Business of Bots 2017 Wrap-up

October 9th – 11th 2017 

South San Francisco Conference Center 

On a smoky day in San Francisco, Chatbot professionals got together at the Business of Bots conference to discuss, AI & Bots.  The northern California fires were raging 30 miles away and getting indoors allowed us to stay out of the smoke.  These fires make us realize the limit and power of technology, while there is very little that technology can do to prevent fires, it helps people get back together and all the communities affected to rebuild. 

Bots at the Business of Bots! 

Different companies were presenting their solutions ranging from point and focus solutions to more global ones.  As I was trying to understand how these companies were thinking about the Bot world, it was apparent that this industry segment was emerging and gaining more prominence.  This means that there are a lot more solutions now but many buyers/users are not sure what to expect from a bot deployment.  This fact was very much in evidence at the “Business of Bots”. 

To see how businesses vs individuals can benefit from Bots, let’s first take stock of where we are.  We could use the ranking system developed by the autonomous driving industry were 1 identifies the lowest level of car autonomy and 5 fully self-driving or autonomous.  In the Bot world, we can say we are at 2, where companies and some individuals know that deploying bot technology will happen, no matter what and at the same time it only solves limited problems.   

What are “Bots”, what are they looking like today and what they could look like soon?  Another way to look at it is, what problems are they best suited to solve today and what will they solve in the future? 

Looking at some of the consumer solutions, we mentioned in a previous article, a couple of companies have developed bots to buy online tickets and/or to find evening activities.  At the “Business of Bots”, I went to a discussion with James Vlahos, the Founder of Dadbot and Wired magazine writer.  James originally was looking and working on understanding what bots would look like, what would be their applications and how to program them.  This work led to him creating DadBot, a way for him to memorialize his Dad before he died.  James mentioned that he could make his DadBot reasonably work and mimic his dad.  While being a“simple” Bot deployment, his family felt that they could experience their dad through it. 

On the other extreme of the spectrum, you have the Microsoft Bot framework or the Facebook Messenger platform and/or interfaces such as Siri or Alexa/Lex that are bot interfaces and bots themselves.  These solutions are either designed for processing volumes of data and or to address very specific problems at scale.  They mostly focus on the consumer market, but we are starting to see a greater focus on the B2B side of chatbot solutions. 

In general, today Bots are solving very specific and targeted problems, although not many can address bigger issues without a massive budget like the AutoDesk AVA chatbot deployment featured at the conference.  In part, this is due to how early we are in the development cycle and also due to the amount of data available to make these chatbots more powerful. In the AutoDesk case, the had a huge amount of legacy data to draw upon and now AVA is handling more than 40% of customer service issues.  Learn more about the Autodesk AVA case study that leverages the IBM Watson platform.   How Autodesk sped up customer response time by 99% with Watson.  Watch the video 

Another limitation is understanding how to deploy them effectively.  No matter what, it is clear that the sooner a company deploys a bot, the better across time it will become.  Because it will gather more and more data and get better trained, we should expect the sophistication of these tools to increase exponentially.  Chatbots will become a major solution for competitive successes inside and outside the enterprise.  Another way to look at it, they will be crucial in an enterprise, internally for workers to be better informed, more efficient, and effective.  They will also be crucial customer-facing tools, to better inform potential and actual customers and increase a company's competitive advantage. 

The problems they are solving in the enterprise today are mostly simplistic where they help companies better manage and engage customers.  They in many ways address bottlenecks and/or make sure that potential customers stay engaged.  Speaking with Instabot President and Co-Founder Amy Kadomatsu and with Zakie Twainy, V.P. Chatbots, it was enlightening to learn how their clients are using and deploying their technology. is focusing on deploying sales enablement solutions; they were explaining that they are seeing a lot of initial successes in lead generation and improving the buying process conversions. 

Where do we go from here? 

Clearly, chatbots are arriving, and they will be here to stay.  We may not always recognize that we are dealing with a bot, but increasingly, it will become apparent.  Bots are integration tools bringing different environments and data sources together, it could be for consumer/customer facing solutions or within the enterprise, delivering internal solutions to better bring together productivity tools.  One of the debates happening today is about people being informed if they are interacting with bots or not?  As the technology evolves and they are more pervasive, it will be less and less obvious what is what! Stay tuned!  The Business of Bots conference was a well-executed event with strong management, excellent speakers and a broad audience of enterprise technology executives.  We will be looking forward to their next events. 

About the Author:  Gui Orliac is the Publisher of AI & Chatbot News and works in the tech field in the San Francisco Bay Area.  He also volunteers his time as an advisor for several startups and accelerators.  Contact Gui Here.  

Check out AI & Chatbot News upcoming schedule of webinars HERE

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10 Nov 2017

By Gui Orliac