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Facebook acquires AI startup Ozlo to boost Messenger bots

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Facebook Founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg. Photo courtesy Facebook
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Facebook has acquired Ozlo, a conversational AI service launched in October 2016. The company’s platform offers rich intelligence capabilities that can interpret the meaning of textual conversations, making it a clear fit for Facebook’s Messenger.

Chatbots are now one of Facebook’s main focuses as it works to build out its Messenger ecosystem. The company has been concentrating on developing text-based AI because it has a narrower scope than spoken conversations.

Ozlo was created by Charles Jolly, Facebook’s former head of Android development, and TechCrunch reports Jolly will not be moving with Ozlo to Facebook.

Ozlo offered developers a platform they could use to interpret information from text messages. The product was based on a detailed knowledge graph containing simple facts about the world and common processes. It would match its rules against statements in the messages, allowing it to determine what was being said.

In a statement on its website, Ozlo said it started out during a “tremendous explosion” of mobile communication. Describing its service as “world-class,” the company said it is joining Facebook’s Messenger team so it can build more new experiences.

“We’re ready to take the next step in our journey with Messenger,” Ozlo said. “By joining a team that shares our values and our vision, we will be able to continue to work on building experiences powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. There’s a lot more for us to explore ahead and we’re excited to bring our technology to the Messenger community.”

Facebook is rapidly developing its Messenger platform around artificial intelligence and automation. Its bot platform is growing and the company is also expanding its in-app digital assistant, M. There are several ways for Ozlo to be incorporated into the Messenger ecosystem but Facebook isn’t providing any details.

Facebook may want access to Ozlo’s knowledge graph, giving it new sources of information for its AI services. Information is fast becoming a commodity in the AI-driven cloud where new neural networks must be “trained” to comprehend the world using existing facts. Ozlo now has two billion data points in its graph, making it an attractive data set for Facebook.

Facebook didn’t disclose the acquisition price, but Ozlo had raised $14 million from several investors.

The company confirmed its existing services and APIs will be shut down as a result of the deal, leaving its customers looking for alternative AI platforms.

James Walker
Author: James Walker

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Finding a balance between consumer experience, privacy, and trust

A new study finds that 85% of global executives believe smooth digital transactions are “essential to business survival.”

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According to a new study, business success is largely dependent on how smooths consumers find their digital transactions.

The global study by The Economist Intelligence Unit and consumer credit reporting agency TransUnion found that close to 85% of global executives surveyed said they believe “smooth digital transactions are ‘essential to business survival’ rather than merely a competitive edge.”

The report — titled New Dimensions of Change: Building Trust in a Digital Consumer Landscape — featured responses from 1,610 executives in Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, India, the Philippines, South Africa, the UK, and the US. 

One of the biggest takeaways is that technologies like AI, national IDs, and super-apps (apps that act as all-in-one experiences like WeChat and Alipay) “can help overcome hurdles and possibly create new challenges to building digital trust.”

New transformations mean new risks

Going hand in hand with the COVID-related acceleration of digital transformation — in conjunction with work-from-home and stay-home mandates — there’s been a massive surge in online spending. According to the report’s introduction, global e-commerce monthly traffic has grown from 16 billion to 22 billion between January and June this year. 

But of course, with this acceleration comes a whole new range of risks, with a rise in cyber-fraud and phishing scams. 

Per its introduction, the report asks these important questions:

How can executives both grow their business, while also mitigating fraud and managing the upheavals of the pandemic? What changes have they made to the digital transaction process? And how has the pandemic played into longer-term digital transformation initiatives such as artificial intelligence (AI), digital wallets and national digital identification schemes?

“All of this digital progress will be wiped out if we can’t remove these barriers to building bilateral digital trust,” explains Shai Cohen, senior vice president of Global Fraud Solutions at TransUnion. For instance, two-thirds of executives in the study who said their company changed their digital transaction process as a result of the pandemic experienced glitches.”

Building trust

When looking at ways of building consumer trust, en route to preventing fraud, respondents overwhelmingly indicated that:

  • Biometrics will emerge as the dominant method for customer authentication (85%).
  • AI can go a long way in security and fraud detection (43%).
  • Consumer fraud can be mitigated through a national digital ID system (79%). It should also be noted that 7 in 10 respondents believe that such a system would allow low-income groups to have better access to services.

“Technological innovations like AI, biometrics and national digital IDs paired with proven fraud prevention methods like device intelligence can provide a more convenient and inclusive way for consumers to transact that still protects security and privacy,” said Cohen.

DX Journal Staff
Author: DX Journal Staff

DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.

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Acceleration and AI: The digital transformation of sales in 2020

77% of sales leaders say their digital transformation has accelerated since last year.

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When the pandemic started, most industries had to work quickly to adapt to the now-ubiquitous ‘new normal.’ Whether that meant adjusting to work-from-home or using new tools to better reach and respond to customers, agility — and digital transformation — was at the forefront.

And sales departments, no doubt, had a significant shakeup.

According to Salesforce’s recently-released, data-driven Fourth Edition State of Sales report, 72% of sales reps say success metrics have changed in light of economic trends. The report — generated from a survey of almost 6,000 B2B and B2B2C sales professionals from around the world — also found that 58% of sales reps expect their roles to change permanently. 

When results are narrowed to sales professionals within the technology sector, 55% of respondents say their customer relationships are stronger than in 2019, and 60% say they expect their role to permanently change.

Digital transformation 

Looking specifically at the state of DX in sales, 77% of sales leaders say their digital transformation has accelerated since 2019. This aligns with the overall trend of DX adoption being expedited as a result of the pandemic — a topic we’ve covered. (See here, here, here, here, and here.)

(Image via Salesforce)

In addition, “81% of respondents say sales technology needs have changed significantly since last year, and that they’re implementing changes faster than in 2019.” Among sales operations, 84% say DX has accelerated since 2019. 

One technology that’s seeing increased adoption in sales is AI. Its use has grown by 76% since 2018, the report found. According to Salesforce’s summary, “salespeople consider AI’s most significant impact to be improved understanding of customer needs — which speaks to the speed of change and importance of insight into customers’ evolving situations.” Among high-performing sales organizations, 57% report using AI to “improve internal processes and customer experience.”

DX Journal Staff
Author: DX Journal Staff

DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.

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Digital transformation is vital for COVID crisis recovery in Latin America and Caribbean

“The crisis has created the momentum for long-overdue reforms that can help spread the benefits of digital transformation to achieve inclusive and resilient growth,” says OECD Secretary General.

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A new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows digital transformation is the key to quicker recovery from the COVID-19 crisis for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Produced jointly with the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UN ECLAC), the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), and the European Union (EU), the report details the harsh impact of the pandemic on marginalized populations. 

Titled Latin American Economic Outlook (LEO) 2020: Digital Transformation for Building Back Better, the report found that microenterprises were hit especially hard — 2.7 million are likely to close, at a loss of 8.5 million jobs.

“The socioeconomic crisis makes a new development model more urgent than ever,” said Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of ECLAC. “Digitalisation could be a powerful tool to overcome the structural challenges of the region, only if it is considered as a comprehensive way to foster progressive structural change, through policies for the generation of new sectors, quality jobs, the development of capacities and innovation.”

According to Ángel Gurría, Secretary General of the OECD, “the crisis has created the momentum for long-overdue reforms that can help spread the benefits of digital transformation to achieve inclusive and resilient growth.”

“It also highlights the urgent need to bridge the digital divides between territories, families, students, workers, and firms.”

The role of DX

How can digital transformation help Latin American and Caribbean communities? 

“By stimulating business innovation and new consumption models, transforming production systems and value chains, re-organising economic sectors, and introducing new conditions of competitiveness,” the report found.

One way digital tools can help is providing support for better access to services, such as healthcare and education, in addition to putting the people at the center of policymaking.

As Luis Carranza, Executive President of CAF added, “digital transformation offers a unique opportunity to boost productivity and to provide better public services in Latin America and the Caribbean. With Covid-19, the region has accelerated its digital processes, but there is still a long way to close the gap with advanced economies.”

“A rough road ahead”

There are certainly challenges in the way of advanced digital transformation acceleration. 

Take internet access. In 2018, 68% of the population in LAC used it regularly, behind the OECD average of 84%. Inequality is also evident here. 75% of the richest population in Latin America use the internet compared to only 37% of the poorest population.

In terms of digital transformation, over 20% of jobs in some countries are likely to be automated in some fashion. As a result, investment in education and training in digital skills is crucial.  

In order for the digital transformation agenda of the region to be successful, the report details recommendations for better coordination of efforts, and how these need to align with National Development Plans. There’s also an emphasis on the importance of international partnerships to the success of DX efforts. 

DX Journal Staff
Author: DX Journal Staff

DX Journal covers the impact of digital transformation (DX) initiatives worldwide across multiple industries.

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