The stats continue to show chatbots on the rise and AI becoming a growing force in how businesses operate. But in 2020, things will accelerate even faster, as the technology becomes more accessible and the benefits clearer across a wider number of markets and uses.
Chatbots and AI are advancing so fast, they’ve already ploughed through what IT research firm Gartner’s Hype Cycle call the trough of disillusionment (where people get fed up of hearing about them and the tech initially fails to deliver), and are coming out the other side into the plateau of productivity (where practical benefits and evidence of value become clear).
To be clear, we’re focusing on practical and achievable trends, even as others keep on pushing the hype button about job destruction and damage through AI. Only a couple of years back, MIT roboticist Rodney Brooks accurately wrote The Seven Deadly Sins of Predicting the Future of AI, and yet there is still way too much of the doom-and-gloom about. Yes, tech still has a way to go with AI – see the Learning the Lessons section – but for 2020, adoption and acceptance continue on the up.
There is a growing battery of stats to check out, and any business can see rivals going the AI and chatbot route to gain an advantage. Even today, it is not too late to jump in with bots, and the ability to rapidly develop, train and deploy one means that a company lagging behind can catch up quickly. But beyond 2020 it could be increasingly tough a business that is starting to lose out to catch up as the benefits and customer trends move on.
1 Bots in the workplace
In the early years, chatbots were all about customer support, service and answering basic questions. Now, companies are looking at using bots in-house for their own goals and this trend will explode in 2020. Chatbots are helping manage the hiring process and getting the first round of interviews out of the way.
HR departments, IT support and internal services also love chatbots as a way to onboard new staff, provide all the generic information and useful services like holiday checking/booking and sickness forms, all through a handy bot that saves people being involved.
2 Code-free AI and bots
Companies like Microsoft with its newly announced Power Agents, and SnatchBot using a no-code approach to chatbots will help businesses, students and others explore and master the art of chatbots outside the developer community.
Call it democratisation, but making the tools more accessible sees them move from the IT department to the business level and any size and type of department can create bots to prove their worth, helping drag slower departments or the rest of the business along for the ride.
Adding fancy AI tools, access to third-party services and other systems can all be done through APIs, limiting the amount people need to know about the background technology, and if a bot does start to become really complex, the underlying code can be exposed for experts to step in.
3 AI driving more real-time interactions
Chatbots were launched as a 24/7 solution to the customer communications problem, and in an increasingly always-on world, they can now drive meaningful interactions whenever your customer needs them. Mixing strategy, analytics, marketing and AI, in 2020 we’ll move on from period recommendations from stores to active and actionable interactions with chatbots or AI assistants that can help customers get what they need, before they know they need.
AI can provide a better view of the customer’s world and prevent adverts or reminders from sounding formulaic, going from “Netflix has a movie you might like” to “Your friends are coming round for movie night, here are some choices to stop you arguing over what to watch
Similarly, AI can help business workers work with live data in new ways beyond the usual dashboard, sending live messages that require immediate action between various partners and acting on the best answers provided.
4 Blockchain and AI meet
Businesses are looking for security within their AI and chatbots, and as these services do more by way of accessing accounts, user histories and so on, blockchains could easily come into play as the middle-man or broker helping link systems and services. This becomes highly valuable when AIs talk to each other in machine-to-machine (M2M0 transactions, where analysts, accountants or lawyers will need to see an accredited roster of interactions.
5 Learning the lessons of poor AI training
AI is not all good news. There have been robotic and AI-triggered deaths on the streets and embarrassing failures for business, even to this day. Apple and Goldman Sachs are the latest brands to feel the wrath of public and media due to poor training. Their (presumably) AI algorithm for the Apple Credit Card is giving people wildly varying limits despite similar credit histories. Other factors could be at play, but when you’re the world’s largest tech names you need to be able to prove that your customers are competing on a level playing field.
It might be that the black-box approach to this algorithm could mean that Apple and GS are unable to explain the problem to their customers or give a valid justification to auditors or investigators. That’s something every tech company needs to take on board and ensure there is a way to prove how they operate in a fair manner, and that data is unbiased. Otherwise, this type of negativity won’t go away and trust in black box systems will fall away.
Any business is now primed for the AI revolution, most are already on the path, but as the landscape becomes clearer, 2020 should be the last call for those sitting on the fence about AI and bot technology.