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April 20, 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 determinant for 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 toward “Society 5.0”a development that has already been deployed in Japan.

Futurists and trend-watchers often cite the topics of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI). What will all this mean for us, and for the Real Estate and Facility Management sector in particular? 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. 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 that a player can make using his or her 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 by 2029, “consciousness” will also be added as a property, and at that moment AI will be equal to the human brain.

This is an interesting and somewhat unreal idea, but fortunately we still have some time. Nevertheless, it certainly is necessary for us to prepare ourselves now for the impact of AI. We already come into contact with it frequently and often without being aware of it, but soon we will definitely be noticing it more. As Accenture predicts: AI will become the new User Interface (UI); we will interact with our environment on the basis of who we are, because our characteristics and preferences will be recognized. 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 thus become our new “apps.”

BYOB: Bring Your Own Bot
A bot is a computer program that 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 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 my workplace. 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, 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 for all those present. We will grow step-by-step toward this time, where deploying a chatbot as the initial point of contact is already a first step.

Where organizations 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). Of course, this is not to be confused with the other meaning of the BYOB acronym, reserved for gatherings outside of working hours.

Geert-Jan Blom
Business Consultant Planon Netherlands