What will the future bring for enterprise messaging? Machines ‘talking’ to other machines?  People outsourcing humdrum tasks to their own personal chatbots? At Messaging & SMS World, three MEF experts debated the possibilities…

If two bots have a conversation, what does that look like? Would there be text if no one is reading? Audio if no one is listening?

These are head-scratching philosophical questions. They bring to mind trees falling in forests. But the possibility of bots talking to bots is real. In fact, the concept could have a huge impact on the evolution of enterprise messaging.

After all, we know that more and more brands are building their own bots. What if their customers did the same? Yes, what if every consumer in the world had his or her own bot?

At the end of last year, a group of experts were convened by MEF to discuss ‘Future Trends in Enterprise Messaging’ at Messaging & SMS World.

They were:

  • Dario Tumiati, Chief Operations, Regulatory & Institutional Affairs, Agile Telecom
  • Mike BordashCTO, Real Networks
  • Doug Makishima, CSMO, Summit Tech

They dug into many topics. The conversation touched on omnichannel trends, messaging in the smart home and the internet of things.

But it was the the potential of the personal assistant bot that animated them most.

Doug Makishima said: “I’m a big fan of the personal assistant bot idea…of a device that should be working for me. Today, we have branded chat bots in the cloud learning about us, but it should be other way round too. I should have a bot that learns my preferences, does research, learns my behaviours and manages my itinerary.”

  I’m a big fan of the personal assistant bot idea…of a device that should be working for me. Today, we have branded chat bots in the cloud learning about us, but it should be other way round too. I should have a bot that learns my preferences, does research, learns my behaviours and manages my itinerary.” Doug Makishima

In fact, this is more than a concept. There have been experiments. Perhaps the most notable came from Facebook. It introduced its M bot as a beta in August 2015. The idea was to have a personal bot in the Messenger app that would learn about the user and the make automated suggestions for payments, diary plans and more.

It was ahead of its time. Facebook closed M down in 2018.

But the project did at least give a tangible expression of what can be a slippery idea. And it showed that the big digital giants are thinking about it.

Mike Bordash says the tech titans are the only realistic hosts of personal assistant bots – for the moment. “The question is who do you trust with your data? I’d say Apple is the forerunner right now,” he said.

Today, many think of an assistant bot as an avatar that can take care of trivial tasks on a person’s behalf. Certainly, it’s easy to see how they could be deployed in the smart home.

On stage, Doug Makashima talked about the potential for messaging to clean up the morass of different apps and standards that control lights, alarms, locks and so on.

“There are a raft of wireless standards, brands and hubs. It’s a big mess. You can elimate the need for multiple apps, and use chat bots to control and monitor – and create a profile to do some sophisticated things. We already have A2P bots. Think of this as person to thing.”

Dario Tumiati agreed. He said: “Messaging and the IoT is related and will evolve closely in the future. Think about the Nest heater. Now you can control it via Google Home. But in future why not messaging?”

However, Bordash believes there are more ambitious use cases for a personal assistant bot.

On stage, he argued for a bot that can help people live better lives. He said: “Everyone has KPIs that equal success. For businesses, the KPIs are simple: they could be customer attrition or loyalty – and businesses will use analytics to move them over time. For people, a KPI could be getting home in time for dinner or helping kids with homework.

“You should be able to codify these metrics, and your bot should be there to make sure your KPIs aren’t drifting.”

And how might these interactions look?

“I think we could get a lot of cues from gaming,” said Bordash. “Things like MMRPG (massively multiplayer role playing games) – they are the playground.”

Interestingly, both Bordash and Makashima have worked on creating their own personal bot IP. Maybe, if one product is successful, the two bots can sue each other.

The panel members’ enthusiasm for the customer bot was clear for all to see. As was their overall optimism about the future of the enterprise messaging space. Their conclusion was: yes, the market will evolve, but the short term opportunity presented by omnichannel – and the longer term excitement of machine-based enterprise communication – should encourage everyone in the space.

Tim Green

Features Editor, MEF Minute

  

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