Sci-fi movies often portray a long-off future filled with robots and technology zipping around, co-mingling with humans. And they’re not always friendly robots – occasionally they try to take over the world. Take the 2004 sci-fi thriller I, Robot, or even the ‘70s hit movie Westworld, which HBO used as the basis for a new series last year.
Though these filmmakers’ creative fears and speculation were well-founded (and make for great entertainment), today we no longer speculate about a future where robots and AI exist – it’s here! But instead of viewing this technology as the enemy, we now look at it as an “advisor” or “colleague,” something that helps us make things and experiences better than we could have imagined. AI, or cognitive technology as we like to call it, is here to stay — and it’s a huge change for those businesses that are using it.
Building a Relationship with Technology
I’ve just returned from Amplify 2017, a conference in which an array of customers, business partners, product experts and special guests highlighted how cognitive solutions bring customer engagement to life. What was most astonishing to me was the passion these speakers had for their stories, as well as their improved ability to drive toward or achieve new business results with these cognitive capabilities. I’ve never seen so much excitement about a technology and how it will help us be better marketers, merchandisers and fulfillment practitioners.
With cognitive (and more specifically, Watson), practitioners build a relationship with technology – a relationship of mutual benefits. You, the practitioner, share information and experiences with Watson, and each of your actions teaches Watson more about the content and context.
For example, H&R Block President and CEO Bill Cobb shared with Ginni Rometty, IBM CEO, how Watson is helping tax professionals in his company prompt appropriate questions to their clients while they collaborate over each client’s tax updates. Watson has learned 600 million data points relevant to the industry as well as the U.S. tax code. Cobb confirmed that “Watson is learning more and more as it does more tax returns.”
Thus, as Watson learns more about you, your industry, your dataset, and even your natural language as you speak to him in colloquialisms, the relationship between you and Watson grows.
Bringing Cognitive to Life
From the moment Amplify 2017 kicked off with host Katie Lindendoll, a profound lover of tech trends and gadgets herself, passion and excitement filled the room. Some of the early adopters of Watson shared fascinating stories — folks like Peter Brook of adidas Group, who’s exploring open source technology and allowing his customers the ability to design their own shoes!
When Michelle Peluso, IBM’s recently announced CMO, took the stage, she shared stories of her friends and fellow business leaders in several different industries, and how they felt a sense of delight and opportunity with cognitive technology. Peluso stated that cognitive will provide a way for business to drive more relevance, building brands that are more human and warm and really care for their customers.
In a series of casual, unscripted videos of these 10 or so friends, we saw that their focus was on keeping the humanity with their customers and focusing on what makes individuals unique. They then delved into how cognitive helps each of them understand the individual – the emotions and intent. Every action users take on social media and every purchase they make allows marketers and merchandisers to get to know more about what interests their customers.
Put simply, cognitive solutions can help to deliver human experiences to customers when, where and how they want them, in a way that transcends push marketing. “It used to be about keeping up with the customer and her data, but now it’s using the power of that information to create truly relevant experiences,” concluded Peluso. “It’s in the marriage of all this data that cognitive really comes to life.”
Digging into the Data
At Amplify 2017, I got a new perspective on data. Sure, I already knew some tremendous data stats and how our every interaction is a tidbit of data to merchandisers and marketers, but I didn’t realize how much data we have now, and that much of that data is referred to as “dark data.” That is, data that exists outside the corporate firewall, such as in private social forums and interactions around the world.
What’s even more jarring is that this is just the tip of what’s to come: by 2020, we’re going to have 20 times the amount of data we have today. And without cognitive technologies like Watson, it’s impossible for practitioners to comb through that data to spot business trends or market opportunities, or find news to streamline fulfillment processes or better shipping routes.
Just about every customer, partner, influencer and expert that I spoke to during the conference talked highly and passionately about cognitive and Watson. Some were enthralled with the promise of the technology, while others were excited by their actual business results. As Harriet Green, general manager of Watson IoT, Commerce and Education, said: “One billion people will be touched in some way by Watson. We’re infusing Watson into nearly every IBM product and service. We are co-creating cognitive solutions with thousands of partners today.”
To find out more about redefining customer engagement in today’s cognitive era, visit the Watson Customer Engagement webpage or watch some IBMGo video content from the Amplify 2017 keynotes.