A blog post from Umesh Sachdev, CEO & Co-founder, Uniphore
Ah, 2022, a new year. Not so fast. After nearly two years of uncertainty and a rough start with Omicron in full swing, the collective attitude toward 2022 might best be described as “cautiously optimistic.” However, in artificial intelligence (AI), the feeling is anything but cautious. While the rest of the world was scrambling to course-correct in the wake of the global pandemic, AI was undergoing nothing short of a revolution. Applications considered early in their hype cycle reached maturity at breakneck speed, and our tech predictions became a reality even faster than we anticipated. All of this answers the question of where we go from this critical juncture. And in the tech world, the answer is simple: nowhere to go but up! Here are some of my predictions for 2022…
Emotion is the Next AI Frontier.
Human beings are complex communicators. We rely on language to understand one another broadly; however, most of our communication is nonverbal. Every conversation we have contains a deep undercurrent of emotional data that we, as humans, interpret and respond to unconsciously. Today’s emotional intelligence software operates in much the same way: analyzing nonverbal cues – like tone, voice quality and subtle facial expressions – to interpret emotional information. As the AI-powered customer experience (CX) frontier becomes more mainstream, companies will look to emotion AI to offer a differentiated experience rich in actionable data.
And it’s a two-way street. As we’ve seen with other innovations, the more familiar people become with the technology, the more they expect to see it. Take delivery tracking, for example. What was once an optional add-on service is now a staple of virtually every online purchase. We’re seeing the same mass adoption of Conversational Automation today. As more companies incorporate emotion AI into their customer journey, customer comfort with, and subsequent demand for, the technology grows.
Video will be Preferred CX Platform.
Post-2020 could easily be called the start of the Zoom Era. With the mass migration to working from home, video conferencing has become ubiquitous. We’re all Zoomers now! At the same time, our appetite for video content has grown exponentially. Cisco predicts that over 80 percent of internet data will be video by this year. Not only are we behind the camera more than ever before, we’re also consuming the medium at a historic rate. For CX providers, the writing is on the wall: customers want more video channel options – and this demand isn’t going away anytime soon.
Video-based AI software is the answer to that demand. Last fall, we surveyed Australian consumer perspectives of video conversations. Our findings showed that 62 percent of consumers responded favorably to using automation or AI tools to improve video conversations. In particular, respondents noted that they would like AI to provide tips based on emotions (35%); develop a deeper connection with participants (29%); resolve customer service issues more quickly (26%); and provide on-screen transcription to help reduce a speaker’s accent (24%). Expect those numbers to grow as the technology matures and video becomes a more prevalent – and even preferred – CX channel.
Every Company will be a Technology Company.
They say necessity is the mother of invention. However, for companies arriving late to the digital transformation age, necessity may be the mother of adoption. Writing for The Wall Street Journal, technology columnist Christopher Mims observed, “we’ve entered a period of upheaval, driven by connectivity, artificial intelligence and automation.” That was before the global pandemic. Today, we’ve reached the other end of that period, where AI, automation and unified data are part and parcel of the modern enterprise. Those playing catchup are scrambling to integrate now-mature IT and CX implementations into their tech stacks.
Whether inspired by competitor gains or wary of the consequences of inaction, more companies will plan and budget for tech vendor services in 2022 than ever before. And they’ll open up more of their operations to tech vendors as well. Don’t be surprised to see third-party players supplementing more day-to-day operations with digital solutions as industries everywhere continue to modernize.
And it’s easy to see why. Today’s cloud-based IT infrastructure connects businesses, their employees and their customers like never before. At the same time, advanced automation and AI-driven applications are pushing operational efficiencies to new heights. Forbes puts it simply: “Companies that adapt quickly to new technologies gain a foothold on the market. But companies that wait for a second or third wave stay at the back of the pack and never get the leading edge.” Again, the writing is on the wall: every company must adopt the mantle of technology—or slide into the dustbin of history.
Tech Players Will Enter Every Industry.
And while companies in a variety of industries are incorporating more technological operations, traditional tech companies with tech know-how are also entering their industries. This isn’t a new phenomenon. We’ve seen big tech like Apple, Amazon and Microsoft enter the healthcare market, even becoming worthy competitors to major healthcare players. And take the example of Tesla. Tesla, pure and simple, is a tech company. And now they’re a manufacturer of one of the world’s top cars. Take bitcoin for banking. According to the New York Times, “Banks tried to kill crypto and failed. Now they’re embracing it.”
Automotive, healthcare, retail, banking, transportation, entertainment, education, human resources, legal services – and more. And if tech companies aren’t bridging into more traditional industries, they are enabling more conventional counterparts with the technologically advanced tools that our modern customers expect. Moving forward, the vast majority of enterprises will rely on third-party technology partners to advance their digital agendas. And these partners will increase their market share exponentially across all industries as companies make the shift – inviting tech to make the shift as well.
Cybersecurity Mesh will Cover (Almost) Everything.
Get ready. You’re going to hear a lot about digital “mesh” and “fabric” in the coming months. Gartner lists data fabric—a flexible, easily accessible integration of disparate data sources—as it’s no. 1 tech trend for 2022. However, their no. 2 trend, the emergence of cybersecurity mesh, has the most explosive potential. Like data fabric, cybersecurity mesh is a flexible architecture that integrates disparate security services and features regardless of location. Here too, necessity-fueled invention. As Gartner reports, “when COVID-19 accelerated digital business, it also accelerated the trend wherein many digital assets—and individuals—are increasingly located outside of the traditional enterprise infrastructure.”
Cybersecurity was already a top IT priority before the Great Migration and with more business transactions occurring remotely, it could very well be the no. 1 priority very soon. With privacy laws tightening globally and high-profile data breaches on the rise, businesses are under increasing pressure to fortify customer and company data across an ever-widening network. Cybersecurity mesh appears to be the ready answer. Gartner predicts that by 2024, organizations adopting a cybersecurity mesh architecture will reduce the financial impact of security incidents by an average of 90 percent.
Supply Chains will Automatically Adjust to Meet Demand.
What a wild ride the 2020 and 2021 holiday seasons were. The busiest shopping time of the year was quickly overshadowed by supply chain shortages memorialized in grim photos of quarantined ships, workerless warehouses and shuttered trucks. It happened in 2020, and a promising-looking 2021 holiday season was duped again by the rise of new variants.
Retailers everywhere reacted by pushing holiday sales earlier and doubling down on automated order updates. It was, in many ways, a cautionary tale about the fragility of our global supply chain. It was also a teachable moment on the resiliency of tech-enabled businesses. Those that fared the best utilized AI and automation to their advantage, ensuring timely communication with customers and easily accessible, user-friendly channels for resolution. Expect more companies to follow suit in 2022 on the CX side.
We’ll see the same technology take over forecasting and inventory management on the supply side. This prediction isn’t so bold as it is inevitable—we’ve seen the shortcomings of current forecasting methods. We also have the data and the tools to better predict demand fluctuations and automate the appropriate response. It’s only a matter of time before the supply chain is fully integrated within the rest of the automated enterprise. And once enough market leaders make the leap, we’ll see adoption cascade down the ladder.
Conversational AI Expands Beyond the Contact Center
And last, the definition of the space I helped to create is changing. Conversational AI is really at the heart of what we do at Uniphore. Conversational AI is a software technology in the SaaS space – software as a service – that we have spent years developing and refining.
Early perceptions of Conversational AI were limited to chatbots who, while often serviceable and useful, have limitations and can’t fully deliver on many promises. But Uniphore’s taken a platform approach as we’ve advanced and delivered conversational AI’s important capabilities across both the physical and virtual enterprise, making it much more than chatting with bots.
Our conversational AI today has emerged as a byproduct of three technological developments. First, natural language processing (NLP) software analyzes natural human language and speech, interpreting contextual nuances and extracting relevant information. AI then uses this data to predict communication patterns. Lastly, machine learning (ML) enables AI-based systems to “learn” and improve from experience without being explicitly programmed. And newer low-code/no-code tools will allow business developers to benefit from some of these best-in-class technologies without adding new IT personnel or expensive infrastructure.
As a result, Conversational AI is increasingly powering a range of applications, expanding well beyond the contact center with the possibility to benefit a variety of industries, from marketing and sales, to HR, healthcare insurers/payers, education, financial and legal institutions, and more.
It’s a hefty list, but wow, is it an exciting time to be in tech. As for my predictions, I could be wrong, but I’d be willing to bet on being right!