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Posts from May 2018

Microsoft Moves More into Conversational AI

Last week when 8x8 made an acquisition I remarked that there would be more. A day later Dialpad announced their purchase. Today, it's Microsoft's turn with the purchase of Semantic Machines.

It's easy to speculate why its become a BUY vs. BUILD game surrounding AI. The smart money on the BUY side recognizes that there have been teams working on AI in many different discreet niches, and in turn those teams have developed massive understanding of those specific spaces. That knowledge and specificity is known as domain experience, so while 8x8's move is surrounding contact centers, and Dialpad's is around better understanding of the voice conversation in real time, Microsoft move is about the entire range of conversations (voice, video, text, bots)  between man and machine across the board in including ML (Machine Learning), NLP (natural language processing) and likely NN (neural networks).

My view is that AI will only get more entrenched in business and technology, and the buying of what imaginative minds create won't be stopping any time soon. But it's not the buying or building that matters. It's the implementation and adoption that does, for selling in is one thing, but selling through is where it counts.

SNARKY NOTE: Perhaps Microsoft will outsource the thinking behind Skype to AI, as pal Om Malik's quip from last week entitled "Skype Interrupted" and the related Bloomberg article, leads one to realize that the humans behind Skype sure aren't thinking.



Dialpad Adds Voice AI via TalkIQ Acquisition

Today Dialpad announced the acquisition of  TalkIQ. Just like yesterday's 8x8 AI acquisition this underscores my belief that VoiceAI will be as ubiquitous as collaboration. That means if you're a telco and you're not moving down the AI path and you offer functions like IVR, Voice recording, contact center or conferencing, not to mention regular calling you will be nothing more than PSTN 1.0, not VoIP 3.0.

AI brings lots of new features to telcos, and as I also implied yesterday, Cloud+AI+Fast Network means smarter, faster and cheaper interaction. But all that said, there is the requisite need for human intelligence and that's where neural networks will come into play. Adding a neural brings the ability to learn from a human, and then act like them. For contact centers, as the AI learns what to do right in each situation, the ability to get things done flattens.

The announcement by Dialpad, in which I hold shares, is the first stroke in the direction of where AI helps the entire calling process. More will likely come from this over time, as the service enters beta today, with scheduled launch for later this year.

8x8 Makes an AI Acquisition

Today long time VoIP pioneer 8x8 (the company formerly known as Packet8) made another in their ongoing acquisitions to bolster feature set, capabilities and likely to acquire more talent. They purchased MarianaIQ (MIQ) a company which has been around since 2013 in the AI space.

AI is the next battleground in telecom, and just like collaboration was to conferencing, AI will be the next rung on the ladder when contact centers, conference calls and even real-time one on one calls are being enhanced. With AI you get all types of use of the conversation that goes well beyond machine learning and natural language processing (NLP). AI in the call path will also supplant and surpass the concept of rules based responses. This replacement and advancement will occur when AI based smart IVR's come into play, and where they learn, can be corrected or confirmed by humans, and then based on what is the right answer or action, replicate that over and over again. And that's where the money is, or in reality the savings and that will involve big data, NLP, ML and Neural networks all combined to deliver a richer, smarter and more precise outcome.

AI,  Cloud and gigabit networks also go together, as the speed in which the computations can be done in the cloud and delivered to any device are essential soulmates in the delivery of the data back to the person on the other end. This is where necessary human oversight, by experienced staff comes into play at the very start.

I personally expect to see many other acquisitions and partnerships with AI companies formed by telcos and communications service providers, especially in the UCaaS and Collaboration space as the needed integration can't just be part of the interop like in the old days of VoIP but needs to be woven into the fabric of the business.

8x8, like the other telcos who will follow on quickly with this type of acquisition, will benefit by weaving the AI technology into the core of their platforms. It will be those who innovate swiftly and deliver a superior grade of service, not just features, but actual benefits to their customers and their customers' customers in turn, who win the race.


My Time Has Come: I'm Being Inducted Into The AAHA Hockey Hall of Fame

Tomorrow something very special is happening to. I'm being inducted into the AAHA's Hall of Fame. I'm already the youngest ever Director Emeritus since 1988 and now will become the youngest ever Hall of Fame inductee....but given how early I started, well, this should be no surprise.
Thirty years ago I "retired" from the Philadelphia Flyers after almost 13 years of running what was first known as Hockey Central for the Philadelphia Flyers, and what later became the Flyers Office of Amateur Hockey Affairs. As I look back so much was done in the 12 1/2 years of my time in the AAHA and with the Flyers that it seems like what many hope to accomplish in their lifetime.
Some background
Hockey Central was the brainchild of Aaron Siegel, Ken Gesner and Jim Shute, and I was hired in 1976 along with my very first mentor, Sy "The Wiley Old Veteran" Roseman, someone Larry Lloyd had the great fortune to see in action...he was the best. What I learned from Sy, Aaron, Ken and the late John Gardner during my days in Philadelphia set the BAR high in every walk of life. While Sy may go down as the best mentor, Ed Tepper hired me at age 14 so he gets the credit, while Aaron was the person who molded me, while Ken gets the credit for schooling me all those years. John is who transformed to all THANK YOU for tomorrow's honor never would have come without any of you shaping me and guiding me.
Given I started in my senior year of HIGH SCHOOL as I look back I am a bit in awe of my own accomplishments before I even graduated college.
Here are just a few of my accomplishments from that era:
Tied for first -Employee of Hockey Central as Communications Officer (1976) age 17
Hockey Central was the model, the archetype of a professional sports team getting involved with their "community." We started as a media dissemination organization, but quickly evolved into the hub of all things amateur hockey in the Delaware Valley as I expanded the focus into community events, youth hockey clinics, promotional programs, public affairs, broadcasting and eventually large scale spectator events.
Placing the First Hockey Player ever to be named Athlete of the Week in Philadelphia Inquirer (1977)-Gump Whiteside (age 17)
Co-Publisher of the College Hockey Guide (1977) age 18
Helped launch expanded Coaching Achievement Program (1977) age 18 with 400 person coaching clinic with Flyers Coaches Fred Shero, Barry Ashbee and Mike Nykoluk
Named as the second ever Executive Director of Hockey Central (1978) age 18
Color Commentator of Suburban High School Hockey on WBUX (1978-1980) age 19-21)
Starting The Pepsi Shootout TV Series (1979) age 19/20
Named Commissioner Mid Atlantic Womens' Hockey League (1977)
Named Commissioner Delaware Valley Hockey League (1978) age 19
Creating the Philadelphia Inquirer Hockey Top Ten Poll with High School Sports Editor, Don McKee (winter of 1978/79) age 19
Published Delaware Valley Ice Rink, Youth Hockey and Officiating Guides (1979) age 20
Established first Flyers Sponsored On Ice Official Clinic (1979) age 20 with Vin Godleski, John Shetzline, Mike Condon, Brad Murphy
Placing Scott Chamness in Sports Illustrated's Faces in The Crowd-first Philadelphia area hockey player ever to receive national recognition. (1979) age 20
Named USA Hockey Registrar (1980) age 20
Launched The Flyers Cup High School Hockey Championship (1980) age 20
Placed Scott Chamness to be Named HighSchool Athlete of the Year by Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Magazine (1980) age 20
Named Chief Counselor USA Hockey Midget Development Camp 1981 (age 21) taking Mike Richter went on to play in the Olympics and with New York Rangers (NHL) repeated in 1982
Launched High School and Youth Hockey at the Spectrum (1981) age 22
Co-founder Pennsylvania Cup High School Hockey Championship (1981)
Led effort along with Frank Black to put hockey into the Keystone State Games (1982) age 23
Launched Mites on Ice at Flyers Game (1982) age 23
Restructured and expanded Flyers Youth Hockey Clinic Program (1983) age 24 with help from many players
Named Office Manager, Philadelphia Flyers, 1984 (age 25)
Produced Bobby Clarke's retirement night (November 15 1984) Age 25
Created Flyers Learned to Skate Program at City of Philadelphia Ice Rinks with Jay Snider. First sponsorship was Medford Meats at Cobbs Creek Ice Rink (1984) Age 25
Named President, Hockey Central, (1985) by Jay Snider Age 26
Staged sold out Celebrity All Star Hockey Challenge vs. Flyers Alumni including return of Bobby Clarke February 1988) age 28 raising over $200,000 for youth hockey programs.
General Manager Celebrity All Star Hockey Team 1989-1998 raising 6 million dollars for charity across North America with the leadership and support of many great people starting with Tony Loiacono, Jerry Houser. John Perry and more.
Thank you all who served, played, managed or officiated as you all made this happen....including Jim Doyle, Pat D'Puzzo, Vin Godleski, Joan Schofield, Paul Saylor, Max Putter, Don Anderson, Jim Plunkett, Bruce Craig, Joe Moderski, Andy Richards, Jim Cunningham, Ken Reddy, Iris Jewel, Bob Gastwirth, Albert Natelli, Mike Fore, Tommy Capaccio, The Murph, Barbara Cornwell, Linda Sorens, Elenor Seeds, Delores McDermott, Donn Patton, Rob Grossman, Carl Hirch, Ed Golden, Tom Gorence, Joe and Jim Watson and my idol Bobby Clarke...