In the first part of this article, Futurist Daniel Burrus postulated that Siri, a first generation ultra intelligent electronic agent (UIEA), will change how we interact with technology and could make wading through the gazillion returns from a typical Google search a relic of the past. In part, II, Burrus explains what that brave new world may look like and how your company can capitalize it.
Ultra intelligent electronic agents (UIEAs) provide a new level of competitive advantage to the enterprise because they help create a level of electronic advice and trust between your company and your customers and your employees. Even though the world is more and more technological, human relationships are, somewhat paradoxically, more and more important.
Trust is still something that either earns you business or loses you business. Business, all business, is still about trust and relationships. If deployed thoughtfully, UIEAs can be used to either increase and solidify that bond way beyond anything we are seeing today.
You could, for example, expand upon this trust by offering your customers a plug-in for their UIEA making your company’s information a part of your customer’s intelligent agent so your company is always top of mind for them.
Sell and connect better
Suppose you regularly use a certain pharmacy in your neighborhood. You trust the pharmacist’s advice and get all your prescriptions there. If they offered a plug-in to your electronic agent that could make sure you had no drug reactions and reminded you to take the medication, you’d probably get it, right?
That way, whenever you have a new medication or medical condition, your UIEA is accessing your pharmacy plug-in, as well as other plug-ins (like your travel schedule) you have, so you don’t have to worry about refills, for example. Likewise, you may want to add a plug-in from your doctor’s office so you can have advice on recommended exercise plans. That, too, would talk to your pharmacy plug-in so you’d know not to operate any machinery while taking a certain medication.
Maybe your financial planner will offer an agent plug-in to help you manage your investments. Your child’s school might offer a plug-in giving you information about your child’s progress. And your bank might offer a plug-in to help maintain your account balances and other financial information.
The list of possible plug-ins is endless. Essentially, you’ll build your agent based on the relationships with the different companies and organizations you work with and have a trusting relationship with.
Siri is just the beginning
Currently, Siri and its competitors represent a general, early intelligent agent, which means it’s intelligent, but not that intelligent. In the near future, though, it will get a lot more intelligent. Not only will it get more intelligent, but it will also get more personalized.
For example, let’s say you and I both have iPhones and we both use AT&T as our carrier. Even though we have the same phone, if I bet you $1,000 that my phone is still much different than your phone I’d win. Why? Because I have hundreds of thousands of apps to choose from and download and the chances of us choosing and downloading the exact same group of apps is pretty remote. So it’s not an iPhone, it’s a myPhone; customized by me to serve my need best. The same holds true for tablets.
In that same way, we’re going to create a customized UIEA by adding little components to it from the most trusted providers. That’s why business needs to wake up to this and take part -- you want your company’s plug-in a part of every customer’s intelligent agent.
Additionally, we’ll have B2B intelligent agents. Now it’s not just about interacting with customers, it’s also about selling to businesses that service or sell to other businesses, to suppliers, to distributors, etc. Various levels of this selling, servicing, and advising will be done using intelligent agents to save us time.
Finally, we know that over 70 percent of Apple’s revenue and 48 percent of IBM’s revenue comes from products that were impossible to do just a little over two years ago. Looking forward, what does that mean? Well, how much of your future profitability will come from things that are impossible to do right now? What if you knew about those things now? How would that help your company’s future?
A glimpse of the future: Marylyn, Stallone, or the Terminator?
To help you better see how UIEAs could work in everyday life, let’s take a look at the very near future:
Only you will have access to your personal agent. You will use two forms of biometric identification, like your voice and signature, or your voice and fingerprint, to identify yourself. Only you will be able to select the plug-ins you want and their level of functionality.
You will determine what your agent will look like, the voice it will have, and its personality. You may even opt to rent a public personality to be your agent. For example, if you want a little humor in your personal agent you might rent, at a nominal fee, the likeness and personality of Will Ferrell or Tina Fey. Some may want John Wayne or Marilyn Monroe. This will create an entire new revenue stream for public personalities. That means there will be a wide variety of agents from which to choose.
Think of your intelligent agent as a personal concierge desk. Wherever you might benefit from an agent, mentor, or coach, you will begin to find electronic versions. You’ll wake up in the morning and your agent will greet you as you access your computer, smart phone, or tablet. It might say, “I see from your calendar you are flying to Seattle this afternoon. It will be raining, so don’t forget your umbrella. The flight you were taking is having a mechanical delay, so I rebooked you on another flight. Last night, the stock you were interested in hit the price point you wanted, and after accessing all of the best analysts’ reports I felt confident in purchasing 200 shares, per your request. Don’t forget, this is your day to exercise.”
A.I. in the cloud
Since the cloud is wherever you go, your agent will always be there when you want or need help. Your agent will let you know the minute you have a new e-mail or voice mail and ask if you want it now or later. It will inform you of traffic delays as you drive and offer alternative routes. Thanks to the growth of smart parking lots, as you enter the airport the agent will tell you how to get to the closest parking space available.
Imagine that you are on a vacation with your family; you’ve been driving for hours and you’re all getting hungry. Since your car knows your exact location, direction, and destination (thanks to your GPS navigation system) and since the car will be Web-enabled, all you have to do is speak the name of your UIEA and tell it that you are hungry.
The agent will ask each passenger what they would like to eat and when. Based on the answers, it will access all of the electronic menus of each restaurant within a ten-mile forward radius of the car’s position. The agent will recommend where to go based on the food preferences and budget limitations, and then provide driving directions to the restaurant.
Your intelligent agent will use neural network technology to learn more about you every time you use it. This type of function already exists on many websites, such as Amazon.com, where the company keeps track of the items you purchase from it and asks if you would like recommendations. The more items you buy, the better the recommendations become as the system gets to know what you like and dislike with each purchase.
Imagine sitting down in front of your television, turning it on and, since it is connected to the Web, your intelligent agent pops up and asks what you are in the mood to watch. Let’s say you want an adventure movie that you have never seen before. The agent will suggest an adventure movie (set in the future because your past adventure movie selections were also set in the future). If possible, it will suggest a movie that has your favorite actors and director, and a plot that has twists and turns the way you like it best.
Before showing you the movie, your agent might say, “I know you have wanted to buy a sail boat. I have found several that fit your specifications. Would you like to look at the boats and have me review the materials now or later?”
Your agent will monitor your complete health and wellness, reminding you to take your medicine, warning you of potential allergic reactions from new prescriptions, helping you with your diet, and guiding you through your optimum exercises.
Your agent will play electronic games with you when you can’t find a real person to play with. Many will prefer playing with their intelligent agent because of the pre-selected personality and the different ability levels you can select. For example, you may want to play a combat game and select as your agent opponents Sylvester Stallone, Clint Eastwood, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Each will get a slight royalty for the use of their electronic identity. Want a little more challenge? Add Superman.
For many, the intelligent agent will become a friend, listening to and solving problems, responding sympathetically and suggesting helpful resources. They will be great “listeners” and will respond only when a response is needed and with the kind of response you have found most helpful over time. (This
subject will spawn much debate topic in the years ahead as people rely more and more on their agents.)
Professional psychologists will provide plug-in modules for patients to help guide them through tough situations. Career counselors will provide plug-in modules to help you think through career changes, giving you guidance as you make career path decisions and linking you to the best resources.
You will most likely have one main agent you interface with the most, but you will have others that help you both at home and at work. For example, organizational agents will execute tasks on behalf of a business process. Personal agents will carry out tasks on behalf of one user. In time, businesses and individuals will delegate basic responsibilities to a customized collection of highly intelligent electronic agents.
The future of Google, Bing and Yahoo!
In the future, will anyone want to do a manual search or surf the Web when their electronic agent can simply do the work for them? To help answer that question, it is important to remember a guiding principle I have shared over the years: To see the future, think "both/and."
Some people will want to surf the Web and do manual searches while others will never take on that task again. But it is easy to predict that the number of people going to a search site will diminish greatly because of the increasing value of our time.
So does that mean that Google and others are out of business? Not if they have expanded their vision of what they are and how they serve customers. In fact, Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search companies will be key players in the development of UIEAs. Why? Because, if they don’t do it, someone else will.
The same can be said for your company.
You want to be the first in your industry to offer customers an UIEA plug-in. Remember, this is going to happen, and you don’t want to be on the back end of the curve. This is a major opportunity to add value to your organization, and your role as the CIO is to provide competitive advantage that can accelerate growth using technology.
Offering an UIEA is not something that is here today, gone tomorrow. It’s something that is already here. Today. It's just getting started. If you don’t act first, someone else in your industry will. Plan your future now.
Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading technology forecasters and business strategists, and is the founder and CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients better understand how technological, social and business forces are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. He is the author of six books, including the national bestseller "Flash Foresight: How To See the Invisible and Do the Impossible" as well as the highly acclaimed Technotrends. Be sure to check out Volume 2 of Daniel's "Know What's Next Magazine," an annual publication on strategies for transforming your business and future.