Answers To Two Burning Questions About Conversational AI

Warren Miller

Fire: one of civilization’s earliest and most groundbreaking technological advancements.

Two million years ago, when the first homo erectus shared his newfound discovery with his hominid peers, they likely ran for the hills. But once they realized everything they could achieve with fire—from seeing in the dark and keeping warm to cooking food and fashioning tools—they quickly came around.

People have always feared the unknown. Even today, innovative technology initially intimidates most people. But if a tool proves sound and benefits individuals in some tangible way, they’ll eagerly embrace it.

One technology that people are currently on the fence about—particularly in the enterprise space—is conversational artificial intelligence (AI).

While voice-activated digital assistants powered by conversational AI have been a mainstay in the home for the past several years, organizations are just beginning to bring them into the workplace. Many companies remain skeptical, however. They wonder whether these digital assistants can truly help them simplify the lives of their customers and employees. They wonder if they can leverage the technology to save time, cut costs, and increase productivity.

But most of all, they wonder if they can rely on these digital assistants to support people around the globe who speak different languages, and if this technology can securely protect their most sensitive data and proprietary information.

Here are two burning questions companies have about adopting conversational AI tools—and reasons they can finally put their reservations to rest.

1. Does conversational AI support my native language?

Multilingualism is an impressive characteristic, and the ability to fluently speak multiple languages opens up whole new worlds.

What if you could speak 21 different languages? Imagine what you could achieve. Imagine how much you could help others.

Apple’s Siri can do just that. In fact, the company’s digital assistant is way ahead of its conversational AI competitors when it comes to the number of languages it supports. Comparatively, Microsoft’s Cortana supports eight languages, Google Assistant supports four, and Amazon Alexa supports two.

The important thing to note here, however, is that because conversational AI is a branch of machine learning, it has the ability to support any native tongue—eventually.

First, your digital assistant needs a strong knowledge base in each language, be it one widely spoken around the globe, like English, or one used in a specific area of the world, like Shanghainese.

It then requires deep learning algorithms that help your device process structured and unstructured language data in the form of e-mails, online chat logs, or phone transcripts. By studying this data, digital assistants can iron out complex communication issues and improve how they interact with users, no matter the language.

Rather than using a linguistic, rules-based approach—where the device would have to identify nouns, verbs, and adjectives—machine learning is a more scalable solution that enables digital assistants to figure out how words are connected and what phrases do or don’t make sense. In other words, no one has to continue defining specific syntactical rules for the device. It learns them on its own.

If a voice-activated digital assistant doesn’t currently support your native language, rest assured—it can and it will.

2. Will digital assistants threaten the security of my company’s data and proprietary information?

Security is a major concern for companies in today’s digital age—and understandably so.

Cybercrime affected nearly one-third of all organizations in 2016, according to a PwC survey. And Vanson Bourne research found that 87% of CIOs believe their companies lack the security controls necessary to adequately protect their businesses in the future.

While security breaches are certainly something to worry about, sharing your data with digital assistants is more helpful than harmful. And the more data your digital assistants collect, the more their conversational AI capabilities improve, and the better they can assist you.

So, the solution to protecting your data isn’t to stop communicating and sharing your data with digital assistants. Instead, your security depends on taking the proper safety precautions. These include:

  • Muting your device: Although digital assistants wait to hear a trigger word or phrase before helping you, their microphones are always listening—unless you mute them, of course. Find the mute button on your device, and only unmute your digital assistant when you’re actively using it.
  • Sharing only what’s necessary: Giving your digital assistant access to your calendar is one thing. Sharing confidential financial information is something else altogether. Exercise caution in what details you provide your digital assistant.
  • Deleting old recordings: Digital assistants retain audio files of the questions you ask them for months or even years. You do, however, have the option to erase these recordings, and you don’t need to be a magician to make these files disappear; simply visit a website and hit the delete button.

There are also steps that technology companies and developers can take to protect your data. For example, they can ensure that your information is inaccessible to unauthorized users. Today, digital assistants cannot tell the difference between voices. But in the future, with greater conversational AI capabilities, these devices will come equipped with biometric-based authentication such as voice recognition technology—so if your digital assistant is hacked or stolen, an unauthorized user will be unable to control your device and access your data.

Technology companies could also impose severe restrictions around the use and sharing of your company’s proprietary information. If an organization develops a digital assistant for both you and an industry competitor, it can keep your trade secrets private. Your knowledge base will be reserved for your business only. That means no other company can benefit from the questions your employees ask your digital assistant.

By taking the proper precautions with your device—and trusting that the enterprises developing them will do the same—you can rest easy that your company’s data and propriety information will remain safe.

Hesitate to adopt a digital assistant and you’re playing with fire

Two million years ago, our ancestors took a revolutionary step when they discovered how to control fire. But they also learned that if you play with fire, you’re bound to get burned.

Today, if you fear emerging technologies like conversational AI and hesitate to adopt a digital assistant in the workplace, you risk the painful sting of missed opportunities.

Interested in learning more about conversational AI and how digital assistants can empower your enterprise to thrive? Join Juergen Mueller’s strategy talk at SAP TechEd in Las Vegas, September 25-29, or sign up to attend an upcoming SAP TechEd event in Bangalore on October 25-27, or Barcelona on November 14–16 to hear from inspiring industry thought leaders and see innovative technology solutions in action.

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