Dream a Little… Intelligent Virtual Assistants

I was recently asked to present a our yearly management conference in a segment called “Dream a Little…”. The segment saw 15, 2-5 minute segments where a number of us had to present a vision of the future and potentially how this would affect our company and the employee benefits sector in general.

I did two segments and for the first one I decided to show the future of Intelligent Virtual Assistants i.e Apple Siri, Google Now, Microsoft Cortana or Facebook ‘M’. I thought I would share it and see what people think. The first section was performed with a Siri ‘voiceover’ followed by a speech to the delegates.

BEN Hello Siri.

SIRI Hello Ben. How are you? You’ve been working long hours recently, have you considered taking some time off?

BEN Really?

SIRI Yes, last week you spent 55 hours at the office

BEN Oh, okay (pause) When do I next have some free time?

SIRI Let me check your work calendar (pause) I can see you don’t have many meetings in early May

BEN Excellent! I’m not sure I have any holidays remaining

SIRI According to LTAM you have five days left until the end of June. If you leave on 5th May you can utilise your bank holiday to get an extra day away.

BEN Great, any suggestions where I can go in May?

SIRI According to your holiday photos, you look happiest at the beach. How does that sound?

BEN True, but I think I’d like to do something a bit more active this time

SIRI Okay, how about a cycling holiday, your colleague Bob Smith rated one highly on Trip Advisor?

BEN Sounds good, where was that?

SIRI It was a 200 kilometre, week long cycle trek in Cuba. This would also really help you to win the monthly cycling challenge in Bupa Boost and overtake Bob.

BEN Sounds great, how much is that?

SIRI The holiday costs £1000 but it looks like WorkAngel currently have a 5% discount by booking through them with British Airways. This means it will be £950 in total.

BEN Ok…

SIRI Looking at your financial plan, I can see that the best way to pay for this would be through your savings account with HSBC. It’s current balance is £5000. You could also take out a loan from Neyber, but it looks like you have enough in your account already. Would you like me to go ahead and use your savings account?

BEN Sure, thanks Siri.

SIRI Purchasing now (pause). It looks like you need a Yellow Fever inoculation for Cuba. I have found an appointment through Zesty at 2pm tomorrow after your meeting with Janet. It’s 5 minutes walk from your offices. Shall I book it?

BEN Yes, thanks. Do you think there is anything else I need to do?

SIRI I recommend travel insurance. It looks like the cheapest I can find for you is £42 through CompareTheMarket.com. Your benefits package in Orbit also includes yearly travel insurance for £45, but covers you for a whole 12 months. This would give you better value if you travel as much as you have done this year.

BEN Thanks, I’ll take the annual cover as I’m already thinking about going to Hong Kong in September. Please buy it.

SIRI All purchased successfully.

BEN Thanks Siri.

End of conversation, move to presentation to audience.

The conversation is not that far removed from reality, even today. All smart phones come with intelligent virtual assistants already installed, be it, Apple’s Siri, Google’s Now, Microsoft Cortana or Facebook’s ’M’.

Facebook has 900 million users accessing its platform each day, and over 1.5 billion returning at least monthly. With user numbers such as this, once the artificial intelligence is in place conversations like this will happen across the world every hour of every day.

Intelligent Virtual Assistants can only act on platforms that allow connectivity and open up their products and services for this purpose. The era of platforms holding onto their own data and not sharing it with other authorised systems has already ended. We already experience this in the Health and Wellness space. Apps like Bupa Boost would not be as successful if they didn’t suck in data from other platform to enhance the experience.

The main barrier from a consumer point of view is privacy. Combining data in this way creates a detailed profile of a person that could be exploited if not protected sufficiently.

Questions

  • How do we ensure our products and services are ready for intelligent virtual assistants?
  • How do we create the openness of data required to exploit these systems without compromising on privacy and security?
  • How can we ensure that the companies we partner with allow the same level of access to allow IVA’s to function?
  • What new products or services could we offer that are only made possible by intelligent virtual assistants?