There is no question that AI and video are going to be more widely deployed in 2019, and beyond. You don't need to be a Gartner Analyst to be seeing and hearing what's ahead. As a matter of fact, as direct to customer approaches are more and more en vogue in every industry, not just in consumer products, all you need to be is on the mailing list of brands with a history of anticipating the future to know what they're focusing on next.
Take Twilio. I'm on their mailing list as I have an account. I don't make much use of it, more to "play" and experiment with simple "consumer" level integrations with Zapier and IFTTT. However, what that gets me is their developer and marketing newsletters, and allows me to know "what's possible." That's why today when I received their post-Christmas drip campaign email from Twilio, I took a look to see what they were up to.
Today's newsletter took the form of a series of short, well-penned announcements about a few new functions which over the past month the CPaaS (communications platform as a service) company has been rolling out. The marketer in me liked the breezy, as it was designed to have the reader click through for me. I liked the way it was presented and the topics, so I bit and clicked.
First is the network video quality API.
This is a function that anyone building group video calling or video conferencing would be interested in, as too often the network connectivity isn't up to carrying a solid video call. While the API today is built for the video calling supplier, the plan is to roll out an SDK to build the reporting into iOS and Android apps. That way the end user can see how good or how bad their connection is, and how well the conversation session will be.
The second item in the drip campaign was Twilio's approach to building Facebook Messenger's Chat bot via Autopilot, Twilio's beta AI platform offers what they say is a "declarative API" that also offers "NLU and ML to parse data, intent, and tasks from customer interactions out of the box." In a nutshell Twilio is connecting Messenger Chatbots to other services, starting with SMS, but there's no reason they can't interconnect to Slack or other messaging based services too.
Here's my take:
- Twilio is using Facebook's universe of connected people to gain as much knowledge as fast as they can about people. The level of interactions, the size of the addressable audience using Messenger and the already text first nature of the participants, is a massive number. This experimental stage deployment helps Twilio build up an extensive lexicon, understand behavior and go from testbed to commercialization with data.
- The Video Network Quality API is a trojan horse. What service provider doesn't want to be able to know how good or bad their delivery is to the person on the other end of the line, and be able to not take ownership of the problem by being able to say "oh it's not us, it's your _________" to the customer. Twilio will then be able to forge alliances and offer better solutions to those providers.
Given that I'm predicting that in 2019 we'll see many more brands embrace the idea of in-app AI, voice and video all as standard functions enabled by using WebRTC (ala what Uber is already doing) Twilo's message was well timed as it hit on all of those AI, Voice and Video.
With LTE becoming more ubiquitous and less congested, especially as 5G comes along, in the session path, voice and video in-app will no longer be a nice to have. Those features will be a must, as AI, location services and data science all take center stage with the idea of better customer service, product design (UI/UX) and customer experience (CX).
This likely adoption direction by companies large and small means Twilio's service, and that from the competition, will drive app enterprise decision makers and app developers to build a better service both for the deskbound, as well as the mobile-first worker. To do that means smarter tools, and these two are all about intelligence, not simply connecting the call.
Clearly Twilio won't be alone in offering tools like these even if they are just today in beta stage. Companies like Nexmo, Telesign (owned by Belgian giant BICS), client SignalWire and others will all be in the mix, carving out their own areas of specialty in the AI and video markets next year.
Look for apps like food delivery, medical, counseling, consulting, all to begin to go in-app vs. out of app as the tools to build and to manage, as well as to be more automated come on stream as we have only scratched the surface so far. Most of all, look for the contact centers and call centers to brace AI and Video, as calls move from chat, to voice to a face to face session, all within the app and the call.