Last January, we kicked off 2017 with a blog post focused on three emerging technology trends: cloud computing, data insights, and gadgets and personal tech. I thought it would be interesting to start this year with a look at the technology that could influence your business operations in 2018. For this article, I enlisted the help of Joe Fuller, Chief Information Officer for Dominion Enterprises, who shares his knowledge, insight (and passion for technology) in this two-part post.
Big Data and Machine Learning
Last January, we talked about Big Data or data insights as a means for businesses to capture details of all their transactions and try to find patterns to help them make more money. There is a new wrinkle in the Big Data discussion - Machine Learning. That’s where programs are written that not only find patterns in the data, but also automatically improve the program over time to get better and better at recognizing these patterns. An example of Machine Learning is Google Photos. If you tell Google Photos that a particular picture is your Mom, it scans all your photos and finds other pictures of your Mom. As you verify the ones it got right and throw out the ones it got wrong, it gets better and better at recognizing her. After a while, it stops making mistakes and all the pictures it thinks are your Mom are actually your Mom.
Large enterprise companies have been exploring Big Data for a while and some are actively pursuing Machine Learning too. Microsoft and other vendors are providing services to these larger companies but for the most part, small businesses can’t afford the leap to Big Data and Machine Learning. However, small businesses, such as dealerships, can choose to partner with software providers utilizing cloud-hosting services with leaders such as Microsoft or Amazon. While their cloud-based technology vendors provide the reliable infrastructure, these software providers are able to focus on developing new features like Machine Learning for their customers.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Artificial Intelligence is when computers tackle tasks that used to require human intelligence skills such as speech recognition, visual perception, decision making and translation between languages. Artificial Intelligence is the end result of the combination of Big Data and Machine Learning. A common example of AI is chatbots. In 2016 at Georgia Tech, a computer science professor added Jill Watson as his 9th teaching assistant to respond to online questions from students. At first, Jill’s answers were sometimes odd or irrelevant. But after a couple of months, she was able to answer with 97 percent accuracy. As you may have guessed, Jill was a chatbot on IBM’s Watson platform. What is interesting is that few students suspected she was a bot and when they discovered the truth, many were enthusiastic about it.
Dealerships are already using sophisticated presentation tools to help customers explore vehicle options and features. Imagine how much better those systems could be if they learned from the users and automatically adjusted how information was presented to better suit the needs of the customer. For example, after a few touches and swipes, the system could realize that the customer was focused on safety versus comfort or performance. The touch screen sales tool could change on the fly as it learns more about the customer’s needs.
AI is currently used by DX1 to help dealers deliver a better experience to their customers. DX1’s Reputation Management solution is powered by a sentiment analysis engine that is able to predict customer needs and wants by being able to read, analyze and report on conversations taking place about the dealership.
Look for AI to blossom in 2018 as public acceptance grows and Public Cloud computing becomes even less expensive and more prevalent.
Personal Voice Assistants
A popular application of Artificial Intelligence is found in Personal Voice Assistants (PVA) such as Amazon Echo and Google Home. ABC News recently estimated that 50% of all US homes will have Personal Voice Assistants by 2020. They are great for interacting with the Internet hands-free. Which should you get? CNET says that interaction with Google Home is more conversational. They suggest if you have an Android phone and Gmail and search is one of your main drivers, (“Google, how many cups are in a quart?”), then Google Home may be for you. On the other hand, if shopping lists, shopping on Amazon and home automation are important, Amazon’s Echo might suit you better. Either is inexpensive and works reliably. At $30 for the Echo Dot or the Google Mini, you could try both to see which one is better for you.
What about using these devices at work? They just require a wifi Internet connection and setup is easy. With the Amazon Alexa app or the Google Home app, you can connect your PVA to lights, lists, news, thermostats, door locks, Google sheets and a host of other Internet-connected devices and services. Each system also publishes development tools that allow for custom integration with your software and workflow. Expect to see these devices in the workplace soon.
Take a moment to consider if any of these emerging technologies could be incorporated for a successful 2018 in your dealership. And stayed tuned for next month when we talk about more exciting technology trends.