Salesforce aims to assist in new discoveries with IoT Explorer

Salesforce aims to assist in new discoveries with IoT Explorer

Salesforce has launched IoT Explorer Edition, a tool for embedding IoT data in sales, service and marketing workflows.

It’s been almost four years since Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff whipped out a toothbrush in his keynote speech at the company’s Dreamforce 2013 conference, to illustrate a point about the future of smart objects, and two years since he launched IoT Cloud at Dreamforce 2015.

This week, however, some weeks ahead of Dreamforce 2017, Salesforce has announced a new initiative, IoT Explorer Edition, which company executives say is designed to help customers not just make sense of IoT data but also put it to work.

Read more: Salesforce: The connected customer is changing manufacturing

Low-code approach

Moreover, it uses a “low code” way of generating IoT business workflows. In other words, non-technical employees should be able to connect to IoT-enabled sensors, devices and machines and incorporate the information that these ‘things’ convey into everyday tasks.

For example, IoT data from a delivery truck from an industrial laundry company might enable central controllers to identify its location, figure out how full it is, and ask the driver to make one more pick-up of bed linen from a local hotel. Or a local car dealership might be able to coordinate a marketing campaign for discounted servicing once a car that it sold reached a particular mileage.

Read more: Salesforce outlines vision for the future of enterprise software

Customer slant

Because this is Salesforce, there’s naturally a sales, service and marketing angle to all this. The business of keeping customers happy and the products they buy working for them is important to companies of all sizes and in many industries, so the marriage of IoT and customer relationship management (CRM) makes sense.  

More importantly, Salesforce has real-life customers already using the technology and these are big-name, heavy-hitting industrial companies. Emerson is one; the $ 20.2 billion maker of heating and air conditioning systems is using IoT Explorer to deliver proactive service based on real-time diagnostics. In other words, if you’re connected air con system is on the blink, it’s possible that Emerson will know about it and may have already been in touch to organize a visit from an engineer.

Another IoT Explorer user is Schneider Electric, the €24 billion ($ 28.4 million) energy management and automation giant, which is now driving targeted sales campaigns that anticipate a customer’s next purchase based on the performance capacity of its existing electrical equipment.

Other companies involved in IoT Explorer pilots are Lippert Components, a company that makes components for RVs (recreational vehicles) and Rehrig Pacific, a maker of plastic pallets and containers.

Salesforce IoT Explorer Edition will be generally available from 17 October as an add-on to Salesforce’s various cloud products.

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RBS rolls out hybrid bot service to assist customers

RBS rolls out hybrid bot service to assist customers

New York-based LivePerson, a provider of bot platforms for brands, claims to have rolled out “the first financial industry hybrid bots in the world”, at the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

Announced in a trial in March 2016, RBS Assist, is the bank’s artificial intelligence (AI) chabtot service. It aims to provide customer’s with a better online experience by answering frequently asked questions (FAQs) about, say, online banking.

Back then, it was merely an internal trial. Now the service is being rolled out to customers, allowing them to communicate with a hybrid team of human and bot, working together, in one online conversation.

RBS Assist is powered by a combination of LiveEngage, LivePerson’s open platform, which integrates additional technology like cloud-based AI, and advanced self-service software from digital self-service provider Nanorep. It’s this self-service tech that enables RBS Assist to intelligently answer frequently asked questions (FAQs) by providing a search function that leverages the AI to understand questions based on context.

When customers message the bot from their smartphone or computer, the bot uses AI to analyze massive amounts of data to provide a quick, informed response. If the bot cannot find an adequate response, it passes the customer on to a human member of staff.

The idea is that the bot handles the routine admin tasks, while human staff members are free to spend their time with customers, answering more about complex questions. LivePerson says this “addresses the frustration of chats where the bot cannot help a consumer, who then has to call in to a support line, or go elsewhere for help.”

Read more: IoT will revolutionize customer experience, says report

RBS keeps the human factor

In a blog post, RBS suggested that the human aspects of the bot make it unique to previous efforts to use AI in the financial sector.

“Whilst banks have been using artificial intelligence for some time, this AI is unique in that a ‘human’ like personality has been created for it,” the company said. “This makes it easier for employees to interact with and seek help from. Its unique psychological profile means it has a warmth to its personality, is approachable, creative and uses a combination of intuition and reasoning when answering questions.”

“Like humans, it has to be trained when dealing with new subject matter, but crucially, it learns from its mistakes and its answers become more accurate over time.”

RBS has had a rough ride in the last few years, facing everything from fines and technical glitches to the cancellation of its Williams & Glyn project, but last month the bank announced a change in fortunes and a return to profitability. Clearly, the launch of RBS Assist aims to add to the good news, but whether customers are happy chatting to the bot in the first place remains to be seen.

Just yesterday, research from Ask Your Target Market revealed that consumers aren’t yet confident in the ability of bots to perform complex tasks and answer difficult questions.

Hot on the heels of that research, voice technology company Nuance Communications announced that it is looking to change this attitude with the launch of its own industry-specific chatbots, starting with retail banking. RBS insists that what makes Assist special, however, is that it doesn’t work in isolation from other channels. Perhaps then the addition of the human factor is the key to changing customer perceptions.

Read more: Mastercard signs up five new fintech start-ups

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24-hour drone unit to assist crime-fighting in Devon and Cornwall

24-hour drone unit to assist crime-fighting in Devon and Cornwall

This summer, Devon and Cornwall Police, UK, are set to launch the first 24-hour drone unit to assist with crime fighting.

The ‘flying squad’, as it is informally known, will supposedly assist police with finding missing people and helping to solve murders.

Assistant Chief Constable Steve Barry, the UK National Police Chief’s Council lead on drones, told the Daily Mail that forces across Britain may soon be using them as they are cheaper than helicopters and can perform some of the duties of a policeman on the beat.

There are concerns, however, regarding privacy and whether drones may eventually come to replace officers due to cutbacks.

Devon and Cornwall Police, which covers the largest geographic area of any force in England, is currently advertising for a drone manager to lead the new unit.

Revolutionizing crime-fighting

Sussex and Surrey police forces are also said to be considering whether to expand their use of drones from part-time operations by officers to a full-time unit.

21 forces across the country are known to be experimenting with the technology to carry out duties such as everyday search missions to the monitoring of VIPs, such as those used during royal engagements for the Duchess of Cambridge.

The thinking is that drone fleets can be dispatched much quicker than police units and can therefore cover more ground.

Dorset police and crime commissioner Martyn Underhill told the Mail that drones “have the capability to revolutionize the way we police…There is no reason why [they] can’t become as familiar a sight as patrol cars, a police helicopter or an officer on the beat.”

Read more: UK start-up to deliver humanitarian aid via edible drone

Rationalizing UK police forces

Assistant chief constable Steve Barry told the Mail that the use of drone units may present an opportunity for chiefs to ‘rationalize’ their forces.

“I would not be at all surprised if other forces follow in due course – the question is not whether they will, it’s when,” he said.

“There may be an opportunity at some point in the future to rationalize what we need our cops to do because we find drones can do it more effectively and more cost-efficiently … an example of that would be looking for missing people.

“That opportunity has not yet manifested. There will be a point where that question gets asked. I think it’s a brave senior officer who will make that step that is going to cut cops because they have got drones.”

“If delivering the best service within the budget means using drones for something, a cop is now free to go to that burglary. It’s about freeing resources,” he concluded.

However, chief superintendent Jim Nye, strategic alliance commander for operations in Devon, Cornwall and Dorset, said there were no plans to cut officer numbers.

Read more: Finnish drone start-up Aeromon maps industrial emissions from above

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