Privacy has become the hottest topic of the year. The arrival of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the House of Representatives hearings on Data Protection are two, high-profile examples, and there are so many more. This is just the legal side of the equation. Social acceptance of data collection and sharing varies based on user demographics and geographies. These, among the others, are indicators that we should be thinking about data privacy. That means from our back-end systems to our devices on the edge.
The omnipresent assistant
One solution of particular focus, due to recent media attention about privacy, is our virtual assistants. Those omnipresent, unseen helpers support us in a variety of ways, from answering our burning questions to placing our next online order. How much information do we entrust every day to these ninjas of knowledge? If you are implementing a project that integrates a virtual assistant, have you given thought to where that information may be flowing?
Consider the following scenario. It demonstrates one of the fundamental use cases for leveraging a virtual assistant in a car. And it’s a great example of why you should be thinking about where the information is flowing. A driver is running low on fuel. He makes a request from the integrated virtual assistant to find and be routed to the nearest gas station. The virtual assistant responds quickly and routes the driver to a service station less than a mile ahead. The driver is delighted. But what about the vehicle manufacturer?
Is your assistant helping or hurting your ecosystem?
In today’s connected world, vehicle manufacturers are improving the driver’s experience. They do this in part by delivering connected services into the vehicle. For the purpose of this example, let us say the car manufacturer has an ecosystem of service and product providers integrated into its connected service offering. In this ecosystem, each service provider is paying to be included. The expectation is that the corresponding product or service is being prominently featured when the driver has a related need. However, when the driver was running low on fuel today, the virtual assistant simply routed the driver to the closest gas station, instead of one of the partner stations.
In addition, the information about where the driver transacted is now the property of the company providing the virtual assistant. Unless the driver is making a brand-specific request that just happens to coincide with the manufacturer’s partner ecosystem, it will be pure luck if a partner is actually identified by the typical virtual assistant. Ultimately, this results in poor ecosystem performance. It causes ecosystem partners to leave. And it eliminates what could have been a productive revenue stream for the car manufacturer. Nor will the manufacturer be able to take advantage of understanding the driver’s wants and preferences through captured interactions…a significant lost opportunity.
Know which way the data is flowing
Every company understands that it’s customer data is an asset. The company derives value through the insights it can develop when it mines the data. That’s why it’s important to realize that – because it is an asset – the company should also focus on retaining ownership, control and access to its customer data. When it comes to virtual assistants, you have to know where your customer information is going.
The approach that IBM has taken with the IBM Watson Assistant Solutions supports this. It is also consistent with the company’s position on data ownership across all solutions. And it’s why Harman choose to partner with IBM on the premium digital cockpit. Any customer data that flows through any instances of IBM Watson Assistant is owned and retained by the company alone. IBM will not use that data for its own purposes, even internally.
At Think 2018, the Harman concept car, featuring Watson Assistant, was on display.
Reassure your customers: “your data is safe”
With this data flowing to you, you are able to guarantee to your customers that their data will be kept private and secure. The data you collect can be leveraged to build a unique profile for each of your customers. That profile then allows you to understand each customer to an extent never before possible and better service them. And you can also use it to guide your product development to make sure that products and features will align with customer needs and expectations.
As we can see, data privacy changes impact many of our most important use cases. The focus on data privacy also highlights the value of the data. It also points out need to understand the various third parties who are able to access and leverage the data. Retaining control over the data collected from our customers is as important as any other corporate asset that we are required to manage. In the world of virtual assistants, IBM Watson Assistant is unique in its ability to allow you to retain control of that valuable customer data.
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