions of autonomous devices to the network. These devices will be gathering and transmitting information with no human intervention to platforms and systems that will distill the information in action, again, with no human intervention.”
• Juniper Research, in its own report on next-generation retail services, says this, almost in passing:
“RFID tags, used to identify and locate retail assets in real-time, are now at a low enough price point for mass deployment and integrate well with new IoT systems and analytics.”
• Zebra Technologies, which provides technology insights to corporations, issued a study that found “nearly 70% of retail decision makers surveyed are ready to make changes to adopt the Internet of Things, and 65% plan to invest in automation technologies” by 2021.
• Celent, in a report linking payments and the IoT, puts it this way:
“IoT takes contextual commerce to an entirely new level, as connected devices start facilitating customer orders, orchestrating commerce transactions, and ultimately acting as independent economic agents.”
“Presenting my car, my personal agent…”
Intriguingly, Zilvinas Bareisis, Celent senior analyst and author of this latter report, posits a couple of situations that might not be too far in the future to contemplate.
“Think of a car keeping a parking meter topped up until you finish your meeting,” he says in a related blog. Further: “Think of a self-driving car paying other cars to get out of the way if its passenger is in a hurry.”
One can imagine an accelerating IoT-AI bidding war between rival self-driving cars, each of which carry an impatient passenger. An issue for the future, no doubt.
But not too far-fetched.
AI and the IoT, each on their own, are making inroads with the all-important customer, particularly millennials. For example, some washing machines now come equipped with buttons that automatically order detergent when supplies get low.
And who isn’t aware of Siri and Alexa, voice-responsive chatbots that intelligently solve problems or provide advice? (Albeit not always successfully…)
On the other side of the supply/demand equation, businesses are wising up to both AI and IoT.
A PwC report said recently: “72% of business decision makers believe that AI will be the business advantage of the future.”
Meanwhile, the Ovum report quotes Gavin Whitechurch, founder of Internet of Things World: “Behind the hype, solid progress is being made on a number of IoT technologies, tools, and business models, setting the scene for significant evolution of the IoT in 2017.”
The question is, what good can come from the merger of AI and IoT?
Do we want this to happen?
In answer, Celent’s Bareisis puts it this way: “As always, creating genuine value for customers, rather than doing something just because technology is available, will be what differentiates successful bank IoT propositions from expensive failures.”
He answers that basic question mentioned above: “IoT can also help achieve better customer engagement and improve cross-selling as well as risk and collateral management.”
That is what all this is leading up to. Deloitte polled executives from 450 contact centers in 16 countries about their contact center technology investment plans for the next two years.
“Our survey results are clear—customer experience-driven, omnichannel engagement strategies are driving the next generation of contact center capabilities,” says Andy Haas, managing director, Deloitte Consulting.
Here’s a key, telling finding from this survey: “As customers demand an effortless experience in their channel of choice, executives are investing in solutions that help support customers across channels, providing analytics on their omnichannel operation and enabling technology to improve self-service solutions.”
Again, a sharp eye can see “analytics,” which could include AI, and “self-service solutions,” which could include IoT, mentioned together.
“Personalization” is the new buzzword for improved customer relationships, and is not to be dismissed. Says the Boston Consulting Group in its research:
“Brands that create personalized experiences by integrating advanced digital technologies and proprietary data are seeing revenues increase by 6% to 10% ... BCG expects that over the next five years in three sectors alone—retail, health care, and financial services—personalization will push a revenue shift of some $800 billion to the 15% of companies that get it right.”
Pointing where we want to go
So what do companies—and banks—need to do to “get it right”?
Rockfish Digital, which provides digital innovations to businesses, comes to an interesting conclusion: The broad masses of consumers need to be made aware of what AI—and by inference, IoT—can really do for them.
Rockfish found, in its own survey, that consumer adoption and awareness of AI is generally limited to applications like Siri and Alexa. As industries inexorably embrace AI and IoT, that leaves a huge and potentially profitable vacuum to be filled.
“By many accounts, AI is going to completely change the way business is done—and, our economy as we know it. What we lack today is a deep understanding of the meaningful applications,” says Josh Cottrell, vice-president, at Rockfish Digital.
Cottrell adds this:
“Generally, as marketers and business innovators, we need to move the consumer perception of AI away from simple natural language processing and the convenience that voice-enabled devices provide. The lack of awareness of how AI may be impacting their lives more profoundly shows that there is a way to go before we’ve truly defined what it all means.”
Where will it all go? Try asking Siri.
Sources for this article include: