There have been a few companies coming out with artificial intelligence (AI for short) computer applications that can, or will soon, be able to do some things for you without your direct input.
We feel that this technology has reached a tipping point, which warrants us providing analysis and comments geared to the business market (as compared to the consumer play-type market).
Microsoft has updated their Windows Phone 8.1 operating system to include a new virtual assistant based on the character in their Halo video games, Cortana. Cortana has a very friendly personality, like the Apple Siri AI agent, and a knack for anticipating your requirements like Google Now, but with an increased capability to learn continuously.
Cortana lets you easily set reminders based on time, location or even people, like “Remind me to say Happy Birthday the next time my Dad calls,” or “When I get home remind me to put the garbage out.”
What does this mean to business customers?
The day is coming when all your personal and business communication devices will be linked to several fully synchronized AI learning agents running in the background all the time (Multi-Agent Systems). The AI agents will be able to show our information on many different types of output devices, based on our proximity to the devices and our geographical location.
For example, you’ll be to create a PowerPoint on an office desktop computer, with the file stored “in the cloud.” We you get in your car to drive home, you’ll hear on our car’s intelligent communications system that the PowerPoint file has been updated and one of your team members wants you to review and validate the new content.
In the car, you instruct your agent to read to you just the sections that have been updated and you provide edits verbally which get entered into the presentation for your team members to review.
When you get home, the agent automatically presents the new presentation onto a large screen in our kitchen. You touch the screen to move things around and “dictate” the rest of the changes while making supper. Your agent notifies the team to review for final approval.
The agent will also be able to review routine tasks directly with other peoples’ agents (internal and external parties) in order to setup and confirm the upcoming meetings.
Personal productivity benefits business too
One of the scenarios that would improve personal productivity is the time consuming challenge of setting up and coordinating routine appointments such as medical appointments for sandwich-generation baby boomers. These tasks very often have to be done during business hours and incur significant amounts of staff time and effort, hence distracting the high value employee from important business activities.
As the recent movie “HER” pointed out, the level of intimacy and trust the AI agents require to do their jobs will change the way they communicate with you, to the point where they will sound (and appear) like a single entity “Personal Assistant”… Him, Her, Mini-You or It… your choice.
R&D investments in smart phone apps transferred to enterprise
How well the digital personal assistant application performs may soon be the deciding factor for smartphone purchases in the near future.
Further down the road, your personal assistant will be independent of the device, and may also be able to handle all of your personal and professional security access rights, to-do lists and project scheduling, whether they are at home or at work, and will be with you, learning more and more about you, from cradle to grave.
What does this mean to us all?
The net of this technology is that the intelligent self-learning personal agent brings a whole new perspective on BYOD, managing and accessing corporate and personal information and activities. The levels of personal and corporate data mining access required by the AI will eventually be standard process, but in the meantime, there will be issues related to unauthorized access, and use, of both.
Reminds me of the early days when personal computers were being brought in the “back door” of many offices before the IT department was ready or willing to move in that direction. They may as well have been trying to hold off a tsunami.
As a baby boomer who will have to face fading memory issues, too many tasks (and people), to keep track of, etc., this type of mobile application will provide me with the memory and support I need to keep up with the ever-increasing complexity and pace of life. This is more of a convenience to me now, but high-quality, well-connected, AI-based virtual assistants will be critical for the career success of future professionals. Humans, on their own, will not be able to keep up.
I had the opportunity to play with early first generation personal agents in the mid 1990’s at HP, and really grew dependent on my agent to manage my email and document folders.
I was sad when the product was dropped internally and have been looking forward to having my own personal AI agent to help me personally and professionally. It supports my belief that we should use technology when we can and keep the humans for the real value, creative work!
Our enterprise guidance
This trend will drive some significant changes in technology, policy, management and support requirements. Where will the future enterprise verses personal agenda dividing line and responsibility be drawn?
As always, we welcome your comments on our opinions and thoughts.
Stephen A. Lawson contributed to this column.
Do not hesitate to contact Roberta Fox to discuss further. As always, I welcome your thoughts, feedback and comments. You can contact me at Roberta.Fox@FOXGROUP.ca or 905-473-3369 x 1001.