Today’s smartphone-centric digital world is set for a major disruption. The catalyst? Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the rise of the personal digital assistant.
At our recent “Evolving Your Delivery to Meet Customer Demands” event in Sydney, Salesforce Senior VP for APAC, Dan Bognar, spoke about how organisations can take steps to ensure that their customer-focused strategies and investment decisions are aligned with the future customer experience.
Dan opened his presentation by talking about the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a term originally coined by the World Economic Forum, to describe where we are at.
To put it into perspective, the first revolution was based on steam and gave rise to the railway and goods transport industries, which in turn opened up new markets. The second revolution was based on electricity and facilitated mass industrial production and the ability to build goods at scale.
The third revolution, which many of us may have worked through, was the personal computer revolution. It consisted of the move from client server to the desktop, and then the rise of mobile devices, social media and apps.
The fourth revolution, which is where we are at today, is one clustered around the idea of intelligence or, more specifically, artificial intelligence (AI). This is such a significant technology that the CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai, recently said that “AI is one of the most important things that humanity is working on.” What’s more, he said it is “possibly more significant than the discovery of electricity or fire”.
Dan said that AI is already starting to make an impact in our day-to-day lives. However, in this current generation, AI is proving useful at focussing on a single task, but it still lacks the creativity and multi-tasking ability to draw any parity with the human brain. This is still a long way off from becoming reality.
In an example demonstrated during Google I/O 2018, Pichai showed how Google Assistant can make a call and book a haircut appointment. As you can see in the below video, the Assistant carried out a complicated conversation during the call, and handled it well when the call didn’t go as expected.
However, it should be pointed out that this Assistant can only book a haircut appointment and nothing more. Like many AI at the moment, it has been designed to excel at a single task.
Rise of digital assistants
The fourth revolution is significant because the adoption of that technology is accelerating faster than ever before. Additionally, these technologies are converging at a massive scale.
When we start thinking about the future, Dan said it is important to consider the different types of technology that are and will be powering the fourth revolution. Although the focus is on AI, there’s much more happening behind the scenes.
Not only is imperative to look at all these different types of technologies, it is worthwhile to understand which of these will be important in the future. Doing so will provide valuable insight into which ones will be essential to the customer experience.
AI, bots, voice, Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), cyber security and Internet of Things (IoT) are all expected to have a high impact in the next three to five years. Blockchain, edge computing and VR/AR are wild cards that may or may not mature in the coming years, while quantum computing, 5G networks, and robotics will have a long-term impact.
When it comes to the customer experience, the way consumers are interacting today with smartphones and apps will likely change to include personal digital assistants. A digital assistant will be tied to you, will know who you are, be platform independent, and can cross any of the technologies available to a user.
Dan said digital assistants won’t be of a single focus like current AI. There will be a range of things these assistants can do, such as helping with scheduling, payments or shopping.
The advent of true digital assistants will be a significant development, particularly in the context of a user’s daily life. Currently it’s possible to use devices such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa to ask for information while in the house, though this experience typically ends once people leave their house.
Dan expects that in the future the experience will remain consistent as the digital assistant follows us around. Then we will have the potential to use the digital assistant while in the car or at work for added convenience and productivity.
A significant shift
The idea of a digital assistant tied to you that follows you around wherever you go may be off-putting for some people, as well as for the technologists at organisations. However, we’ve been here before.
We’ve been through the advent of Cloud computing, social media, and smartphones, and we’re at the tipping point of AI. Many, if not all, of these technology trends required a shift in the way we interact and engage digitally, and the adoption of digital assistants will require a similar approach.
It’s a challenge that Salesforce is not shying away from, with Dan highlighting how the company has included Einstein Voice in its product, which enables users to use their voice to interact with Salesforce, such as showing sales pipelines or receiving a voice briefing on the schedule for the day. The company has also recently announced Einstein Bots, which enables companies to build voice-driven bots for customer service, which can then be deployed on end user devices such as Google Home or Amazon Alexa.
Dan said the above two technologies are examples of big companies like Salesforce adopting these big ideas from the consumer world and bringing them to the enterprise one. Not only is it an exciting time to be working with AI, but Dan hopes it provides us a preview of what the future holds.