Are you ready for Intelligent Assistants?

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IA (Intelligent Assistants) rather than AI is the new game changer for businesses

How can you apply IA in your org?

After spending this past week at the IBM World of Watson A.I conference it’s clear that we have now entered another disruptive phase in technology beyond that which we have experienced this past 2 decades let alone this past century.

But while this stuff is truly ground breaking I am convinced we are a long way from the kind of scary artificial intelligence represented in movies and fiction and I’m inspired by what is now possible in our businesses and in our lives. I went in to this conference wondering how AI will help businesses with their 3 pillars – growth, being more efficient and reducing risk to create successful organisations?

With that challenge in mind there are lots of definitions of AI but the one coined by last week’s keynote speaker Thomas Friedman seems most relevant – it’s “I A” Intelligent Assistants.

 

Who or what is an Intelligent Assistant and why should you know about them?

Intelligent Assistants come in all forms and are readily available today – I experienced numerous examples – Chatbots that hang out in #Slack answering employee questions, search assistants far more advanced than Siri, Robots like Pepper that are connected to the cloud and can recognise faces and speak or interpret multiple languages and iOT (internet of things) devices that sit on your kitchen counter or desk to answer a myriad of questions you have throughout your day. All of these technologies can be programmed, shaped and melded to assist us in our lives and our businesses in so many ways.

It’s a new frontier that might actually see relatively new concepts like having an “App for That” disappear overnight to be replaced with a “Bot for That”.

While we can expect a lot of disruption the new world of Intelligent Assistants or Augmented Intelligence is not so scary and I think it’s exciting that it can free us up to do more, be more and think bigger in our organisations.

 

Smarter Q&A

Stewart Butterfield, Slack Cofounder and David Kenny talk Watson. Credit: IBM
Stewart Butterfield, Slack Cofounder and David Kenny talk Watson. Credit: IBM

Co-Founder of Slack Stewart Butterfield believes that more than 30% of our conversations at work are basic question and answer interactions. Ever since Stewart mentioned this at IBM WoW last week I have noticed just how much I lean on the good people around me to answer simple questions that are already available in the various databases our company uses.

Questions like – what time is the marketing meeting today? Where do I go to fill out a leave form? What is John Smith’s phone number?

All of this information can be easily collated and answered by a bot. Why waste the time of an otherwise productive, clever team member on such trivial items?

Not only can an intelligent assistants answer these questions but they can answer thousands per day without ever getting tired or running out of time and quite possibly with more accuracy than a human who may be distracted by lots of different priorities.

 

Scheduling, Planning, Organising

Just like the basic Q&A tasks I described above the fact that you need to survey 1, 2 or 20 people to coordinate a meeting is an enormous drain on human resources. How many times have you attempted to schedule a meeting only to have to facilitate a change of time, a change of date or a change of venue? All of this human intelligence spent on a task that a virtual intelligent assistant could handle.

There are already many forms of assistants out there that can achieve this function but in the months to come you can expect to see far more cognitive versions that understand your priorities and can make suggestions or lock in meetings based on learning everything about you and your team collectively.

 

Reducing Search and Dig missions…

When did it become ok to spend an hour or more a day searching through emails? Why do you have to click 9 times to find the phone number of an important customer? Why do I have to bug someone else in my organisation to find me the expiry date of a contract or agreement we signed?

Sure, software has made our lives easier in some sense but in others we have become slaves to ever increasing volumes of data. The more we collect the more we find ourselves searching through databases and folders for the information we needed.

When you add voice capability – kind of like what you have in Siri or Cortana today, and then you add superfast computing – the sort you get when you’re in the cloud – then what you’ll find is a powerful way of reducing the time spent sitting in front of a screen digging for answers. Wasted time that could be put elsewhere on developing people, developing ideas or simply spending more time with your loved ones.

Artificial intelligence in the form of intelligent assistants will dramatically change the way we work with data. And bring it on! – if I have to twiddle my thumbs in front of an Outlook Search much longer I think I’ll have to quit email altogether!

 

Being Inspired!

Last week has opened my eyes up to the potential of artificial intelligence minus all the doomsday scenarios we often associate with this new technology.

Intelligent Assistants are just the tip of the iceberg for A.I – last week I witnessed how Watson can analyse 200,000 papers written on cancer research last year alone to help doctors identify trends, determine the best drug treatments and find a cure far more efficiently than humans could ever do alone. I saw an automaker install tiny little iOT devices on every single component in a truck to proactively identify when to replace a part before it caused a failure or a serious accident. All of this information being fed and analysed and shared between manufacturers across the world in milliseconds.

What about the simple device that sits in the home of a person with a depressive illness checking in, asking questions about their mood, analysing the responses and sharing this important feedback with the individual’s doctor in case intervention is needed.

It’s early days but that stuff is really cool and will really change how we solve problems in the future and how we respond to or prevent crisis.

So right now, where you sit – how can A.I, I.A and this groundbreaking new technology available right now reshape your industry, transform your business, help you become more efficient, help you minimise risk and help you grow?

Would love to hear your comments.

 

Happy computing,

James

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