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Winning Customers with AI, Machine Learning and IoT

Cognizant

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Whether consumers know it or not, three next-generation technologies are playing a major role in shaping their experience with brands — and the future of consumer goods marketing: artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and Internet of Things (IoT).

To keep pace and effectively compete in an increasingly connected marketplace, brands are investing in these three technologies to continually fine-tune their customer strategies, using hyper-personalized information across touchpoints.

Convergence of Disruptive Technologies 

Have you ever wondered how Netflix makes movie and TV show recommendations, how Facebook prompts friends to be tagged in photos, and how Alexa, Siri and Google Now assist in our day-to-day activities? These are real-life examples of machine learning — a subset of AI. ML uses a customer’s historic data and behavioral patterns to create high-quality predictions of their future behavior.

IDC predicts that applications with predictive analytics will grow 65% faster than those that don’t have this functionality, and that by 2018, most consumers will interact with services based on cognitive computing.

Related: Stepping into IoT – 14 Case Studies

Similarly, IoT is disrupting many industrial business processes. IoT refers to everyday “things” equipped with sensors that generate enormous amounts of data based on use and environmental conditions. Enterprises across industries are deploying next-generation business models around the convergence of two or more of these disruptive technologies to segment and analyze the volumes of data they generate to determine what is meaningful.

Figure 1

In light of this, tech giants such as Apple, Amazon, Google, IBM and Facebook are on an acquisition mission to beef up their ML and AI capabilities. For instance, Google has upgraded its image search and recognition capabilities to identify individuals or objects in photos on the Web. Meanwhile, Apple is investing heavily in AI in areas such as self-driving autonomous vehicles, mapping, image recognition and processing, and voice control.

Rethinking the Customer Experience with AI, ML and IoT

ML is already delivering consistent, gratifying customer experiences across digital channels in three key areas, namely sales, marketing and customer service.

1. Improving Sales Productivity

Sale personnel rely on their mobile devices to stay connected to their company and their customers. Given the enormous amount of data generated by various systems across channels, sales leaders are challenged to qualify leads and identify the right opportunities. By applying ML algorithms, forward-thinking businesses are improving their sales forecasts (predicting credit risk, customer churn, etc.), automating account management and lead-identification activities, and uncovering new upsell and cross-sell opportunities.

2. Better Targeting Marketing Campaigns

As more customer information becomes available through big data, ML will become an essential element of customer-focused marketing campaigns. Among the top challenges marketers face include lead generation, ROI measurement and generating personalized offers/messages in real time by utilizing customers’ personal data, demographics, historical purchase patterns and social sentiments, for example.

3. Enhancing Customer Service

Customer service organizations are increasingly incorporating human-assisted virtual agents such as chatbots to route customers to the right agent and improve the overall quality of service. AI technologies such as natural language processing and speech recognition assist live call center agents by looking up relevant information and suggesting appropriate responses. (To learn more, read: “How Machine Learning Can Optimize Customer Support.”)  Another AI technology, conversational voice interfaces such as Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, provides the ability to conduct a natural conversation with customers (and customer support personnel) and suggest the next best action.

[Download]: Stepping into IoT – 14 Case Studies

Looking Ahead

Today’s enterprise systems generate enormous volumes of data that can be fed into AI, ML and IoT technologies to analyze meaningful trends and generate actionable insights. C-level decision makers must understand the important role of this treasure trove of enterprise and customer data in building and maintaining stronger customer relationships, providing hyper-personalized offers and increasing client engagements.

What’s the best way to evaluate where these technologies can be best applied? We recommend:

  • Identifying repetitive business processes that require a lot of manual intervention, often leading to mistakes in order fulfillment, inventory management, shipping, purchasing and billing. When automated, these tasks are predictable and manageable — freeing human resources to focus on more critical tasks.
  • Assessing IT back-office systems and batch processing functions, which are good candidates for intelligent automation.
  • Automating customer service functions for inquiries or tech support with virtual assistants to encourage self-help.
  • Enhancing business processes with ML algorithms to predict employee/customer churn, track equipment conditions and resolve trouble tickets faster by intelligently routing work to the right agent.

As ML, AI and IoT solutions mature, their impact will be felt in more profound ways across the enterprise. The time is now for companies to weave these disruptive technologies into their strategic agendas to enrich the customer experience, streamline processes, drive profitable business growth and transform the way they operate and serve customers.

This article originally appeared on cognizant.com

[Download]: Stepping into IoT – 14 Case Studies

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Robot delivery: Bots will be bringing parcels to your home

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Ford, FedEx and Amazon are each at an advanced stage with autonomous robot delivery vehicles, designed to bring packages to the doors of businesses and homes. Several successful pilots have been completed.

Each robot looks different but the objective is similar — getting a package to a customer using an autonomous machine. The aim of these new robot delivery tools is to boost efficiency and eliminate the need to pay people to carry out the final part of the delivery process.

Ford / Agility Robotics

Ford, more commonly associated with cars and trucks, is partnering with legged locomotion specialist Agility Robotics to assess how self-driving car deliveries can be improved. The project objective is to ensure self-driving vehicles can accomplish something that’s been very difficult to accomplish: carrying out the last step of the delivery, from the car to the recipient’s front door.

The two companies hope the answer is a two-legged robot called “Digit”.

Digit has been designed to approximate the look and walk of a human. The robot is constructed from lightweight material and it is capable of lifting packages that weigh up to 40 pounds. In tests, Digit has been shown to be capable of going up and down stairs and to negotiate uneven terrain, thanks to the use of LiDAR and stereo cameras.

FedEx

The courier delivery services company FedEx is developing an autonomous delivery robot designed to assist retailers make same-day and last-mile deliveries to their customers. The device is called the FedEx SameDay Bot, and the aim is to deliver packages by bot directly to customers’ homes or businesses the same day. The device has been developed in collaboration with DEKA Development & Research Corp., run by Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway.

The FedEx device is the most adventurous of the three, in that it will cross roads and is destined to cover longer distances. The interaction with roads is supported by machine-learning algorithms to help the robot to detect and avoid obstacles, plot a safe path, and to follow road and safety rules.

Amazon Scout

Amazon’s autonomous delivery robots are about to begin rolling out on California sidewalks. Amazon Scout will begin with delivering packages to the company’s Prime customers residing in Southern California. The new Amazon device will work during daylight hours, providing small and medium-sized packages to customers. The Amazon Scout is a six-wheeled electric-powered vehicle around the size of a small cooler. In terms of movement, the Scout rolls along sidewalks at what’s described as a walking pace.

Amazon began testing out the Scout in January 2019, running a pilot program using six machines to deliver packages in Snohomish County, Washington. Vice president of Amazon Scout Sean Scott said: “We developed Amazon Scout at our research and development lab in Seattle, ensuring the devices can safely and efficiently navigate around pets, pedestrians and anything else in their path.”

Following the success of the pilot — where the Scout autonomously navigated the various obstacles commonly found in residential neighborhoods like trashcans, skateboards, lawn chairs, the occasional snow blower and more — the device is ready for a wider launch.

The wider launch will feature a small number of Amazon Scout devices, delivering Monday through Friday, during daylight hours in the Irvine area of California, according to Smart2Zero. Customers will order items as they would normally, but in some cases their Amazon packages will be delivered by an Amazon Scout. To make sure things go smoothly, each Scout will initially be accompanied by a human “Amazon Scout Ambassador.”

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Amazon adds fear detection and age ranges to its facial-recognition tech as the Border Patrol looks to award a $950 million contract

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  • Amazon Web Services has added several new features to its facial-recognition technology, Rekognition.
  • This includes expanded age-recognition capabilities and the new ability to recognize fear.
  • Rekognition is a controversial technology and has been the subject of much criticism and protests — from both inside and outside Amazon.
  • These new features drew some flack from commenters on Twitter.
  • Meanwhile, the US Customers and Border Patrol is looking for quotes on a sweeping new border protection system that includes more facial-recognition tech.

Amazon Web Services has expanded the capabilities of its controversial facial-recognition technology called Rekognition.

It now better detects more age ranges and it can also detect fear, the company announced in a blog post on Monday.

The company explained (emphasis ours):

“Today, we are launching accuracy and functionality improvements to our face analysis features. Face analysis generates metadata about detected faces in the form of gender, age range, emotions, attributes such as ‘Smile’, face pose, face image quality and face landmarks. With this release, we have further improved the accuracy of gender identification. In addition, we have improved accuracy for emotion detection (for all 7 emotions: ‘Happy’, ‘Sad’, ‘Angry’, ‘Surprised’, ‘Disgusted’, ‘Calm’ and ‘Confused’) and added a new emotion: ‘Fear’.Lastly, we have improved age range estimation accuracy; you also get narrower age ranges across most age groups.”

Earlier this month AWS also announced that Rekognition can now detect violent content such as blood, wounds, weapons, self-injury, corpses, as well as sexually explicit content.

But it was the news of more age ranges and fear detection that was met with comments on Twitter.

Just last month several protesters interrupted Amazon AWS CTO Werner Vogels during a keynote speech at an AWS conference in New York.

They were protesting AWS’s work with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the family separation policy at the Southern Border. Amazon hasn’t acknowledged whether ICE uses its Rekognition technology, but the company did meet with ICE officials to pitch its facial-recognition tech, among other AWS services, as revealed by emails between Amazon and various government officials obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundations.

Amazon’s Rekognition has come under fire from a wide range of groups who want the company to stop selling it to law enforcement agencies. In April, AI experts penned an open letter to Amazon about it. Civil rights group have protested it. 100 Amazon employees sent a letter to management last year asking the company to stop selling Rekognition to law enforcement. Another 500 signed a letter this year asking Amazon to stop working with ICE altogether.

“AWS comes under fire for Rekognition sales to the federal government, who in turn is building concentration camps for children, and AWS’s response is to improve ‘age range estimation’ and ‘fear detection’ in the service? Are you f– KIDDING ME?!” tweeted Corey Quinn from the Duckbill Group, a consultant that helps companies manage their AWS bill. Quinn also hosts theScreaming in the Cloud podcast.

Another developer tweeted, “In 25 years we’re going to be talking about how AWS handled this situation in the same way we talk about how IBM enabled the holocaust. Every engineer and ML researcher who worked on this should be ashamed of themselves.”

The CBP is looking to buy more facial-recognition tech

Meanwhile, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a sister agency to ICE, has put out a new request for quotes on a sweeping new border-security system that includes expanded use of facial-recognition technology.

“Integration of facial recognition technologies is intended throughout all passenger applications,” the RFQ documents say.

The CBP already uses facial recognition at various airports, such as in Mexico City, where it matches passenger’s faces with photos taken from their passports or other government documents, it says.

And the CBP uses other biometric information, such as taking fingerprints of people at the border if it suspects that they are entering the country illegally, it says.

“CBP’s future vision for biometric exit is to build the technology nationwide using cloud computing,” the agency wrote in a 2017 article about the use of facial recognition and finger-print tech.

This new contract for new border security technologies is expected to begin in early 2020 and could be worth $950 million over its lifespan, according to the RFQ documents.

This article was originally published on Business Insider. Copyright 2019.

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IBM launches ‘Trust Your Supplier’ blockchain initiative

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IBM and Chainyard have announced a new blockchain network called Trust Your Supplier, which is a blockchain-based platform that simplifies supply chain management and improves supplier qualification, validation, onboarding and life cycle information management.

IBM sees the new blockchain-based network as critical to the continued growth and advancement of the global supply chain industry. The technology provides a digital passport for supplier identity on the blockchain. This will enable suppliers to share information with any permissioned buyer on the network to make qualifying, validating and managing new suppliers easier and less time-consuming.

The Trust Your Supplier platform is being pioneered by several leading companies, such as Anheuser-Busch InBev, GlaxoSmithKline, Lenovo, Nokia, Schneider Electric and Vodafone. Each of these founding participants is in the process of onboarding their suppliers. These are leading companies across industries like technology, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and food and beverage.

By eliminating manual, time-consuming processes, the Trust Your Supplier technology aims to help reduce the risk of fraud and errors by establishing a connected environment among global suppliers. With more than 18,500 global suppliers, IBM itself will begin using and onboarding 4,000 of its North American suppliers to the Trust Your Supplier network. This is expected to be completed during quarter 3 of 2019.

Convening a network of leading companies with shared challenges and goals, Trust Your Supplier has been designed to assist companies working across multiple industries to design and implement more efficient processes to solve a common problem in relation to the supply chain.

Representing one of the first companies to take up the service, Sanjay Mehta, Vice President Procurement, Nokia, states: “Working with IBM and Chainyard on this blockchain initiative represents a great opportunity for Nokia to further enhance our suppliers’ experience and optimize the onboarding process (process of integrating a new supplier into an organization’s network). Using the latest technology to address a classical challenge will be of benefit for everyone, and further increase the speed of using innovative solutions.”

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