Article | December 20, 2020
COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of our lives including the way we do business. In fact, according to a recent survey by McKinsey, COVID has accelerated companies’ digital transformation journeys.
In a post-COVID world, there will be an even-greater acceleration of AI adoption by enterprises. AI business applications will be centered around automating tasks, forecasting supply disruptions, and enhancing customer behavioral analytics. There will be a rise in industry and sector specific AI applications where business domain knowledge and business content data are the main differentiators. However, increases in AI adoption rates do not necessarily translate into higher success rates. To avoid failure, business executives need to develop robust AI strategies and metrics, enhance data quality, and focus on AI integration and governance.
Key trends and applications for 2021 and beyond are as follows:
AI and Healthcare
Artificial intelligence played a crucial role in the detection of COVID-19. Indeed, we have seen the emergence of the use of AI at hospitals to evaluate chest CT scans. With the use of deep learning and image recognition, COVID patients could be diagnosed thus enabling the medical team to follow the necessary protocols. Another important application was the triage of COVID-19. Once a patient has been diagnosed with COVID, AI has been used to predict the likely severity of the illness so the medical staff can prioritize resources and treatments.
In a post-COVID world, we will see increased use of AI in detection of illnesses, triage of patients, and drug discovery. According to a recent market research reported by PRnewswire, the market size for global healthcare IT is expected to reach $270 billion by 2020. The increase will be driven by COVID-19, government policies, and the use of technologies such as artificial intelligence and big data.
AI and Supply Chains
Coronavirus has highlighted the need to re-think traditional supply chain models. There will be an increase in the use of technology such as artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, and 5G to make supply chains more efficient.
Artificial intelligence applications will focus on improving end to end visibility, analyzing data to detect anomalies, and forecasting supply and demand outlooks thus making supply chains more resilient.
AI and Retail
The pandemic has changed what and how consumers buy, with retailers forced to grow their online presence. E-commerce has been put at the forefront: in the first six months of 2020 consumer spending with US retailers increased by about a third compared for the same period in 2019 according to Digitalcommerce360.
According to new market research reported by PRnewswire, AI in retail will be worth about $20 billion by 2027. When it comes to retail and ecommerce, we can find AI applications in several areas including customers analytics for product recommendations, targeted marketing, and price optimizations.
For the latter, AI is applied to analyze patterns and data on customer profiles, their purchase power, product specification, timing of purchase, and what the competition is offering. The outcome of the analysis will set the pricing strategy. Several companies use AI to set their pricing strategy on a frequent basis, for example Amazon’s average product’s cost changes about every 10 minutes according to Business Insider source.
AI and Intelligent autonomous agents
COVID has highlighted the need to deploy intelligent autonomous agents that cannot catch diseases to fight against the pandemic. We have seen both robots used at hospitals to diagnose COVID-19 patients and drones deployed to monitor if the public is adhering to social distancing rules.
An ABI research showed that mobile robotics applications market size will increase to $23 billion by 2021. This increase is mainly due to applications that disinfect, monitor, and deliver materials.
The integration of AI with drone technology and robotics will create new application opportunities and will make them mainstreamed across several sectors.
AI and Education
Education is another sector that was badly hit by COVID. According to Unicef more than 1 billion children are at risk of falling behind due to school closures. The pandemic has highlighted the need for educators to adopt digital solutions to minimize learning vulnerabilities across the globe.
AI application in education will mainly focus on personalized learning where the technology is used to design and tailor training materials that matches the student’s ability and learning preferences. Other applications include the deployment of voice assistants to interact with educational material and the use of AI to support teachers in administrative tasks.
AI and Digital Twins
The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital twin technology. Digital twins are replicas of physical assets such as cities, offices, and factories. This technology became crucial in testing pandemic scenarios and emergency plans.
Digital twins technology is expected to reach a global spend level of about $13 billion by 2023 fueled by AI and machine learning according to Juniper Research.
When integrated with artificial intelligence and IoT, digital twin technology becomes very powerful when trying to test scenarios and predict bottlenecks, breakdowns, and productivity.
AI and Ethics
Over the last year, we had several prominent examples of AI ethics issues. The first example relates to facial recognition: after several calls against mass surveillance, racial profiling and bias, and in light of Black Lives Matter movement starting in the United States, several tech companies such as Microsoft banned the police from using its facial recognition technology. The second example relates to the use of an algorithm to predict exam results during COVID-19 period: after accusations and protests that the controversial algorithm was biased against students from poorer backgrounds, the United Kingdom government was forced to ditch the algorithm.
In the absence of regulations and tightened frameworks, ethics will continue to be the main concerns surrounding the use of artificial intelligence.
Article | November 20, 2020
As smart machines, data, and algorithms usher in dramatic technological transformation, its global impact spans from cautious optimism to doomsday scenarios. Widespread transformation, displacement, and disaggregation of world labor markets is speculated in countries like India, with an estimated 600 million workforce by 2022, as well as the global labor market. Even today, we are witnessing the resurgence of 'hybrid' jobs where distinctive human abilities are paired with data and algorithms, and 'super' jobs that involve deep tech. Our historical response to such tectonic shifts and upheavals has been predictable so far - responding with trepidation and uncertainty in the beginning followed by a period of painful transition. Communities and nations that can sense and respond will be able to shape social, economic, and political order decisively. However, with general AI predictably coming of age by 2050-60, governments will need to frame effective policies to respond to their obligations to their citizens. This involves the creation of a new social contract between the individual, enterprise, and state for an inclusive and equitable society.
The present age is marked by automation, augmentation, and amplification of human talent by transformative technologies. A typical career may go through 15-20 transitions. And given the gig economy, the shelf-life of skills is rapidly shrinking. Many agree that for the next 30 years, the nature and the volume of jobs will get significantly redefined. So even as it is nearly impossible to gaze into the crystal ball 100 years later, one can take a shot at what jobs may emerge in the next 20-30 years given the present state. So here is a glimpse into the kind of technological changes the next generation might witness that will change the employment scenario:
RESTORATION OF BIODIVERSITY
Our biodiversity is shrinking frighteningly fast - for both flora and fauna. Extinct species revivalists may be challenged with restoring and reintegrating pertinent elements back into the natural environment. Without biodiversity, humanity will perish.
Medicine is rapidly getting personalized as genome sequencing becomes commonplace. Even today, Elon Musk's Neuralink is working on brain-machine interfaces. So you may soon be able to upload your brain onto a computer where it can be edited, transformed, and re-uploaded back into you. Anti-aging practitioners will be tasked with enhancing human life-spans to ensure we stay productive late into our twilight years. Gene sequencers will help personalize treatments and epigenetic therapists will manipulate gene expression to overcome disease and decay. Brain neurostimulation experts and augmentationists may be commonplace to ensure we are happier, healthier, and disease-free. In fact, happiness itself may get redefined as it shifts from the quality of our relationships to that between man-machine integration.
THE QUANTIFIED SELF
As more of the populace interact and engage with a digitized world, digital rehabilitators will help you detox and regain your sense of self, which may get inseparably intertwined with smart machines and interfaces.
DATA-LED VALUE CREATION
Data is exploding at a torrid pace and becoming a source of value-creation. While today's organizations are scrambling to create data lakes, future data-centers will be entrusted with sourcing high-value data, securing rights to it, and even licensing it to others. Data will increasingly create competitive asymmetries amongst organizations and nations. Data brokers will be the new intermediaries and data detectives, analysts, monitors or watchers, auditors, and frackers will emerge as new-age roles. Since data and privacy issues are entwined together, data regulators, ethicists, and trust professionals will thrive. Many new cyber laws will come into existence.
HEALING THE PLANET
As the world grapples with the specter of climate change, our focus on sustainability and clean energy will intensify. Our landfills are choked with both toxic and non-toxic waste. Plastic alone takes almost 1000 years to degrade, so landfill operators will use earthworm-like robots to help decompose waste and recoup precious recyclable waste. Nuclear fusion will emerge as the new source of clean energy, creating a broad gamut of engineers, designers, integrators, architects, and planners around it. We may even generate power in space. Since our oceans are infested with waste, a lot of initiatives and roles will emerge around cleaning the marine environment to ensure natural habitat and food security.
TAMING THE GENOME
As technologies like CRISPR and Prime-editing mature, we may see a resurgence of biohackers and programmable healthcare. Our health and nutrition may be algorithmically managed. CRISPR-like advancements will need a swathe of engineers, technicians, auditors, and regulators for genetically engineered health that may overcome a wide variety of diseases for longer life-expectancy.
THE RISE OF BOTS
Humanoid and non-humanoid robots will need entire workforce ecosystems around them spanning from suppliers, programmers, operators, and maintenance experts to ethicists and UI-designers. Smart robot psychologists will have to counsel them and ensure they are safe and friendly. Regulators may grant varying levels of autonomy to robots.
DATA LOADS THE GUN, CREATIVITY FIRES THE TRIGGER
Today's deep-learning Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) can create music like Mozart and paintings like Picasso. Such advancements will give birth to a wide array of AI-enhanced professionals, like musicians, painters, authors, quantum programmers, cybersecurity experts, educators, etc.
FROM AUGMENTATION TO AUTONOMY
Autonomous driving is about to mature in the next few years and will extend to air and space travel. Safety will exceed human capabilities and we may soon reach a state of diminishing returns where we will employ fewer humans to prevent mishaps and unforeseen occurrences. This industry will need supportive command center managers, traffic analyzers, fleet managers, and people to ensure onboarding experience.
BLOCKCHAIN BECOMES PERVASIVE
Blockchain will create a lot of jobs for its mainstream and derivative applications. Even though most of its present applications are in Financial Services, Supply Chain, and Asset Management industries, very soon its adoption and integration will be a lot more expansive. Engineers, designers, UI/UX experts, analysts, auditors, and regulators will be required to manage blockchain-related applications. With Crypto being one of its better-known applications, a lot of transaction specialists, miners, insurers, wealth managers, and regulators will be needed. Crypto exchanges will come under the purview of the regulatory framework.
3D PRINTING TURNS GAME-CHANGER
Additive manufacturing, also popularly called 3D printing, will mature in its precision, capabilities, and market potential. Lab-grown, 3D-printed food will be part of our regular diet. Transplantable organs will be generated using stem cell research and 3D printing. Amputees and the disabled will adopt 3D-printed limbs and prosthetics. Its applications for high-precision reconstructive surgery are already commonplace. Pills are being 3D printed as we speak. So again, we are looking at 3D printers, operators, material scientists, pharmacists, construction experts, etc.
THE COLONIZATION OF OUTER SPACE
Amazon's Blue Origin and Elon Musk's SpaceX signal a new horizon. As space tech gets into a new trajectory, a new breed of commercial space pilots, mission planners, launch managers, cargo experts, ground crew, experience designers, etc. will be required. Since we have ravaged the limited resources of our planet already, mankind will need to venture into asteroid mining for rare and precious metals. This will need scouts and surveyors, meteorologists, remote bot operators, remotely managed factories, and whatnot.
THE HYPER-CONNECTED WORLD
By 2020, we already have anywhere between 50-75 billion connected devices. By 2040, this will likely swell to more than 100 trillion sensors that will spew out a dizzying volume of real-time data ready for analytics and AI. A complete IoT system as we know it is aware, autonomous, and actionable, just like a self-driving car. Imagine the number of data modelers, sensor designers and installers, signal architects and engineers that will be needed. Home automation will be pervasive and smart medicines, implants, and wearables will be the norms of the day.
DRONES USHER IN DISRUPTION
Unmanned aerial and underwater drones are already becoming ubiquitous for applications in aerial surveillance, delivery, and security. Countries are awakening to their potential as well as possibilities of misuse. Command centers, just like that for space travel, will manage them as countries rush to put in a regulatory framework around them. An army of designers, programmers, security experts, traffic flow optimizers will harness their true potential.
SHIELDING YOUR DATA
With data come cyber threats, data breaches, cyber warfare, cyber espionage, and a host of other issues. The more data-dependent and connected the world is, the bigger the problem of cybersecurity will be. The severity of the problem will increase manifold from the current issues like phishing, spyware, malware, viruses and worms, ransomware, DoS/ DDoS attacks, hacktivism, and cybersecurity will indeed be big business. The problem is that threats are increasing 10X faster than investments in this space and the interesting thing is that it is a lot more about audits, governance, policies, and compliance than technology alone.
FOOD-TECH COMES OF AGE
As the world population grows to 9.7 billion people in 2050, cultured food and lab-grown meat will hit our tables to ensure food security. Entire food chains and value delivery networks will see an unprecedented change. Agriculture will be transformed with robotics, IoT, drones, and the food-tech sector will take off in a big way.
QUANTUM COMPUTING SOLVES INTRACTABLE PROBLEMS
Finally, while the list is very long, let’s touch upon the advent of qubits, or Quantum computing. With its ability to break the best encryption on the planet, the traditional asymmetric encryption, public key infrastructure, digital envelopes, and digital certificates in use today will be rendered useless. Bring in the quantum programmers, analysts, privacy and trust managers, health monitors, etc.
As we brace for the world that looms large ahead of us, the biggest enabler that will be transformed itself will be Education 4.0. Education will cease to be a phase in your life. Life-long interventions will be needed to adapt, impart, and shape the skills of individuals that are ready for the future of work. More power to the people!
Article | July 1, 2020
Chatbots have come a long way in the past few years. The improvements in technology have enabled developers to expand on bot capabilities far beyond just functioning as a FAQ. Today, the automation of chatbots can process orders, perform financial transactions, make bookings, and much more. (Check out other intelligent functions here.)
However, as intelligent as bots can be, no chatbot can handle and resolve all your customer queries. It simply cannot answer the infinite number of questions a human may throw at it. The technology is simply not there yet, and it may never truly get there. But perhaps more importantly, brands shouldn’t want a bot to manage every customer query.
A bot working independently of human involvement won’t always deliver the best results for customer or agent. It’s the combination of chatbots and human agents that takes customer service to new heights. What you need is a smart and efficient way of translating your organization’s unique customer service philosophy into appropriate action so that every question is met with an answer in the best way possible – whether that be by bot, human agent, or a blend of both.
To deliver this, you have to pay attention to the who, what, when, and where of customer engagement. You need to know who your highest-value customers are so you can always route them to a human agent, for example. You need to know what they need help with so a simple question can be managed by a bot. And the list goes on.
Here’s why humans need chatbots, and chatbots need humans – and how you can achieve this perfect balance to deliver support that will exceed customer expectations and generate substantial ROI.
Why humans need chatbots
There’s no doubt that supplementing customer-facing roles with automation can yield fantastic results. The launch of McDonald’s self-serve kiosks is a great example of this. By giving customers the option of ordering their meal through a kiosk, or through a cashier, McDonald’s demonstrates the success you can achieve by combining automation with human. Here are just some of the benefits it brought to the customer and employee experience:
1. Automating large portions of simple queries so workers have more time to focus on other, more complex tasks
2. Reducing monotonous, repetitive queries to improve employee experience
3. Catering to customer preferences – choose quick automated service or deeper human engagement
4. Reducing queue times, in turn improving customer experience
5. Lessening the opportunity for human error
6. Generating ROI by reducing staff numbers
These results almost identically mirror the benefits that intelligent chatbots can provide customer service teams. By implementing a bot, a large portion of frontline support can be automatically managed by the bot which:
1. Gives agents more time to handle complex questions
2. Reduces the monotony of answering repetitive questions
3. Allows customer to choose between chatting to a bot or an agent
4. Reduces wait time and queue length (through bot’s ability to handle infinite simultaneous conversations), in turn improving customer satisfaction through quicker resolution
5. Eliminates human error in data entry
6. Generates substantial ROI through lower service costs
See how closely those benefits match?
Recommended reading: Chatbot ROI Calculator
Why chatbots need humans
The relationship between bots and humans isn’t a one-way street. While agents need bots to provide more effective and efficient support, bots need agents to provide the personal, ‘human’ touch that many situations call for. In our latest 2020 Live Chat Benchmark Report, we found that chatbots handle 68.9% of their chats from start to finish – although an impressive stat, it still shows that many queries require an agent’s touch.
Recommended reading – 2020 Live Chat Benchmark Report
There are always going to be situations that call for human assistance: canceling a subscription, reporting a lost or stolen credit card, or registering a serious complaint. Or maybe the topic is sensitive, and your customer would feel more comfortable explaining their situation to an agent. Similarly, some (though increasingly less: stat?) people are still wary or reluctant to communicate with bots and prefer to only speak with a live agent. To cater to these customer preferences, it’s vital that these customers can be routed past or transferred from your chatbot to human agent without effort and without having to repeat themselves.
It’s important to note however, that transferring from bot to agent isn’t always just in the interest of the customer – it can often benefit the customer service team too. This is because not all queries are equal. For example, if a customer reaches out asking about a bank’s opening times, this can be easily managed by a bot. However, when the same customer asks about a loan, this high-value interaction may dictate that – according to your unique customer service view – a human agent takes over immediately to ensure the customer receives the best experience and you close the deal as quickly and effortlessly as possible. If your chatbot can’t do this, turn it off and find a chatbot that can (we can help with that).
How to create the perfect chatbot – human (agent) balance
To begin creating the right balance between chatbot and human, you need a bot that’s widely accessible to today’s digital-first consumers; your bot needs to be where they are, wherever they are. Comm100’s AI Chatbot can serve customers on web, in-app, Facebook, Twitter, WeChat, WhatsApp for Business, and SMS. You also don’t need to build separate chatbots for each channel. Simply select the channels you want your bot to be available on (hint: all of them!) and you’re off.
Although your customers will know they are speaking to a bot (and you should make this clear to them to set expectations), you need a bot that understands natural human language. Comm100’s AI Chatbot harnesses the world’s most advanced NLP engine so that it can understand your customers’ goals and provide the answers they’re looking for. Better still, add a large range of off-the-shelf integrations to this, and the Comm100 bot can begin performing actions on behalf of your customers – from tracking an order and paying a bill, to booking a flight.
By resolving a large portion of your frontline customer service questions, your agents will have more time to focus on higher-value queries and customers that matter most to your bottom line.
Recommending reading: Comm100 Chatbot Resolves 91% of Assigned Live Chats for Tangerine
As we’ve discussed earlier, there will be times when you or a customer would rather connect with an agent than a bot. It’s crucial that your bot offers this flexibility.
Firstly, your bot should be able to give the customer the option to speak to an agent at any time. Eighty-six percent of consumers believe they should always have the option to transfer to a live agent when dealing with a chatbot. You can easily set this option up within the Comm100 AI Chatbot.
Next, you need a bot that can automatically identify the conversations that you want an agent to manage. This requires training your bot on the topics – ‘intents’, in bot lingo – that your customers will bring up. If there are specific intents that are of high value to you, you can tag them so when a customer mentions it, the bot recognizes it and automatically transfers the chat to the appropriate agent or department. The bot can also be trained to notify an agent or escalate the conversation when asked a question it can’t answer or if a visitor is clearly frustrated. As a failsafe, your agents should also be able to monitor bot conversations and take them over in these situations.
Chatbots will never replace whole customer service teams, and nor should they. The ‘human touch’ is still essential to customer support, and we are a long way off until this changes. However, if implemented intelligently, bots can resolve a great portion of customer queries without any human involvement, allowing team sizes to reduce, or remain the same in the face of increased support volume.
Take Tangerine, an Australian telecom company, for example. They experienced rapid growth, which in turn produced a surge in chat requests. By implementing Comm100’s AI Chatbot, up to 91% of assigned live chats were resolved by the bot without any agent involvement. As a result, Tangerine could manage the increase in chat volume without hiring and training more agents. And when high-value customers reached out, their agents were free to provide them with the best experience.
Article | August 11, 2020
The revolution of the public cloud has irrevocably changed the role of the CISO in the modern enterprise. The cloud is the biggest enabler in a generation and is a massive opportunity for enterprises to start innovating at speed and scale. But only if they bring their security with them on the journey! But the pace of change in the new world can feel unsettling, so it is not uncommon for CISOs and security teams to want to stick to older models and to double down on familiar ways of working.