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20 April 2017

Bring Your Own Device is so 2016 – get ready for Bring Your Own Bot

In March, I visited CeBIT in Hannover, a tradeshow focused on Digital Business. Just like last year, once again I came across interesting developments and trends that are going to be relevant and will determine our (working) lives. After a couple of days of CeBIT, you have enough material to muse on what’s happening in the digital world, and what technologies are going to move us towards ‘Society 5.0’. A development that has already been deployed in Japan.

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You can’t fail to have noticed that futurists and trend-watchers often cite the topics of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI). What will all this mean for us, and in particular, for the Real Estate and Facility Management sector? I’m not one for risking predictions, but I’m happy to share my initial ideas

Artificial Intelligence as the new User Interface

It was back in 1997 that grand master Kasparov was beaten in a chess tournament by the IBM Deep Blue computer. Around fourteen years later, IBM Watson succeeded in winning Jeopardy, and last year, Google DeepMind’s ‘AlphaGo’ trounced the professional and legendary Go master Lee Sedol. A game of Go can have more than 10 to the power of 170 possible moves which a player can make using his own intuition. The triumph by Google DeepMind showed that today even intuition has become a property of computers. Ray Kurzweil, a commentator on the subject of AI, predicts that around 2029, ‘consciousness’ will also be added as a property, and at that moment, AI will be equal to the human brain.

An interesting and somewhat unreal idea, but fortunately, we do still have some time. However, it is certainly necessary for us to prepare ourselves now for the impact of AI. We already come into contact with it frequently and often without even being aware of it, but soon, we will definitely be noticing it more. As Accenture predicts: AI will become the new UI (User Interface); we will interact with our environment based on who we are, because our characteristics and preferences will be recognised. Given that communication occurs through speech or text, we will no longer have to perform any more activities in computer applications ourselves. So-called ‘bots’ will do this for us, and will therefore become our new ‘apps’.

BYOB: Bring Your Own Bot

A bot is a computer program which can carry out human tasks in an autonomous fashion. Well-known examples of this are the chatbots you access to communicate with a computer in the same way you would do with a human. Amazon’s Alexa is also a fine example; here the bot principle is combined with AI, so that Alexa steadily learns how ‘it’ can serve you better, and how the interaction can occur more smoothly and more humanly. I don’t think it will be too long before we will all have a bot as a Personal Assistant (PA). This will help us get through our daily lives as easily and efficiently as possible.

I will expect my bot to be able to help me everywhere, and that includes the place where I work. Just like a human PA, my bot will have to know that I drink my coffee black, when I prefer to use which workstation, and the times at which I need a meeting space, and if necessary with the associated catering. This will then be coordinated seamlessly with the RE and FM parties who are responsible for the work environment and its facilities. Not only for me, but also for all those present.  Step-by-step we are moving towards such a time, and deploying a chatbot as the initial point of contact, has already become our first step.

Where organisations originally had to deal with BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), I believe it won’t be too long before they need to be ready for BYOB (Bring Your Own Bot). Not of course to be confused with Bring Your Own Booze, as the acronym currently in use for gatherings outside working hours suggests!

Geert-Jan Blom
Business Consultant Planon Netherlands