Telcos around the world are racing to build the 5G networks that will define the next era of technology. These beefy and ubiquitous networks will connect people to one another, people to machines, and machines to machines. Even prior to the run-up to 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT) has already proven itself to be a booming technological sector, with IDC predicting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13.6% through 2022 on its way to a $1.2 trillion valuation.

As 5G networks come online to combine with (or replace) home connections, users will find themselves at the center of a small brigade of IoT-enabled devices — from smartphones to smart speakers, to self-driving cars to connected doorbells, to just about anything you can imagine. To manage the near-constant flood of data being transferred between people, devices and various services, telcos – and the companies that rely on their services — will increasingly rely on Artificial Intelligence (AI) to be the glue to hold it all together.

Teaching Machines to ‘Speak Human’

Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVAs) use AI to allow humans to communicate with software through conversation. Advanced IVAs like AmeliaTM allow for versatile, human-like engagements in which humans can jump around a process without starting over (e.g., “Oh, wait, Driverless Car, I just remembered — we need to stop by Jim’s house before we head over to the restaurant.”). IVAs can also discern human intent from the manner in which people speak, rather than just looking for specific phrases or keywords like many low-level chatbots. This is particularly vital for any services designed to assist the general public. (You can read more about the groundbreaking science behind Amelia’s conversational abilities here.)

Conversational AI will be used by third parties to connect users to devices, but they will also be useful for telcos themselves. AI can be a critical ingredient for enhancing customer service through rapid, queue-free access to resolutions – which will be particularly important in the IoT era as any downtime can mean separation from needed IoT-enabled services. For example, you don’t want to worry about remotely opening the smart lock on your door when your parents come to visit.

Immediate resolutions will be increasingly useful in mitigating the effects of customer churn within the telco industry. One report found lackluster customer service is a top decision trigger for SMEs when selecting their service provider — for both mobile and fixed connections. Among the general public, studies suggest that the customer experience is far more important to customer satisfaction and loyalty compared to issues such as download and upload speeds.

AI will be vital to proactively maintain the quality of IoT services via real-time monitoring, predictive maintenance and rapid remediation of issues through automation. Systems such as IPvoice, for example, use AI to optimize enterprise-scale communication systems and eliminate outages. As a secondary benefit, when automation handles high-volume issues, experienced human agents have time to handle unique customer needs, so important issues can be remediated faster and given the attention they deserve.

Bringing Order to the Data Storm

AI will also be necessary to manage the secure transfer of valuable data generated within IoT ecosystems between all relevant parties. As IoT adoption accelerates, everything we will do through those services will be quantifiable and produce terabytes, petabytes and even exabytes of data. AI will be necessary to parse this data and provide personalized services. For example, an automated email-scraping bot might read a flight reservation confirmation email and discern that you have a flight to Chicago leaving at 6:35 pm. The system can then use predictive traffic data to automatically reserve you a self-driving car to pick you up at 4:15 to make sure you arrive at the airport with enough time to get through security.

All that data can also help telcos create and enhance services and marketing. For example, providers might offer specialized plans to customers who stream more content than average or provide faster upload-speed tiers to remote workers who have high bandwidth needs. This segmentation can happen efficiently, automatically and securely with AI.

Case in point: One major Japanese telco was able to use a virtual agent powered by Amelia on a social platform to automatically segment customers based on engagements. Marketing campaign efficiency on the platform increased by a factor of 80.

As the world becomes more connected with 5G and IoT, telco providers will depend on AI to organize the flood of data that will inevitably be a byproduct of these emerging trends.

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